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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 425

Gardens in the Dunes is a fictional 1999 novel written by Leslie Marmon Silko. Similar to an epic or a classic folk tale, it tells the story of a young Native American girl named Indigo of the Sand Lizard tribe, who was forcibly assimilated into white culture. Although it faced a bit of criticism for its very descriptive and detailed language, the novel received generally positive reviews, mainly because of its accurate portrayal of Native American history during the late 19th century and early 20th century.

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Even though the plot is fictional, it still holds a certain level of historical value in literature for having realistic and powerful themes such as feminism, white imperialism, ethnicity, environmentalism, and naturalism and the struggles of Native Americans of the Californian deserts.

A testimony of those struggles is Indigo, a young girl of the last generation of the Sand Lizard people—a Native American tribe that lived on the desert dunes down along the big river, in a town called Needles in Arizona. She is separated from her family by policemen who raid their home and ruin their ceremonial tribal dance and is sent to a governmental boarding school in Riverside. There, she is forced to learn the white culture and be properly “civilized." However, she manages to escape and hides in a vividly described garden. A kind and intelligent white woman by the name of Hattie finds her and helps her and (together with her husband Edward) takes Indigo on a botanical tour across Europe and Southwest America.

On their journey, we slowly become familiarized with both the Western and the...

(The entire section contains 425 words.)

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