Marmon Silko (1948- )
Works: "Yellow Woman"
Marmon Silko (1948 - ). Native American novelist, poet, and
short-story writer whose work is primarily concerned with
the relations between different cultures and between human
beings and the natural world
- 1948, 5 March,
born to Leland Howard Marmon (a photographer) and Mary Virginia Leslie,
in Albuquerque, New Mexico; mixed ancestry, Laguna Pueblo, white,
Mexican; grew up on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation.
Laguna Day school until fifth grade; at school she was first
prohibited to use the Keresan language that her aunts and
grandmothers used in storytelling; later attends a Catholic
grade school in Albuquerque, 50 miles from home.
marries first husband, Richard C. Chapman; son Robert William
earns a BA in English from the University of New Mexico; although
she published the short story "The Man to Send Rain Clouds"
the same year, she did not yet see writing as her vocation;
begins law school at the University of New Mexico under the
American Indian Law School Fellowship Program; divorces Richard
awarded the National Endowment for the Arts' Discovery Grant;
leaves law school, takes graduate English courses, and turns
to storytelling as her means to find justice for her people;
leaves the University to teach on the Navajo reservation at
Tsaile, Arizona; marries second husband, John Silko, whom
she later divorces.
birth of second son Cazimir Silko; moves with her husband
to Ketchikan, Alaska
returns to Laguna Pueblo Reservation
Pushcart Prize for Poetry
moves to Tucson and begins teaching at the University of Arizona;
friendship and correspondence with poet James Wright (he dies
of cancer in 1980).
New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities' "Living Cultural
(1974), Collection of poems written while Silko was teaching at
the Navajo Community College in Tsaile, Arizona; highly introspective
poems suffused with images of animals, landscapes, weather, colors;
earned a poetry award from The Chicago Review.
The Man to
Send Rain Clouds: Contemporary Stories by American Indians (1974),
anthology of Native American stories edited by Kenneth Rosen; inclusion
of seven of Silko's short stories (among them "Yellow Woman").
(1977), A novel telling of a World War II veteran's struggle to
adjust to life back on a New Mexico Indian reservation after returning
home from the war. Haunted by the violence that he was party to
during the war, as well as by memories of his brother who died there,
Tayo initially wastes away on the reservation. Finally, he meets
the wise Betonie. Through this friendship with Betonie, Tayo discovers
that the heavens and all earthly creatures are aspects of one whole
and that ceremony brings balance and peace to that whole.
(1981), Collection of eight short stories, 25 poems, and 26 photographs
(17 of which were taken by Silko's father); semi-autobiographical
in nature; reflection upon identity, landscape, family, love, sex,
and power; featuring family gossip, Native American mythology, and
striking images of Silko's native land and family.
Delicacy and Strength of Lace: Letters Between Leslie Marmon Silko
and James Wright (1986), edited by Anne Wright. A correspondence
between two friends from very different backgrounds who, nonetheless,
are brought together by their mutual love for language and writing.
The letters chronicle the friendship from its formal beginnings
in Wright's praise of Silko's Ceremony through Silko's very
personal feelings about the cancer that would cause Wright's death.
The letters feature the two writers' thoughts on life, stories of
personal experiences, and feelings about their own current projects.
The book won the Boston Globe prize for non-fiction.
the Dead (1991), The longest of Silko's works, this novel represents
the culmination of years of research, thought, and other efforts
connected to the issue of justice for indigenous people. Through
a long series of characters that show moral and spiritual depravity,
Silko explores the possibility of finding a path to spiritual salvation
and social redemption. As she makes clear the horrors of society,
she forces the reader to pass moral judgement, even if this means
passing judgement on the self. Often bluntly, the novel defines
and presents a choice, on the social and spiritual levels, between
creation and destruction.
and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today
(1996), A collection of essays, many of which were previously published
in other works, including addresses, forewords to other books, and
the author's notes from some of her previous books. Focusing on
a wide range of topics, varying from national politics to the problem
of hunger, Silko continues to address human concerns through a storyteller's
voice. The collection is roughly divided into sections whose boundaries
blend into each other, leaving the reader unsure of when she moves
out of one section and into the next.
Pueblo People. The word "Pueblo," meaning village
in Spanish, refers to Southwest American Indian peoples inhabiting
the Colorado Plateau and the Middle Rio Grande areas. Pueblo
culture includes such groups as the Hopi and the Laguna. The
Laguna Pueblo settlement is found in the mid-western region
of New Mexico, near the Rio Grande. Laguna Pueblo people speak
the Keresan language; their society has a maternal-line system
of kinship which forbids a man from marrying within his clan;
their religion is highly spiritual and pantheistic.
(Kachina) Spirit, In the Pueblo people mythology, the ka'tsina
is a beneficent spirit associated with rain and water. In traditional
stories, the ka'tsina is sometimes seen abducting a woman who
later returns to her community and is endowed with special powers.
2001, 2002 by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta,
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