Leslie Marmon Silko

American writer

Leslie Marmon Silko (born Leslie Marmon on March 5, 1948) is an American writer of Laguna Pueblo descent, regarded as a key figure in the First Wave of the Native American Renaissance.

Quotes edit

  • the material world and the flesh are only temporary - there are no sins of the flesh, spirit is everything!
    • Gardens in the Dunes (2000)

Almanac of the Dead (1991) edit

  • In the Americas the white man never referred to the past but only to the future. The white man didn’t seem to understand he had no future here because he had no past, no spirits of ancestors here.
  • Even idiots can understand a church that tortures and kills is a church that can no longer heal.
  • The white man had violated the Mother Earth, and he had been stricken with the sensation of a gaping emptiness between his throat and his heart.
  • Sacred time is always in the Present.
  • Earth was their mother, but her land and water could never be desecrated; blasted open and polluted by man, but never desecrated. Man only desecrated himself in such acts; puny humans could not affect the integrity of Earth. Earth always was and would ever be sacred. Mother Earth might be ravaged by the Destroyers, but she still loved the people.
  • The powers who controlled the United States didn't want the people to know their history. If the people knew their history, they would realize they must rise up.
  • The ancestors had called Europeans “the orphan people” and had noted that as with orphans taken in by selfish or coldhearted clanspeople, few Europeans had remained whole. They failed to recognize the earth was their mother. Europeans were like their first parents, Adam and Eve, wandering aimlessly because the insane God who had sired them had abandoned them.
  • Christianity might work on other continents and with other human beings; Yoeme did not dispute those possibilities. But from the beginning in the Americas, the outsiders had sensed their Christianity was somehow inadequate in the face of the immensely powerful and splendid spirit beings who inhabited the vastness of the Americas. The Europeans had not been able to sleep soundly on the American continents, not even with a full military guard.

Ceremony (1977) edit

  • “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.”
    • page2
  • And in the belly of this story
    the rituals and the ceremony
    are still growing.
    • page2
  • Distances and days existed in themselves then; they all had a story. They were not barriers. If a person wanted to get to the moon, there was a way; it all depended on whether you knew the directions-exactly which way to go and what to do to get there; it depended on whether you knew the story of how others before you had gone. (p19)
  • ...how easy it was to stay alive now that he didn't care about being alive anymore. (p39)
  • That was the responsibility that went with being human, old Ku’oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said; and this demanded great patience and love. (p36)
  • “They are afraid, Tayo. They feel something happening, they can see something happening around them, and it scares them. Indians or Mexicans or whites—most people are afraid of change. They think that if their children have the same color of skin, the same color of eyes, that nothing is changing.” She laughed softly. “They are fools. They blame us, the ones who look different. That way they don’t have to think about what has happened inside themselves.” (p99)
  • ...But he had known the answer all along, even while the white doctors were telling him he could get well and he was trying to believe them: medicine didn't work that way, because the world didn't work that way. His sickness was only part of something larger, and his cure would be found only in something great and inclusive of everything. (p125)
  • 'She taught me this above all else: things which don't shift and grow are dead things. They are things the witchery people want. Witchery works to scare people, to make them fear growth. But it has always been necessary, and more than ever now, it is. Otherwise we won't make it. We won't survive...' (p126)
  • If the white people never looked beyond the lie, to see that theirs was a nation built on stolen land, then they would never be able to understand how they had been used by the witchery; they would never know that they were still being manipulated by those who knew how to stir the ingredients together: white thievery and injustice boiling up the anger and hatred that would finally destroy the world: the starving against the fat, the colored against the white. The destroyers had only to set it into motion, and sit back to count the casualties. But it was more than a body count; the lies devoured white hearts, and for more than two hundred years white people had worked to fill their emptiness; they tried to glut the hollowness with patriotic wars and with great technology and the wealth it brought. And always they had been fooling themselves, and they knew it. (p191)
  • The people had been taught to despise themselves because they were left with barren land and dry rivers. But they were wrong. It was the white people who had nothing; it was the white people who were suffering as thieves do, never able to forget that their pride was wrapped in something stolen, something that had never been, and could never be, theirs. The destroyers had tricked the white people as completely as they had fooled the Indians, and now only a few people understood how the filthy deception worked; only a few people knew that the lie was destroying the white people faster than it was destroying Indian people. But the effects were hidden, evident only in the sterility of their art, which continued to feed off the vitality of other cultures, and in the dissolution of their consciousness into dead objects: the plastic and neon, the concrete and steel. Hollow and lifeless as a witchery clay figure. And what little still remained to white people was shriveled like a seed hoarded too long, shrunken past its time, and split open now, to expose a fragile, pale leaf stem, perfectly formed and dead. (p204)
  • "...as long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together." (p231)
  • He cried the relief he felt at finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together—the old stories, the war stories, their stories—to become the story that was still being told. He was not crazy; he had never been crazy. He had only seen and heard the world as it always was: no boundaries, only transitions through all distances and time. (p246)

