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InstaReview: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

"I will tell you something about stories... They aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death."

Happy #NativeAmericanHeritageDay! Today we’re reviewing Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, of the Laguna Pueblo Nation. First published in 1977, Ceremony is a literary classic and considered to be one of the first works of the Native American Renaissance, a literary movement that took off in the 1970s. This era saw a rapid increase in Native lit with a decolonial angle, incorporating Native heritage and culture. Ceremony is the first novel published by Silko, who went on to receive numerous awards including the Macarthur Genius Grant in 1981. The novel tells the story of Tayo, a returning WWII vet suffering from "battle fatigue," or PTSD as we would call it today. He's in and out of the hospital and alcoholic binges until he meets a Native medicine man who prescribes the ceremony he must complete to save himself and his people from the sickness of modern warfare and colonialism. Over the years, scholars have teased out the multiple timelines and storylines that are all woven together in Ceremony; the novel jumps back and forth in time and back and forth between the physical and mythical world without any demarcations, chapters, or breaks. The novel also combines prose with periodic poetic interludes. This can make it a challenging read, because in some ways it recreates what it is to live with PTSD and experience time in a non-linear way, and it may take more than one read to process what is happening. But let it wash over you and just absorb the many themes Silko is grappling with.


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