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Gardens in Ihe Dunes


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About the Author

Leslie Marmon Silko, a former professor of English and fiction writing, is the author of novels, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, and screenplays. She has won numerous awards and fellowships for her work. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.


After her village is destroyed, a Native American girl refuses to adapt to white ways.

Silko (Almanac of the Dead, etc.) is widely considered a master of Native American literature, but in this third novel, as always, the poet, short-story writer and essayist soars beyond the simpler categorizations that might circumscribe her virtuosic and visionary work. Indigo is one of the last Sand Lizard people, who for centuries have cultivated the desert dunes beyond the river. Young Indigo's story opens like a folk tale, outside place and time, but gradually circumstances become plain. It's the turn of the century, Arizona is on the verge of statehood and an aqueduct is being constructed to feed water from the Colorado River to Los Angeles. Displaced peoples strip the desert gardens, and Grandma Fleet takes Indigo and Sister Salt to Needles. There the girls' mother has joined the encampment of women dancing to summon the Messiah, who, to Indigo's wonderment, appears with his Holy Mother and his 11 children. Soldiers raid the celebration; soon Indigo and Sister Salt are captured and separated, and Indigo is sent to school in Riverside. She escapes and is found hiding in a garden by intellectual iconoclast Hattie, who adopts the child and takes her first to New York, then to Europe. The novel, expanding far beyond its initial setting and historical themes, is structured around intricate patterns of color and styles of gardening: the desert dunes are pale yellow and orange; in Italy, a black garden is formed from thousands of hybrid black gladioli. Significantly, there's also a parrot named RainbowÄalong with a monkey named Linnaeus and a dog circus. Silko's integration of glorious details into her many vivid settings and intense characters is a triumph of the storyteller's art, which this gifted and magical novelist has never demonstrated more satisfyingly than she does here. (Apr.)

Suzanne Ruta The New York Times Book Review Rich, intriguing...a mix of myth, allegory, Victorian children's tale, and adventure yarn, laced with readings in Southwest history.
The Boston Globe Confident and beautifully written.
Irene Warner The Seattle Times Book Review Rich, generous, funny, and ambitious, thought provoking and rewarding.
Nadya Labi Time Silko has crafted a dreamlike tale out of one of the ugliest realities in American history.
Therese Stanton Ms. The historical, geographical, and emotional scope of this sprawling novel is breathtaking. Silko tells and retells the stories of multicultural America and weaves them into the "master" narrative of American history.
Philip Connors Newsday A tender, evocative tale.
Alexs Pate Minneapolis Star-Tribune You can depend on Leslie Marmon Silko to seduce and captivate you with her considerable literary powers. Her dreamlike narratives deliver amazing truths. With Gardens in the Dunes, Silko has crafted a book about faith in the old ways, in the natural ways of life, about the significance of a family and a girl's indomitable spirit.
Denise Low The Kansas City Star Silko writes descriptions as lush as rose petals. A cosmopolitan, spellbinding narrative.
David A. Walton San Jose Mercury News Silko's appeal is her ability to transcend with her story the obvious ethnic, feminist, and ecological messages so deeply embedded in her material....[Her] fiction is rooted in the real world and conveys the eternal messages of story land: love won and lost, separation and reunion, a child's growth and arrival into adulthood.
Melissa Levine San Francisco Chronicle Like Gabriel Garc a M rquez, but more accurately reminiscent of Joseph Conrad...a rich descendant well worth reading.

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