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Book Review: 'The Turquoise Ledge'

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Book Review: 'The Turquoise Ledge'

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Book Review: 'The Turquoise Ledge'

Book Review: 'The Turquoise Ledge'

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Author Leslie Marmon Silko is a successful novelist and story writer. Now, she's published a memoir describing her Native American heritage and experiences growing up and living in the Southwest U.S.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Leslie Marmon Silko is the author of the novel "Ceremony," among others. Now she's published a memoir called "The Turquoise Ledge." Alan Cheuse has this review.

ALAN CHEUSE: Its been more than 10 years since Leslie Silkos last novel. I admire her fiction no end. So I suppose I'm biased, but despite the fact that this new book is non-fiction, ostensibly a memoir, I willingly plunged in to "The Turquoise Ledge."

I presumed I would find personal recollection and perhaps even some elements revealed out of the writers fascinating but sometimes veiled past. As it turned out, while growing up in the Laguna Pueblo west of Albuquerque, Silko learned a lot of things most of us just dont think much about, and maybe we should, among them the tangled relations of a simple family group, duty to ancestors and gods, and the sacredness of all things living and inert scattered across a bountiful landscape of desert and mountains.

Silkos recounting of family and local history comes in the early chapters. The truth is, I was rather glad when she seemed to get bored with that mission because the memoir shape-shifts into something more of a day-book, and Silko herself becomes a sort of Thoreau of the Southwest.

She writes about the animals she keeps and those she encounters in her almost daily walks, particularly the birds, snakes, and insects. And she records the effects of weather, rain and heat, on the land itself, in a lovely colorized prose.

She notices for us that sometimes in the rain or at sundown, one may catch glimpses of ancient scenes of grandeur, cities of gold in cliffs of sandstone mesas in remote valleys beyond the black volcanic peaks.

She sees shapes in tall clouds resembling canyons, mesas, mountains, and then they transform themselves into great blue temples of stone at Cholula and the massive stone towers of Teotihuacan and Tikal.

Silko may go on too long for the rational reader about her relations with beings whom she calls star creatures, but when she deals with earth and sky and the animal life around her, she helps us settle into a fine state of mind.

NORRIS: Leslie Marmon Silko's memoir is called "The Turquoise Ledge." Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Virginia.

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