(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Mixed-blood Native American novelist, poet, essayist, and critic Gerald Vizenor’s imaginative autobiography Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors (winner of the 1990 Josephine Miles PEN Award), recounts the author’s triumphs, tragedies, and confrontations with racism. Throughout his autobiography, Vizenor adopts the mythic identity of the Native American trickster, who uses humor and stories to reinvent his world. “My stories are interior landscapes,” Vizenor writes, and, as trickster autobiography, these stories about Vizenor’s life enable him to mold his experience of his own life.

Vizenor had a rough childhood by any standard. After his father was stabbed to death, his mother left him with foster families while she vanished for years at a time. Later, she returned and married an alcoholic who beat him. When he was eighteen, Vizenor escaped into the Army. In the Army, Vizenor traveled to Japan, one of the most important experiences of his life. Views of Mount Fuji, a romance with a Japanese woman, and his first visit to a brothel inspired him to write haiku. After his discharge from the Army, Vizenor stayed in Japan. He later returned to the United States to study at New York University and the University of Minnesota, where he discovered writers such as Lafcadio Hearn, Jack London, and Thomas Wolfe. He also studied haiku in translation. Vizenor calls his discovery of Japanese literature his “second...

(The entire section is 413 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Coltelli, Laura, ed. Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Vizenor, Gerald. “Head Water: An Interview with Gerald Vizenor.” Interview by Larry McCaffery and Tom Marshall. Chicago Review 39, nos. 3-4 (Summer-Fall, 1993): 50-54.

Vizenor, Gerald, ed. Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Indian Literatures. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.