A narrative of loss, struggle, and redemption in the wake of World War II, Ceremony (1977) ranks among the defining works of Native-American poet and novelist Leslie Marmon Silko. Although Ceremony is normally classified as a novel, the text is in...
Celebrated as a both a poet and a novelist, Leslie Marmon Silko is an author of mixed descent—having Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, and Caucasian ancestry—and she has drawn on this multi-faceted background in her creative works. Silko grew up on New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo reservation and earned a B.A. the University of New Mexico in 1969. Over the next decade, she would publish several of the books that would form the basis of her reputation as an insightful storyteller, including the poetry collection Laguna Women Poems (1974), the hybrid collection Storyteller (1981), and the novel Ceremony (1977), perhaps her single most famous work.
Instead of treating poetry and prose as separate realms of expression, Silko often pairs off and combines the two modes. Ceremony, for instance, interweaves the prose account of Tayo, a Native American veteran of World War II, with symbolic and narrative poems that mirror Tayo's quest for psychological and spiritual healing. Both literary innovations and powerful social themes help to explain the many awards that Silko's work has garnered. These include a Pushcart Prize for Laguna Women Poems, a MacArthur "Genius Grant," and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rosewater Foundation.
A few of Silko's more recent novels are Almanac of the Dead (1992) and Gardens in the Dunes (1999). Beyond continuing her own writing, Silko has spent the years since her emergence as an important novelist teaching at colleges and universities in New Mexico and Arizona.