Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Leslie Marmon Silko’s ancient Laguna Pueblo traditions involve oral narrative storytelling, but she writes in English and in multiple genre forms—novel, nonfiction prose, poetry, photography. Reflect on the genre choices that she has made in particular texts and how effective those choices may have been in conveying her putative meaning.

A number of Laguna Pueblo myths are interpolated within the narrative structure of Ceremony, most notably in “Hummingbird and Fly” and “[The Witchery Convention].” How do the traditional stories provide insight into the events of the novel, especially in an understanding of Tayo, the protagonist?

Comment on the importance of Mt. Taylor in Ceremony. In Laguna Pueblo, the mountain is referred to as Tse-pi-na, the Woman Who Walks in the Clouds. Does the female character who identifies herself as “Ts’eh” to Tayo bear comparison to Ts’its’tsi’nako (Thought-Woman) or to Tse-pi-na (Mt. Taylor/Woman Who Walks in the Clouds) or to both?

Should Hattie be understood as a caring and altruistic figure who seeks the betterment of Indigo in Gardens in the Dunes, or is she attempting to indoctrinate culturally a bereft young woman who has been separated from her family and tribe?

Discuss how each of the following characters has an initial understanding of a personal relationship with the land and how that understanding is altered in the course of the work: Tayo in Ceremony, Sterling in Almanac of the Dead, Edward in Gardens in the Dunes, and Leon in “The Man to Send Rain Clouds,” from Storyteller.

How do the articles in Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit (1996) and even the letters in The Delicacy and Strength of Lace (1986) provide insight into some of the critical and thematic concerns that Silko describes in her imaginative fiction?