Summary and book reviews of Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

Crazy Brave

A Memoir

By Joy Harjo

Crazy Brave
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2012,
    176 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2013,
    176 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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Book Summary

In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo, one of our leading Native American voices, details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo's tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary.

EAST

East is the direction of beginnings. It is sunrise. When beloved Sun rises, it is an entrance, a door to fresh knowledge. Breathe the light in. Call upon the assistance you need for the day. Give thanks.
East is how the plants, animals, and other beings orient themselves for beginnings, to open and blossom. The spirit of the day emerges from the sunrise point. East is also the direction of Oklahoma, where I was born, the direction of the Creek Nation.

Once I was so small I could barely see over the top of the back seat of the black Cadillac my father bought with his Indian oil money. He polished and tuned his car daily. I wanted to see everything.

This was around the time I acquired language, when something happened that changed my relationship to the spin of the world. It changed even the way I looked at the sun.

This suspended integer of time probably escaped ordinary notice in my parents' universe, which informed most of my vision in the ordinary world. They ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Harjo moves through her history in an admirably concise fashion. Memories, happy and painful, are related in spare, honest sentences; no words are wasted. Her deep love for and spiritual connection with the arts are obvious, though this book emphasizes language, story, and poetry above dance, music, and painting. It is clear that these creative pursuits and the "knowing" - her Native American subconscious connection to the spiritual/eternal - were her saviors during cycles of abuse, fear and panic.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

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Media Reviews
Los Angeles Review of Books

Harjo is as raw and honest in her memoir as she is in her poetry... Harjo is the Muscogee/Creek word meaning reckless in battle, or crazy brave. It is a good name and one she has earned.

San Francisco Chronicle

Poets of every persuasion will surely be riveted by the intensely raw and yet carefully crafted personal poems that Harjo includes here...

Library Journal

Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle, poet/performer Harjo writes verse suffused with spiritual concern, sociopolitical hunger, and evidence of her Muskogee Creek heritage.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Faced with the choice of submitting to despair or becoming 'crazy brave,' she found the courage to reclaim a lost spirituality as well as the 'intricate and metaphorical language of my ancestors.' A unique, incandescent memoir.

Jaclyn Fulwood, Infinite Reads

Slim of spine but lush with Harjo's trademark singing imagery, this raw and radiant coming-of-age story invites readers to 'breathe the light in' and discover their own hidden capabilities.

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Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)

Chartered in 1962 under the John F. Kennedy administration, the Institute of American Indian Arts is still educating young Native American artists in Santa Fe, New Mexico. IAIA The school boasts numerous notable Native professors, faculty, staff, visiting artists, scholars and alumni, including Joy Harjo, Dan Namingha, Fritz Scholder, David Bradley, Doug Hyde, Allan Houser, Charles Loloma, Otellie Loloma, Earl Biss, T.C. Cannon, Sheldon Peters Wolfchild, Darren Vigil Gray, and Sherwin Bitsui.

According to the IAIA website, it is "the only four-year degree fine arts institution in the nation devoted to contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts." The college grants associate's and bachelor's degrees as well as two one-year ...

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