Diverse Authors Square -- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
I want to go back and re-read some of the poetry before I write the review.
". . . But if you don't go with them, they'll hunt you down, and take you any way they can. Because this is the only ending they understand."
And it was then the Laguna people understood that the land had been taken, because they couldn't stop these white people from coming to destroy the animals and the land. It was then too that the holy men at Laguna and Acoma warned the people that the balance of the world had been upset and the people could expect droughts and harder days to come.
There was something about the way the old man said "comfortable." It had a different meaning -- not the comfort of big houses or rich food or even clean streets, but the comfort of belonging with the land, and the peace of being with these hills.
Not of belonging "to" the land, but belonging with it.
I don't have enough knowledge or experience of Native American thought, but I'm finding the hopscotching of the sequence of events very organic and natural, more the way *I* think than most people write. The chronology is not linear, nor is it even circular. It's back and forth in memory and events, dancing around feelings.
Tayo's PTSD doesn't respond to white men's medicine, so he's trying more traditional methods. But he's still not sure if anything will work, because he's not sure which world he belongs in, which world will have him.
She shook her head slowly. "They are afraid, Tayo. They feel something happening, they can see something happening around 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."
Later on, Tayo wondered if she liked it that way, going to church by herself, where she could show the people that she was a devout Christian and not immoral or pagan like the rest of the family. When it came to saving her own soul, she wanted to be careful that there were no mistakes.
Tayo is half Laguna and half white; he has no idea who his Anglo father is. His mother brought shame to the whole family, but especially to her sister, his Auntie, who is a convert to Catholicism.
The conflicts in the book are as tangled as a spider's web, internal and external, cultural and spiritual. Not an easy book to read.
It took a long time to explain the fragility and intricacy because no word exists alone, and the reason for choosing each word had to be explained with a story about why it must be said this certain way.
Humanity's inhumanity to humanity.
Ceremony was written in the 1970s, as the war in Vietnam slowly wound down. A war fought by draftees who couldn't get a deferment, and that meant a higher percentage of African American soldiers than in the general population. That was one thought that stuck in my mind as I began reading Ceremony.
The protagonist is Tayo, a World War II veteran and survivor of the Bataan Death March, who is suffering from "battle fatigue," or what would be called after Vietnam PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been discharged from the army hospital in Los Angeles and returned to the Laguna Pueblo where he was raised.
One of his recurring nightmares is of being ordered to execute Japanese soldiers and not being able to comply with the order. When he is waiting for the train to take him from LA to New Mexico, he collapses on the platform, and it is a Japanese-American woman, with her children, who comes to his aid.
The Japanese women were holding small children by the hands, and they were surrounded by bundles and suitcases. One of them was standing over him.
"Are you sick?" she asked.
He tried to answer her, but his throat made a coughing, gagging sound. He looked at her, and tried to focus in on the others.
"We called for help," she said, bending over slightly, the hem of her flower-print dress swaying below her knees. A white man in a train uniform came. He looked at Tayo, and then he looked at the women and children.
"What happened to him?":
They shook their heads, and the woman said, "We saw him fall down as we were coming from our train." She moved away then, back to the group. She reached down and picked up a shopping bag in each hand; she looked at Tayo one more time. He raised himself up on one arm and watched them go; he felt of a current of air from the movement their skirts and feet and shopping bags. A child stared back at him, holding a hand but walking twisted around so that he could see Tayo. The little boy was wearing an army hat that was too big for him, and when he saw Tayo looking he smiled; then the child disappeared through the wide depot doors.
The depot man helped him get up; he checked the tag on the suitcase.
"Should I call the Veterans' Hospital?"
Tayo shook his head; he was beginning to shiver all over.
"Those people," he said, pointing in the direction the women and children had gone, "I thought they locked them up."
"Oh, that was some years back. Right after Pearl Harbor. But now they've turned them all loose again. Sent them home. I don't guess you could keep up with the news very well in the hospital."
Grave and Graveyard square -- The Ghost and the Graveyard, by Genevieve Jack
I'm telling you the story she is thinking.
One of the few things I really detested when I went back to college in 1998 was the penchant so many professors had for assembling huge reading lists that required enormous expenditures of money . . . and then never actually discussing the readings. Or the syllabus listed only one or two chapters out of the 30 or more in a book, but you had already shelled out thirty or forty dollars or more for the text.
I had one prof who was worse about this than the others. For one course, the materials included very expensive photocopies -- the bookstore had to get a special license -- of selected chapters from out-of-print books that weren't even available at the library. (This was before the days of Amazon used books.) What we weren't told was that these photocopies were not eligible for refund if the text was canceled. Well, she canceled two of them, and students were pretty upset. Her attitude was . . . unprintable.
For another class, the reading list was way longer than any instructor could hope to cover in a semester, but we had to buy the books anyway. One of the books was Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, which looked to me like it would be very interesting. We never got around to it, however.
I kept several of the books from that class, some of which we read like When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Ceremony which we didn't.
Author Leslie Marmon Silko is my age and lives in Tucson. Although I am not -- that I know of -- Native American, it is almost impossible not to absorb at least some knowledge of and respect for the native people of the Southwest and their culture when you live here for a long time. I mean, for crying out loud, I live in a town called Apache Junction! And while that may be a bit of cultural appropriation by the "settlers," Hieroglyphic Canyon is only a few minutes' drive and a comfortable hike from my house.
The real stuff is out there, all around us.
Dr. Carter Meland, professor of Native American Literature at the University of Minnesota, is the son of friends of mine here in Arizona. I would have liked to read his novel, Stories for a Lost Child, for this Bingo square, but it won't be published until Spring 2017. I thought I might be able to find one of his stories online, but only located a poem on his blog. (I'm assuming the blog name "the-long-one" refers to the fact that Carter is VERY tall!).
