Leslie Marmon Silko’s collection of short fiction and poetry, Storyteller, is unique in shape and composition. It literally does not fit easily on a bookshelf nor can it be easily classified, given that it consists of short fiction, poetry, Laguna Pueblo legends and myths, personal family reminiscences, and photographs. The collection comprises eight short stories by Silko; twenty-six photographs by Silko’s father, Lee Marmon, and her grandfather, Henry “Grandpa Hank” Marmon; and fifty-nine lyric and narrative poems. Some of these poems are original works by Silko and others are her version of narratives concerning traditional Laguna Pueblo legend and myth. The eight short stories include Silko’s first-ever published story, “The Man to Send Rain Clouds,” as well as some of her most acclaimed and anthologized stories, including “Lullaby” and “Yellow Woman.”
In both her literary practice and her rare interviews, Silko has emphasized that Pueblo expression is not linear but circular; she often uses the metaphor of the spiderweb to describe multiple sequences of threads, radiating from the center.
Silko begins the collection with narrative poems that relate signature events in the history of the Marmon family. The family, which operated the general merchandise store at Laguna for decades in the early twentieth century, had intermarried with Laguna Pueblo and with Latinos. A story by Aunt Susie introduces the first foray into Laguna folktale, and the mixed genres of poetry, short story, photography, and Laguna myth and legend are interweaved in the remainder of the volume, as Silko returns to recurrent themes. These themes include survival, the immanence of spirits, the importance of rain, the inevitability of periodic drought, and the compelling examples of Yellow Woman and Coyote, both as legendary figures and in their present-day personifications, in the life and culture of the Laguna Pueblos in New Mexico.
In the title short story, set in a small town in Alaska, an unnamed young Yupik woman, certainly a contemporary Yellow Woman of sorts, notices the leering looks of a Gussuck (from the term “Cossack,” a word used to describe nonnative folk). She intentionally lures him across thin ice. The ice breaks, and he drowns. As the story concludes, the Yupik woman asserts to authorities that she had murdered the man, though village children who had seen the accident explain to the state trooper and the local attorney that it was indeed an accident.
“Lullaby,” an oft-anthologized story, including in college readers, describes the levels of loss suffered by an elderly couple, Chato and Ayah. Most of the story describes Ayah looking for the presumably drunken Chato as a snowstorm obscures the landscape. She recalls losing their son, Jimmie,...
(The entire section is 1149 words.)