Leslie Marmon Silko Questions and Answers

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How did Leslie Marmon Silko's background impact her art?

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Native American poet and author Leslie Marmon Silko comes from a diverse background representing Laguna Pueblo, Latino, and Anglo cultures. Her novels and poems analyze and reflect on the narratives, relationships, and tensions among the interconnected histories of these groups.

Marmon Silko grew up in the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. As someone with additional Anglo and Mexican ancestry, she often felt like an outsider, a person who did not completely belong to either Native or mainstream American culture. After her initial education at the Laguna Pueblo reservation school, she attended a Catholic school and then earned a degree in English at the University of New Mexico.

Through her relationship with her grandmother and aunt, Marmon Silko came to identify with her Laguna Pueblo background. The traditions of storytelling and oral transmission of information within families and tribes in turn influenced her development as a writer, becoming a major theme in her work.

Marmon Silko’s 1977 novel Ceremony, features a main character named Tayo, a World War II veteran with Native and Anglo ancestry who seeks healing for his war trauma through the rituals and belief system of the Laguna Pueblo.

In her 1981 book Storyteller, Marmon Silko combines Native and Western approaches to narrative to create a collection comprised of poems, short fiction, and memoir. Among the people the author references in Storyteller is Aunt Susie, the relative who played a role in connecting the author with her Laguna Pueblo heritage.