Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is her classic novel set in New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo Reservation. Tayo returns from WWII with tormenting memories. He has seen and felt much pain, the violent death of fellow soldiers, the Baatan Death March, the horrific end of the war with Japan, things no one should endure. White medicine only deadens his senses. Back on the reservation he seeks that numbness in alcohol along with other Native American Soldiers. His home has changed while he was away, too, and now he must reckon with this new situation. Eventually Tayo will seek the help of a Shaman to perform a ceremony and help restore balance to their world. Native American legends are part of the story. Tayo has many adventures, including a hair raising cattle drive. If you are interested in Native America literature, this is a beautifully written novel of great power.
— Deon Stonehouse
The great Native American Novel of a battered veteran returning home to heal his mind and spirit
More than thirty-five years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profound and moving works of Native American literature, a novel that is itself a ceremony of healing. Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Masterfully written, filled with the somber majesty of Pueblo myth, Ceremony is a work of enduring power. The Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition contains a new preface by the author and an introduction by Larry McMurtry.
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About the Author
Leslie Marmon Silko was born in 1948 to a family whose ancestry includes Mexican, Laguna Indian, and European forebears. She has said that her writing has at its core “the attempt to identify what it is to be a half-breed or mixed-blood person.” As she grew up on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation, she learned the stories and culture of the Laguna people from her great-grandmother and other female relatives. After receiving her B. A. in English at the University of New Mexico, she enrolled in the University of New Mexico law school but completed only three semesters before deciding that writing and storytelling, not law, were the means by which she could best promote justice. She married John Silko in 1970. Prior to the writing of Ceremony, she published a series of short stories, including “The Man to Send Rain Clouds.” She also authored a volume of poetry, Laguna Woman: Poems, for which she received the Pushcart Prize for Poetry.
In 1973, Silko moved to Ketchikan, Alaska, where she wrote Ceremony. Initially conceived as a comic story abut a mother’s attempts to keep her son, a war veteran, away from alcohol, Ceremony gradually transformed into an intricate meditation on mental disturbance, despair, and the power of stories and traditional culture as the keys to self-awareness and, eventually, emotional healing. Having battled depression herself while composing her novel, Silko was later to call her book “a ceremony for staying sane.” Silko has followed the critical success of Ceremony with a series of other novels, including Storyteller, Almanac for the Dead, and Gardens in the Dunes. Nevertheless, it was the singular achievement of Ceremony that first secured her a place among the first rank of Native American novelists. Leslie Marmon Silko now lives on a ranch near Tucson, Arizona.
Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-one bestselling novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show. He lives in Texas.
Praise for Ceremony:
"An exceptional novel—a cause for celebration." —The Washington Post Book World
"Her assurance, her gravity, her flexibility are all wonderful gifts." —The New York Review of Books
"The novel is very deliberately a ceremony in itself—demanding but confident and beautifully written." —The Boston Globe
"Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature. It is one of the greatest novels of any time and place. I have read this book so many times that I probably have it memorized. I teach it and I learn from it and I am continually in awe of its power, beauty, rage, vision, and violence." —Sherman Alexie
"Without question Leslie Marmon Silko is the most accomplished Native American writer of her generation." —The New York Times Book Review