Bold and impassioned, sharp and defiant, Leslie Marmon Silko's essays evoke the spirit and voice
of Native Americans. Whether she is exploring the vital importance literature and language play
in Native American heritage, illuminating the inseparability of the land and the Native American
people, enlivening the ways and wisdom of the old-time people, or exploding in outrage over the
government's long-standing, racist treatment of Native Americans, Silko does so with eloquence
and power, born from her profound devotion to all that is Native American.
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit is written with the fire of necessity. Silko's
call to be heard is unmistakable; there are stories to remember, injustices to redress, ways of
life to preserve. It is a work of major importance, filled with indispensable truths--a work by
an author with an original voice and a unique access to both worlds.
In her title essay, famed novelist, short story writer and poet Silko recalls her encounters with racism while growing up on a Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico (she is of mixed Indian, Mexican and white ancestry), then goes on to explore sexually uninhibited Laguna society before the arrival of Christian missionaries, when women took lovers as freely as men, and hunted and went to war along with the men. That provocative piece sets the tone for an outspoken collection of original essays in which Silko criticizes tribal councils as puppets of the U.S. government and blames President Clinton for what she considers racist immigration policies and for abetting the white and mestizo ruling classes of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. She writes beautifully of Maya, Aztec and Mixtec codices, or folding books, relating their visual language to frescoes on pyramids and ancient dwellings. Her explorations of Pueblo myths and oral narratives emphasize the inextricable links between human identity, imagination and Mother Earth, a theme that resonates in an evocative essay, augmented by photographs, on the exotic rock formations around her home in Tucson's hills.