But in looking for some of Carter's material, I remembered Ceremony and decided to find it and read it for this Bingo square.
Because I'm thinking all things are connected . . . especially stories.
Purchased this as a text for a college course in 1999. Never read it, but it's been sitting on the shelf all this time, so I might as well.
Disclosure: I obtained the Kindle edition of this book on 28 March 2014 when it was offered for free. I do not know the author and I have never had any communication with her about this book or any other matter. I am an author.
I routinely surf the Amazon freebies and this was one of those I picked up a couple years ago. It worked for the Halloween Bingo, though it was longer than I expected. Still, I read the whole thing. It wasn't too terrible.
The premise is that Grateful Knight, a 22-year-old nurse, has escaped a bad relationship and is mired in debt. Rather than file bankruptcy, she determines to pay back everything -- no details of the debts are given -- and takes her real estate agent father's offer of a free house outside the little town of Red Grove, New Hampshire. The property adjoins an old cemetery.
The cemetery's caretaker is the gorgeous hunk Enrique "Rick" Ordenes, who seems a bit odd.
Shortly after her arrival, Grateful discovers the house is haunted. But the haunting is more than just a couple of ghosts living -- if you want to call it that -- in the attic. And the old cemetery is much more than the resting place for a lot of old bones.
I don't have much background in urban fantasy; the only other title I've read is Fae Fever by Karen Marie Moning. I wasn't intrigued enough to read further in that series, either. There were some similarities with The Ghost and the Graveyard, notably the young heroine with secrets about her birth. One of the reasons I never read any more of the Moning books was that I couldn't stand Mac, the main character. She came across as not only young and impulsive and obsessed with name brands, but as stupid and irresponsible.
Grateful Knight is also young and impulsive, but she's not irresponsible. That alone made a huge difference in my overall opinion of the book.
The writing was decent. I caught a couple of typos, not enough to make any difference, and the one huge error regarding the timeframe, but even that didn't really affect the storyline.
I would have preferred less action and more description, but maybe this is a feature of urban fantasy, since the Moning book was somewhat similaar. The Ghost and the Graveyard could have been much more atmospheric. I never got a real sense of what anything looked like or felt like, and for me that is part of the great pleasure of reading. In that sense, this was just about the exact opposite of Jamaica Inn.
Throughout the book, there's one element that seemed to be very essential to the resolution of the plot and was actually one of the main reasons I kept reading: Grateful has two lovers.
In addition to Rick the caretaker, Grateful has to deal with the ghost of Logan in the attic. Logan doesn't have his own name; he can't remember much of anything about his actual life so Grateful gives him the name Logan. Though he's not as handsome and sexy as Rick, Grateful is still drawn to him, and vice versa. And the two men are constantly warning Grateful away from each other.
This worked well as a device to keep the reader guessing which of them was going to end up being the "hero" and perhaps partner of Grateful. Was Rick too slick, and did he have ulterior motives that were less than honorable? Did Logan have more supernatural knowledge than he was letting on? Would he end up challenging Rick?
What didn't work for me was the eventual resolution of the conflict between the two men.
The other element that didn't work for me, but wasn't as damning to the book's quality as the resolution of the love interest, was the development of Grateful after the explanation of her background.
Maybe I'm old and old-fashioned, but I prefer characters who are a little more human, who have flaws and work to overcome them, and who grow through the course of the story. Maybe the characters in this series do that, but I'm not holding out much hope.
If you're a fan of urban fantasy, this probably would work well. It's just not my thing.
Full review to follow separately, with some spoilers.
Definitely not my usual fare, but it wasn't a wallbanger either. I guess you'd classify it as suburban fantasy, chock full of supernatural beings -- vampires, demons, ghouls, zombies, dragons, shifters, witches, ghosts, etc. -- in a battle of good and evil. Not too much graphic gore, but a fair amount of graphic sex, so be warned.
First in a series, if anyone else is interested.
Looks like I've encountered a big error.
At the beginning of the book, the main character, Grateful Knight, moves into a house her father owns in New Hampshire. Grateful has just come out of a bad relationship with an ex-boyfriend and is in some financial trouble, which the loan of a free place to stay will help. She soon learns the house is haunted, and it's a complex haunting that requires her to make a decision as to what she's going to do about it.
I did not make a decision. Weeks passed. Nothing happened. The ground didn’t open up. I wasn’t struck by lightning. As far as I was concerned, I could do non-committal for as long as it took.
Jack, Genevieve. The Ghost and The Graveyard (Knight Games) (p. 174). Carpe Luna Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The very next page
Summer, in pursuit of greener pastures, packed its bags and left New Hampshire, ushering autumn to Red Grove. Overnight, the trees grew bolder personalities, dressing in garnet and persimmon and welcoming my Jeep home with an increasing number of free-spirited leaves.
Jack, Genevieve. The Ghost and The Graveyard (Knight Games) (p. 174). Carpe Luna Publishing. Kindle Edition.
But further on
I thought back to last week, before I’d moved into the new house, before I was expected to know how to. . . .(that was a spoiler)
Jack, Genevieve. The Ghost and The Graveyard (Knight Games) (p. 240). Carpe Luna Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The hot mess seems to be sorting itself out. But . . . .
I wish there had been more exposition in this. It's a lot of action, almost constant frenzy. I would have liked more development. But that's just me.
I think it just got stupid and incomprehensibly confused, with witches and zombies and dragons and shifters and vampires and ghosts and sorters and caretakers and I'm not sure what all else.