Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko, an accomplished Native American contemporary writer, is the author of novels, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, and filmscripts. Her recent publications include Gardens in the Dunes, Almanac of the Dead, and The Turquoise Ledge. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Award, Chicago Review award, Pushcart prize, and a MacArthur "Genius Award."

Long a commentator on Native American affairs, Silko has published many non-fictional articles on Native American affairs and literature.

In 2010, Silko released The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir. Written using distinctive prose and overall structure influenced by Native American storytelling traditions, the book is a broad-ranging exploration not only of her Laguna Pueblo, Cherokee, Mexican and European family history but also of the natural world, suffering, insight, environmentalism and the sacred. The desert southwest setting is prominent. Although non-fiction, the stylized presentation is reminiscent of creative fiction.

The Turquoise Ledge

A Memoir

Penguin, 2011

Profound reflections on family and the natural world-from the legendary Native American author.

With the publication of Ceremony in 1978, Leslie Marmon Silko established herself as a storyteller of unique power and brilliance. Now, in her first work of nonfiction, Silko combines memoir with family history and observations on the creatures and desert landscapes that command her attention and inform her vision of the world. Ambitious in scope and full of wonderfully plainspoken and evocative lyricism, The Turquoise Ledge is both an exploration of Silko's experience and a moving and deeply personal contemplation of the enormous spiritual power of the natural world.

Almanac of the Dead

Penguin Books, 1992

In its extraordinary range of character and culture, Almanac of the Dead is fiction on the grand scale. The acclaimed author of Ceremony has undertaken a weaving of ideas and lives, fate and history, passion and conquest in an attempt to re-create the moral history of the Americas, told from the point of view of the conquered, not the conquerors.

Almanac of the Dead takes place against the backdrop of the American Southwest and Central America. It follows the stories of dozens of major characters in a somewhat non-linear narrative format. Much of the story takes place in the present day, although lengthy flashbacks and occasional mythological storytelling are also woven into the plot.

The novel's numerous characters are often separated by both time and space, and many seemingly have little to do with one another at first. A majority of these characters are involved in criminal or revolutionary organizations - the extended cast includes arms dealers, drug kingpins, an elite assassin, communist revolutionaries, corrupt politicians and a black market organ dealer.

Driving many of these individual storylines is a general theme of total reclamation of Native American lands.


Penguin, 2006

Thirty years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profound and moving works of Native American literature, a novel that is itself a ceremony of healing. Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Masterfully written, filled with the somber majesty of Pueblo myth, Ceremony is a work of enduring power.

Gardens in the Dunes

A Novel

Simon & Schuster, 2000

A sweeping, multifaceted tale of a young Native American pulled between the cherished traditions of a heritage on the brink of extinction and an encroaching white culture, Gardens in the Dunes is the powerful story of one woman's quest to reconcile two worlds that are diametrically opposed.At the center of this struggle is Indigo, who is ripped from her tribe, the Sand Lizard people, by white soldiers who destroy her home and family. Placed in a government school to learn the ways of a white child, Indigo is rescued by the kind-hearted Hattie and her worldly husband, Edward, who undertake to transform this complex, spirited girl into a "proper" young lady. Bit by bit, and through a wondrous journey that spans the European continent, traipses through the jungles of Brazil, and returns to the rich desert of Southwest America, Indigo bridges the gap between the two forces in her life and teaches her adoptive parents as much as, if not more than, she learns from them.