Quotes about Leslie Marmon Silko edit

  • Leslie Marmon Silko writes in her collection of essays, Yellow Woman and the Beauty of the Spirit, about "The Indian with a Camera." Silko grew up at Laguna Pueblo, and tourists have been pointing cameras at her all of her life, in one case, taking Leslie, who is mixed blood, out of a photo because she didn't look Indian enough. As an adult, Silko, who wrote novels such as Ceremony, Almanac of the Dead," and most recently, Gardens in the Dunes, is also a photographer. She said that this makes the tourists really uncomfortable. Why? Because she, as an artist, is turning her gaze on them. Indians are supposed to be the passive receivers of their gaze. The implications of an Indian turning her gaze, her sensibilities, on them, capturing their images, is a subversion, a reversal of the given order.
    • Kathleen Alcalá "Reading the Signs" in The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (2007)
  • I read Almanac of the Dead, and here were these ideas, these stories, this understanding of the relationship of the people of the SW to the land, and the immateriality of the political border to traditional cultures. It was not written to flatter or beguile. She did not pull any punches. It was written to show these connections between the seen and the unseen, the past and the future. By talking about the Yaqui, who live on both sides of the border, she highlighted another culture, like the Opata, who have claims that supersede current boundaries. It was a great relief to find her work.
  • it looks like Leslie Silko and Toni Morrison are doing what I'm doing too. When we've talked about our backgrounds in myth and storytelling, it sounds like we grew up in very similar ways. Toni was trying to figure out where we belong, and she kept using that term "magical realism"; she thought we were in that tradition...we went to China together. I do feel an affinity not only because I love them as people but because we seem to write alike. There is so much human emotion and richness and story and imagery and colors and things to eat. Nobody is alienated from life; everybody is warm. I feel that we write like that because we are warm, and even though we all-I hate to say master-we are all very good with words, words aren't the only thing that's important. We care about stories about people, and also that magical real place that we are all visiting. When I compare our work to some of the mainstream work, it seems as if many of them are only playing with words. The "language" people's world seems gray and black and white. Toni's and Leslie's and my aliveness must come from our senses of a connection with people who have a community and a tribe. We are living life in a more dangerous place. We do not live in new subdivisions without ceremony and memory; and if those other writers have to draw from that non-magical imagination, then of course, their writing will be gray and black and white.
  • There is no way you can say that realism is the only literature going. I mean, most of our best novelists are not even writing realism a writers like Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Leslie Silko. They are using realistic techniques to tell stories that are not realistic.
  • In recent years I read much more Native American women's work than anything else; for example, Leslie Marmon Silko and Linda Hogan. I feel an affinity within to these women's work. Their writings run closer to the Chicano experience, given the fact that we both have native roots here in the United States.

External links edit

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