Native American Author Spotlight: Leslie Marmon Silko

Reading stories from other cultures is essential to understanding our diverse world. During November, we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month. For the next four weeks, we will be spotlighting four different influential Native American authors. Today, we will be highlighting the works of Leslie Marmon Silko.

Leslie Marmon Silko smiles. She has medium-length black hair and wears a blue shirt and blue handkerchief around her neck.
Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 5, 1948. She was raised on the Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico in a family with Laguna Pueblo, white, and Mexican ancestry. Much like the characters in her stories, Silko’s upbringing left her at a crossroads between cultures. This caused her to not feel fully accepted by either the Laguna Pubelo people or white people because of her mixed background.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico, she went on to pursue law school but found that it wasn’t the right environment for her to make an impact for her community. She realized that her efforts for Native American justice would be better invested in storytelling and writing. Through her writings, she has created a dialogue about the struggles of the modern Native American and other issues that the Native American community faces.

All of these themes and personal experiences are encapsulated in her most well-known book, Ceremony. This is a story of a war veteran with mixed Laguna and Anglo heritage. The protagonist meets a tribal wise man who teaches him Laguna folklore and traditional ceremonies that help heal the psychological wounds caused by war. Ceremony is a story of contrasting cultures, mental illness, and transformation through his Native American roots. It is critically acclaimed and has given Silko the title of the “first female Native American novelist.” She later received many accolades for this book, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award.

Silko is still writing today. She recently published a memoir, The Turquoise Ledge, in 2010 and a Kindle short story collection in 2011. She teaches currently at the University of Arizona at Tucson. Check out one of her books this month as you celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

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