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In Search of the Novel:Ten Novels

Ceremony

by Leslie Marmon Silko

Synopsis

When Tayo returns emotionally distressed from the war in the Pacific against the Japanese, he cannot find comfort among other Native American veterans and their retreat into drunkenness. With the help of a medicine man, he finds his ancient connections to the land and the healing ceremonies of old rituals. The patterns of the old stories and myths, all fitting together, bring healing, peace, and redemption to Tayo. They also bring hope to the tribal peoples of the Southwest.

Reviews

Tayo is a half-white, half Native American who has survived World War II, but is emotionally damaged. He eventually finds peace through the traditional healers and the ceremonies that reconnect him to the old patterns. According to Prudence Hockley’s review in 500 Great Books by Women,Ceremony is somber in tone, its narrative interspersed with fragments of myth, the writing imbued with the grace and resonance of a ceremonial chant. It powerfully evokes both a natural world alive with story and significance, and the brutal human world of Highway 6 and the streets of Gallup, where Navajos, Zunis, and Hopis in torn jackets stand outside bars ‘like cold flies stuck to the wall.’ ”

“Story is to engender life, and Ceremony speaks upon the very process by which story, whether in oral or written form, substantiates life, continues it, and creates it,” writes Simon J. Otiz (“Towards a National Indian Literature: Cultural Authenticity in Nationalism,” The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, 1981).

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