Leslie Marmon Silko Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Leslie Marmon Silko was born with a diverse heritage derived from her mixed ancestry (Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, and white). Much of her work examines the culture of Native Americans as it conflicts and combines with those of Mexican Americans and Anglo-Americans in the Southwest. Her biography, mostly revealed through her stories, resonates with the pain of cultural collisions and racism. It also acknowledges, in a self-assured tone, the value of multiplicity, of perceiving things in more than one way as a method of surviving in the modern world.

Vital to Silko’s upbringing was her great-grandmother, Marie Anaya. Married to Silko’s paternal great-grandfather, Robert G. Marmon, a pioneer who moved from Ohio to settle in New Mexico, Marie was known to Silko as Grandma A’Mooh (“A’Mooh” is a Laguna expression of love). A’Mooh cared for Silko when she was a baby and lived into her eighties while Silko grew up. She told Silko many stories of earlier, difficult times, of the ancient traditions that had sustained the Laguna people.

Equally important are Silko’s memories of her great-grandfather Stagner, his wife, Helen, and their daughter Lillie, who was Silko’s grandmother. Helen, of the Romero family near Los Lunas, New Mexico, represents the Mexican influence on Silko’s life and work, making Spanish as important to her as English and the Indian language of Laguna. Silko acknowledged the vital connections between generations of her family when she dedicated Ceremony (1977) to both her grandmothers, Jessie Goddard Leslie and Lillie Stagner Marmon, and her sons, Robert William Chapman and Cazimir Silko.

Perhaps the most significant contributor to Silko’s early perceptions and later work was her father, Lee H. Marmon. A talented amateur photographer, he experienced racism as a young boy when he was denied entrance to an Albuquerque hotel while his light-skinned father was told he was welcome anytime (Hank Marmon, Silko’s grandfather, refused to patronize the hotel for the rest of his life). Like the protagonist of Ceremony, Lee Marmon fought in World War II; his photographic records of the life to which he returned—the Laguna and Paguate villages, the Marmon Trading Post, his daughters, the deer hunts, the desert stretches of New Mexico and Arizona—contribute to the richly patterned texture of Storyteller (1981).

In addition to Silko’s ethnic heritage, the landscapes of her life have profoundly influenced her writing. Most of her work incorporates the distinctive geography around Albuquerque, where she was born, and the Laguna Pueblo Reservation, where she grew up. In contrast to the mountains and mesas of her childhood, Silko, in some of her stories,...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Leslie Marmon Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 5, 1948, the descendant of Laguna, Mexican, and Anglo-American peoples. Silko’s mixed ancestry is documented in Storyteller, in which she recounts the stories of white Protestant brothers Walter Gunn Marmon and Robert G. Marmon, her great-grandfather, who, with his older brother, settled in New Mexico at Laguna as a trader, having migrated west from Ohio in 1872. Her great-grandmother Marie, or A’mooh, married Robert Marmon, and her grandmother Lillie was a Model A automobile mechanic. Both were well educated and well informed about both Anglo and Laguna lifestyles. Growing up in one of the Marmon family houses at Old Laguna, in western New Mexico, Silko inherited from these women and from Susie Marmon, the sister-in-law of Silko’s grandfather Hank Marmon, a treasury of Laguna stories, both mythological and historical. Indeed, “Aunt Susie” is created in Storyteller as Silko’s source for many of the traditional stories that shaped her childhood.

Silko’s early years were spent in activities that neither completely included her in nor fully excluded her from the Laguna community. She participated in clan activities but not to the same extent as the full-bloods; she helped prepare for ceremonial dances, but she did not dance herself. Attending the local day school of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she was prohibited from using the Keresan language which her...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Leslie Marmon Silko was born to Leland (Lee) Howard Marmon and Mary Virginia Leslie in 1948. Her extended mixed-heritage family (Laguna, Mexican, white) had a rich history of tribal leadership and a rich tradition of storytelling. Growing up at Laguna Pueblo, Silko rode horses, hunted, and was free to explore the land of her ancestors, land that was inextricably tied to the traditional stories told by her aunts and grandmother.

In 1964, Silko entered the University of New Mexico. In 1966, she married Richard Chapman and gave birth to Robert William Chapman. During her sophomore year, she took a creative writing class. Despite the success of a short story written for that class, “The Man to Send Rainclouds,” which...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The tensions and cultural conflicts affecting many of Leslie Marmon Silko’s characters can be seen as fictional renderings of Silko’s experience. Born of mixed European American and Navajo blood, Silko spent her formative years learning the stories of her white ancestors and their relationship with the native population into which they married. Her great-grandfather, Robert Marmon, had come to the Laguna pueblo, New Mexico, in the early 1870’s as a surveyor and eventually married a Laguna woman. Even more important to Silko’s development as a writer was the later generation of Marmons—half European American and half Native American—who continued to transmit the oral traditions of the Laguna pueblo people. One such...

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(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Early Life

Leslie Marmon Silko was raised in Laguna pueblo reservation in New Mexico by her parents and her father’s extended family. Her mother was of European and Cherokee ancestry; her father was of Laguna, Plains Indian, Mexican, and European ancestry. She has written that the search for identity as a half-breed is at the core of her works. Her family included a great-aunt, Aunt Susie, who taught Silko the stories of the Laguna oral tradition. Silko attended day school in Albuquerque from 1958 to 1964 and then the University of New Mexico, where she received a B.A. in English. She married, had two children, and finished three semesters of law school.

The 1960’s

Silko began...

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

Of Native American, Mexican, and Caucasian descent, Leslie Marmon Silko was born Leslie Marmon in 1948 to Leland Howard Marmon and Mary Virginia Leslie. She spent most of her childhood among her extended family on the Laguna Pueblo reservation, which later provided the setting for much of her poetry and fiction. Silko first was educated at an Indian boarding school and later graduated from a Catholic high school in Albuquerque. In 1964, she enrolled at the University of New Mexico. While still an undergraduate, she married, had her first child, and published her first short story, “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” (1969). After graduating in 1969, she briefly attended law school in hopes of becoming a legal advocate for the people...

(The entire section is 411 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Leslie Marmon Silko, one of the most acclaimed writers of the American Indian literary renaissance of the 1970’s, was reared on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation, in the house where her father, Lee H. Marmon, had been born. During her childhood she spent much time with her great-grandmother, A’mooh, who lived next door. A’mooh and Silko’s Aunt Susie, Mrs. Walter K. Marmon, were among the people who taught her the Laguna traditions and stories that became the principal resource for her poetry and fiction. Silko’s family background included Laguna, Mexican, Plains Indian, and white ancestors. Her great-grandfather, Robert Gunn Marmon, was a trader who had been elected to one term as governor of the pueblo. Nevertheless, the...

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(Short Stories for Students)

Leslie Marmon Silko grew up on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. This land is in the southwestern United States and was home turf to...

(The entire section is 445 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Leslie Marmon Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1948, to a family of mixed white and native blood. Soon afterward she moved to the...

(The entire section is 337 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Leslie Marmon Silko was born on March 5, 1948, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Raised on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation in northern New Mexico,...

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(Novels for Students)

Silko grew up on the Laguna Reservation in New Mexico and is a Pueblo Indian of mixed ancestry—Cherokee, German, Northern Plains Indian,...

(The entire section is 508 words.)