Summary and book reviews of Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller

Dog Flowers

by Danielle Geller

Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller X
Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jan 2021, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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About this Book

Book Summary

A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to retrace her mother's life in a memoir that is both a narrative and an archive of one family's troubled history.

When Danielle Geller's mother dies of alcohol withdrawal during an attempt to get sober, Geller returns to Florida and finds her mother's life packed into eight suitcases. Most were filled with clothes, except for the last one, which contained diaries, photos, and letters, a few undeveloped disposable cameras, dried sage, jewelry, and the bandana her mother wore on days she skipped a hair wash.

Geller, an archivist and a writer, uses these pieces of her mother's life to try and understand her mother's relationship to home, and their shared need to leave it. Geller embarks on a journey where she confronts her family's history and the decisions that she herself had been forced to make while growing up, a journey that will end at her mother's home: the Navajo reservation.

Dog Flowers is an arresting, photo-lingual memoir that masterfully weaves together images and text to examine mothers and mothering, sisters and caretaking, and colonized bodies. Exploring loss and inheritance, beauty and balance, Danielle Geller pays homage to our pasts, traditions, and heritage, to the families we are given and the families we choose.

and boy it burns me up

My mother left the Navajo reservation almost as soon as she could. At nineteen, she moved to the city, as many do, to continue her education. In a brown and water-stained copy of an incomplete job application, I found evidence of these early years: From April 4, 1983, until July 1, 1984, she took classes on cultural awareness, health education, and leadership at the "Albuquerque Job Corps Center." ("It was the best," a woman who attended the school in the late eighties wrote in a recent Google review. "I will always remember the good times I had.") For work experience, my mother found part-time jobs in retail at Kirtland Air Force Base; as a file clerk at the "Albuquerque Rehab. Med. Center"; and as a typist at the "New Mexico State Labor Com.," a position she held for only a month.

In August, my mother moved to Prescott, Arizona, and began working as a waitress at the "Palace Hotel Restaurant," where my parents met. My father told me they met at the Hotel St. ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Dog Flowers is a difficult story that shines with an array of oddities. But Geller holds something back. Her memoir isn't a search for the truth so much as it is a search for a rainbow in a very dark cloud. Even with its rigidity, however, I found the book necessary as a work of art. We need accounts of how children of alcoholics are harmed in the horrible quiet. When those like Geller, who have survived such experiences, write about love, loss, fragility and pain, when they document their tangled histories, they affirm their humanity in a society that standardizes extremes...continued

Full Review Members Only (1015 words).

(Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
[S]tirring...This beautiful memoir is not to be missed.

Library Journal
An introspective reflection on the complexities of family relationships that will engage fans of memoirs.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Geller's mix of archival research and personal memoir allows readers to see a refreshing variety of perspectives and layers, resulting in an eye-opening, moving narrative. A deftly rendered, powerful story of family, grief, and the search for self.

Author Blurb Kali Fajardo-Anstine, author of Sabrina & Corina
Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller is a journey story we've never read before. Geller travels through snippets of her own life and that of her mother's, creating a narrative where all roads lead to her mother's home in the Navajo Nation. It's an honest, intimate, and heart-wrenching memoir that explores fractured family, the damaging effects of alcoholism and poverty, and what it means to seek healing from legacies of trauma. This book gave me chills. Trained as a librarian and archivist, Geller has created a type of archive, a living collection of memories and documents that speak to a life that is at once precisely individualistic while also being universally resonant. Read this book.

Author Blurb Heid E. Erdrich, award-winning poet, author, and editor of the award-winning New Poets of Native Nations
Dog Flowers pulls the few remaining threads of an unraveled family life. This courageous, honest, desperate, tender, and compelling book tells a daughter's story of her troubled mother. In Dog Flowers, we learn that a handful of threads can never reweave the blanket of family, or patch up what a mother's abandonment has torn. What little we learn of Geller's Navajo mother comes from collaged notes and journal entries, photographs and reportage; it's a story full of gaps. Which is exactly what's remarkable about this book: Geller does not seek to make anything whole but herself. She refuses to deal in the tropes of redemption and reconciliation—which just shows how much strength it takes not to judge another's life or lie about it. Even her return to her mother's Navajo Nation does not bring about an easy cultural reunion, although it does give us a satisfying sense that while an immediate family can fall apart, an extended family, a tribe, ties a tight web that might just hold.

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Beyond the Book

The Family Disease: The Effects of Substance Abuse on Children

Danielle Geller's memoir Dog Flowers portrays how both of her parents struggled with substance abuse. Her mother, Tweety, drank heavily, stopped cold turkey and suffered seizures. Her father, Michael, had a long history of drug use, psychotic episodes and violence. National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data estimates that 8.7 million children aged 17 years or younger in the United States — about 12.3% of children in the country overall — are living with at least one parent with a substance abuse disorder. About 10.5% live with a parent with an alcohol abuse disorder and about 2.9% live with a parent with an illicit drug use disorder.

Addiction is often called a "family disease" because of the collateral damage. It ...

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