(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“May It Be Beautiful All Around,” in Grandmothers of the Light, is one of eight stories in which Allen demonstrates the role of ritual magic in the interplay between humans and supernaturals. Allen has stated that “the essential nature of the cosmos is female intelligences,” and she has created the word “cosmogyny” to represent this enduring and transformative gynocentric cosmos.

Navajo chantways are intricate healing ceremonies based upon the knowledge that reintegration with the inviolate inner forces of the land and the natural elements restores a diseased individual into balance with the sacred order. The chantways can last from two to nine days and can involve fifteen or more trained practitioners. Although many chantway rituals are shared, each chantway belongs to a specific healing group and contains its own songs, stories, herbal medicines, prayers, and curative processes.

In “May It Be Beautiful All Around,” Older Sister and Younger Sister have been pledged to two strong but old warriors whom they do not love. During a raid, the two sisters are separated from their family. Although they are afraid, they ignore tribal knowledge to consider the possibility that they might not have to fulfill their uncle’s pledge to marry the old warriors, Bear Man and Snake Man.

As the women search the mountains for their family, two handsome young men appear and offer their help. Because the hour is late, the four...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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Perry, Donna. “Paula Gunn Allen.” In Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out, edited by Donna Perry. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1993.

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Swann, Brian, and Arnold Krupat, eds. I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.

Toohey, Michelle Campbell. “Paula Allen Gunn’s Grandmothers of the Light: Falling Through the Void.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 12 (Fall, 2000): 35-51.