Crazy Brave Characters

The main characters in Crazy Brave include Joy Harjo, Allen W. Foster Jr., and Wynema Jewell Baker.

  • Joy Harjo is the current US Poet Laureate and a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation. The memoir charts her life from her birth in Oklahoma through her beginnings as a poet at the University of New Mexico.
  • Allen W. Foster Jr. is Harjo’s sensitive but remote father. His alcoholism and abuse eventually forced Harjo’s mother to leave him.
  • Wynema Jewell Baker is Harjo’s beautiful and talented mother. Despite her second husband’s abuse, she aided her daughter at significant moments in Harjo’s life.


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Joy Harjo

In her narrative, Harjo embarks on a journey to overcome hardships and learn how to be brave. She learns to rely on herself and develops the courage to make necessary changes in her life. Having worked through the challenges represented by the four cardinal directions that provide the memoir's structure, Harjo begins the task of turning her life toward a more positive direction, ultimately embracing the "spirit of poetry" as her guide.

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Allen W. Foster Jr.

Harjo describes her biological father—Allen W. Foster Jr. of the Mvskoke (Creek) tribe—as passionate, sensitive, and in love with her mother. He is an alcoholic and struggles to cope with life, leading Harjo to compare him to the element of water. His drinking, violence, and infidelity lead to her parents' divorce.

Wynema Jewell Baker

Harjo's mother, Wynema Jewell Baker—who is of Cherokee and European heritage—is a beautiful and talented singer. Harjo compares her mother to the element of fire, noting her parents' love but also their incompatibility. After divorcing Harjo's father, Wynema marries a white man and experiences a frighteningly abusive relationship. She stops singing and loses her fiery spirit, sometimes siding with her husband over the children. However, her mother supports Harjo at crucial moments, such as helping her to enroll in the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Harjo's Stepfather

Harjo's stepfather deceives the family into thinking he has good intentions, but after the marriage between him and Harjo's mother, he becomes cruel and possessive. He isolates his wife from her friends, discourages her from singing, and physically abuses Harjo and her siblings. Due to her stepfather's abuse, Harjo is compelled to leave home and finds a better environment at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

Harjo's University Friends

At the IAIA, Harjo makes friends with students from diverse Native backgrounds. With Navajo student Herbie Nez, she shares a love of music. Lupita comes from Mexico but claims to be from Venus and aspires to be an opera singer. Harjo's roommate, Georgette Romero, competes with Lupita over Herbie's cousin Clarence. Harjo falls in love with a Cherokee student and becomes pregnant with his child.

Harjo's First Husband and Mother-in-Law

After finishing at the IAIA, Harjo moves with her boyfriend (later her first husband) to the Cherokee town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Her husband does not live up to the promise he showed at...

(The entire section contains 653 words.)

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