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
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • TRUSTEE AND PHILANTHROPY RELATIONS MANGER,
    Come experience Work You Can Believe In! The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is seeking a Trustee and Philanthropy Relations Manager. This position is critical to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    -The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region- The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful, complex, diverse,...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Organize with Northern Plains Resource Council to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Starts $35.5k. Apply now- northernplains.org/careers