Arts & Leisure

Book review: Poet Warrior — by Joy Harjo

(W. W. Norton & Company)

In Joy Harjo’s second memoir, the poet, author, musician, playwright, and first Native American to serve as the U.S. poet laureate, reveals, in illuminating detail, the many and varied influences and confluences that came to guide or propel Harjo into manifesting her dream of communicating through her words. She tells of family members, ancestors, members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, recalls the stories passed down from one generation to the next, objects heavy with significance and use similarly passed down, and how they shaped and defined her world. In chronological order, in a book structured by rituals or passages, she describes how those stories gave her a place in the world, and how her experiences created the person and poet she would become. There is a lush, immersive quality to the writing, as Harjo lays bare vulnerabilities and intimate details of her life, her struggles, her wins, the choices she made. The contextual verse passages compliment the prose passages, beautifully illuminating deeper insights. In a way, her story is every woman’s story — swim through a childhood rich with imaginary worlds, drop to the cold, hard earth becoming a woman in adolescence, fight to follow your own path as you see it, and so on. Harjo just tells it better.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.


11 Biographies & Autobiographies of and by Indigenous Authors

Night Flying Woman, by  Ignatia Broker

A History of My Brief Body, by Billy-Ray Belcourt

The Blue Jay’s Dance, by Louise Erdrich

The Right to Be Cold, by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot

Rez Life, by David Treuer

Earth Keeper, by N. Scott Momaday

Life in the City of Dirty Water, by Clayton Thomas-Muller

The Pale-Faced Lie, by David Crow

Peyakow, by Darrel McLeod

Spirit Car, by Diane Wilson

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