The Turquoise Ledge

From Booklist
*Starred Review* The turquoise stones Silko finds in the Tucson Mountains near her home embody the story of the land and her own complex heritage. A MacArthur fellow, Silko drew on her Laguna Pueblo, Cherokee, Mexican, and European ancestry in her previous books, including her seminal novels Ceremony (1978) and Gardens in the Dunes (1999). She digs even deeper in this richly veined, dramatic, and mysterious self-portrait, telling gripping stories of suffering and wisdom from each branch of her complex family tree that reveal the consequences of racism, the war against Native Americans, and the abuse of nature, including shocking glimpses into the Indian slave trade and the dire effects of the atomic bomb tests and uranium mining. Vivid portraits of her grandmothers and mother are matched by amazing tales of the animal members of Silko's extended family, from horses and dogs to macaws and rattlesnakes. Mesmerizing descriptions of desert and drought, musings over the significance of turquoise, concern over environmental destruction, harrowing personal struggles, and haunting revelations of spiritual forces converge in a provocative and numinous memoir that backs Silko's resounding perception that "in the Americas, the sacred surrounds us, no matter how damaged or changed a place may appear to be." --Donna Seaman



An exceptional novel—a cause for celebration.
--The Washington Post Book World

Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature. It is one of the greatest novels of any time and place. I have read this book so many times that I probably have it memorized. I teach it and I learn from it and I am continually in awe of its power, beauty, rage, vision, and violence.
--Sherman Alexie

Her assurance, her gravity, her flexibility are all wonderful gifts.
--The New York Review of Books

The novel is very deliberately a ceremony in itself—demanding but confident and beautifully written.
--The Boston Globe

Without question Leslie Marmon Silko is the most accomplished Native American writer of her generation.
--The New York Times Book Review


Almanac of the Dead

From Library Journal
When the ex-mistress of a sinister cocaine wholesaler takes a job as secretary to a Native American clairvoyant who works the TV talk show circuit, she begins transcribing an ancient manuscript that foretells the second coming of Quetzalcoatl and the violent end of white rule in the Americas. Witches and shamans across the country are working to fulfill this prophecy, but the capitalist elite is mounting a dirty war of its own, with weapons such as heroin and cocaine. This novel belongs on the same shelf with Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo ( LJ 10/1/72) and Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975). Occult conspiracies multiply at a dizzying pace, and eco-radicals actually do blow up the Glen Canyon Dam. Silko succeeds more as a storyteller than a novelist: the book is full of memorable vignettes, but the frame story of apocalyptic racial warfare is clumsy comic book fare. Recommended for collections of magic realism and Native American fiction. — Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch . Lib., Los Angeles. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Gardens in the Dunes

Suzanne Ruta The New York Times Book Review: Rich, intriguing...a mix of myth, allegory, Victorian children's tale, and adventure yarn, laced with readings in Southwest history.

The Boston Globe Confident and beautifully written.

Melissa Levine San Francisco Chronicle: Like Gabriel García Márquez, but more accurately reminiscent of Joseph Conrad...a rich descendant well worth reading.

Irene Warner The Seattle Times Book Review: Rich, generous, funny, and ambitious, thought provoking and rewarding.

Nadya Labi Time: Silko has crafted a dreamlike tale out of one of the ugliest realities in American history.

Philip Connors Newsday: A tender, evocative tale.

Alexs Pate Minneapolis Star-Tribune: You can depend on Leslie Marmon Silko to seduce and captivate you with her considerable literary powers. Her dreamlike narratives deliver amazing truths. With Gardens in the Dunes, Silko has crafted a book about faith in the old ways, in the natural ways of life, about the significance of a family and a girl's indomitable spirit.

Denise Low The Kansas City Star: Silko writes descriptions as lush as rose petals. A cosmopolitan, spellbinding narrative.

David A. Walton San Jose Mercury News: Silko's appeal is her ability to transcend with her story the obvious ethnic, feminist, and ecological messages so deeply embedded in her material....[Her] fiction is rooted in the real world and conveys the eternal messages of story land: love won and lost, separation and reunion, a child's growth and arrival into adulthood.


Leslie Marmon Silko Talks About How to Connect to Nature, Even in the City

The author of The Turquoise Ledge explains why she wrote about the land she knows so well.

Leslie Marmon Silko on Poetics and Politics 2011

We have no current contact information for Ms. Silko.