Review: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

BN-13: 9780140086836
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 3/28/1986
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
While “Ceremony” is not a new book, it is a classic Native American book, with lots to teach us about the concept of coming home, and ceremonious ideology. Leslie Marmon Silko is Native American. She has written a book that still to this day, has me baffled as to the brutality with which some people live, and how that brutality perpetuates throughout the years to others.
Okay, what is it about? You HAVE to read it thoroughly, without blinders, and without racial prejudice, and without your quaint little life, if that is what you have, and open yourself up to a host of experiences you never want, things that hurt and maim, and wound the soul. Then, and only then, you will understand what is meant by “Ceremony.”
Many may feel this book is disturbing, I know my son did. But I cannot help but love the way Silko creates such intense psychological consciousness in her characters. The book was a great one for me. I felt I understood like never before the real plight and sense of loss of the Native American who tries desperately to “fit” into the contemporary and dominant culture, especially when they have gone to war and found that they must fight an enemy that looks much like them, but they must go against with an “ally” who has historically been abusive to their own lives and the lives of their families before them, in the taking, ravaging, pillaging, and destroying of their own identity. So identity is a biggie in this book. These Native American soldiers of WWII fought the Japanese, but can never really feel they belong to the White Americans to whose nation they DO–even more so–belong. For all intents and purposes, they are a “mixed breed.” While America is filled with mixed races now, at the time, and still for many, it is a sore subject, because a mixed breed never feels quite like they belong to any one group fully. I know, I experience that myself, having been a mixed breed person.
I can identify with those feelings, and understand the sense of loss in spirit and identity: it happened to the First Indians, the Aztecs, MY ancestors. This was where I first heard the idea of the “hollow” man, then later read T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men,” and the image of a “hollow man” from within, from these two encounters with it.
In Silko’s book, “Ceremony” and in T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men” both authors are speaking of emptiness inside from being robbed of spirit.  But reading “Ceremony” gives such a deeper rendition of what it means to be hollow, as Tayo, the main character learns in Silko’s book, first hand. I will never forget the plight of this young man, and I can never truly forget the plight of any race who suffers at the hand of another race, for money and power, at the cost of the original people’s’ peace and fullness of life.

Review: 1, dated 5/27/14. The Returned

 Review of: The Returned

“The Returned”
by Jason Mott
ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-1533-9
Copyright 2013 by Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin  MIRA
$24.95 US, $27.95 CAN.
352pp.
Nothing is more satisfying than reading a spellbinding book from a new author who knows how to apply all the necessary ingredients to keep you reading. I have had that satisfying experience this weekend.
Author, Jason Mott, is a unique story craftsman, and reveals his exceptional talent in his new book, “The Returned.” I started reading it on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., and never put it down until I finished it the same day, at 8:30 p.m. When I came out of the shock of realizing I was finished with the book, and also discovering that I was not there in the book, I cried. Yes. That is how mesmerized I was in the story.
Here are some technical points about the creative mind of the author I wish to point out. There is definitely a well thought out plot, with multiple subplots that could turn into other books in the future. Secondly, the author skillfully injects cathartic character (read Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments in the back–I always read those first) endearing the reader to that particular character, which serves to compel the reader to forge through the morass of events and see what happens to, and why   that character is so important to the story: is he a string in the unraveling yarn that will carry us to the conclusion? Or–just a good distraction? Finally, one of its major characters is ejected from the story, but since the story itself is not based on natural phenomena, it is possible to see that character again in future books (I hope!). Based on surreal events in the story, and if I had to characterize the book within a genre, I would have to say it is a toss-up between Magical Realism and Gothic or philosophical Horror.
Most old veteran story-makers know how to pull a yarn, and so it is with this new author who works exceptionally well to weave a tale that appeals to the widest audience possible. Here are a couple examples: in the plot, a focused reader can almost count the complications and will feel drawn to make conclusions that seem natural to make. Remember though, this is not a natural story. At the very beginning, Motthijacks the reader’s expectations by throwing an immediate curveball. This is the main string in the plot that pulls the reader headlong into the story with but does not lead you to, the truth of what the reader expects to find out–which is the Phenomenon that runs through the whole story. If one is curious enough to keep pulling the yarn, one thinks oneself astute enough to know what’s next–again–but it is never what the reader expects. Remember: it is not a natural story, but a terrifying phenomenon–yes: terrifying. I use that word deliberately.
And such a terrifying phenomenon is the thematic yarn that pulls you through the story. The Denoument never really happens regarding the Phenomenon, but instead, the author takes us deeper into the minds and hearts of the characters, which is ingeniously structured to make the reader ponder long after the book is over: what would I have done if this happened to me, to us, today? And: Who do I think would go wrong, right, haywire, or die…Or “return” and would I do what Harold or Lucille did? Or instead, would I be like Fred, or would I have been complacent as Bellamy?
In short, the story gets under your skin, into your mind, and pains your heart, exactly as an extraordinary story should do. I refuse to waste time telling you the plot. You need to read the book yourself, then find others that would debate the ending with you. And the ending IS a debate, I can assure you. I am hoping for a sequel, and fast!

Review: 2, Dated 5/26/14. The Glass Castle

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Wall, Jeanette. (2005). The Glass Caste. New York, NY: Scribner, A Division of Simon & Shuster, Inc.

I will discuss this book clinically, as I had to use it for a class taught, and was not the primary teacher in use of it. I would have rather a different book, however, this is the one we completed and analyzed critically for class.  I invite others to tell me what they thought in more depth. I can also ask a couple questions once I’ve told you what my rating is. The book was definitely not my favorite, being that it was a memoir, yet read more like a fiction, and as a memoir had too much fictional components to be taken seriously. Rating the story: I began with an 8, and ended with a 6. The chapters became repetitive in the major issues with the dysfunctions in the family, different actual events, but same responses and reactions… it got boring after a while. All in all, I was disturbed by the characters initially, but later I began to think they were conjured up and not true people. If this story is a memoir in reality, I would shudder to think people really are like this, but if it’s a story made up to be a memoir, I would say the author has a pretty good imagination, although to some extent near the end it began to sound a little hokey. Now, what did you think?

1) As to Characters, name then explain…

2) As to Narrative, indicate general literary devices and expound upon one you liked best…

3) What might you think the theme or theme(s) would be for this “memoir?”

Write below, with your name, class, and rating on the book.

I truly woud be interested in hearing what anyone felt about the book.