Of history and home

 

The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir
Leslie Marmon Silko
336 pages, hardcover: $25.95.
Viking, October.

The big arroyo has no attachment to the way things are. The arroyo is the space the water and the boulders and other debris pass through in floods, the space that desert animals and I move through. The space that is the arroyo changes with every flood.

More than 30 years after publishing  her first novel, Leslie Marmon Silko has penned a self-portrait. A poet, essayist and short-story writer as well as the author of three novels -- Ceremony, Almanac of the Dead and Gardens in the Dunes -- Silko is undoubtedly one of the West's most influential writers. She's also notoriously private, which makes The Turquoise Ledge all the more alluring.

Silko's memoir begins with recollections of her childhood in the Pueblo of Laguna, a reservation an hour west of Albuquerque. She writes of horses and sandstone, of blue corn enchiladas and of hunting deer with her father on the flanks of Mount Taylor. Silko relays a complex family history: She descends from the Laguna and Cherokee tribes as well as tribes in Texas, but her family's roots also extend into Mexico and Europe. Her mother's father belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and her father's family's household included Juana, one of four young Navajo sisters captured by Spanish slave hunters during the 1823 military campaign against the tribe.

Most of the memoir, however, concerns the author's daily life in Arizona's Tucson Mountains, where she has lived since the 1970s. To Silko, these mountains represent home -- and healing. Readers learn about the trails she explores and the beauty she encounters, and come to  understand her fierce sense of right and wrong, particularly when it comes to wildlife and developers, earth and bulldozers.

This is not a book for readers who like to put their favorite writers inside neat boxes. Silko generally relies on her childhood memories of places and faces and doesn't insist on resolution or redemption. Nor does she stuff her memories, stories and facts into a linear narrative. Silko is more interested in the landscape of the Tucson Mountains and the way clouds form to sometimes drop rain than she is in making sense of her own history -- and that is much of this unusual memoir's appeal.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac