Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Joy Harjo

Language: English

Pages: 176

ISBN: 0393345432

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“Compressed . . . lyrical . . . unflinching . . . raw. . . . Harjo is a magician and a master of the English language.”―Jonah Raskin, San Francisco Chronicle

In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo, one of our leading Native American voices, details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo’s tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary. 12 photographs











else in the world, present and alive, as if it were breathing. I wanted to catch hold, to remember utterly and never forget. But the current of hard reality reasserted itself. I had to have the house cleaned just right or my stepfather would punish me. So I continued on my path of forgetfulness. One night my mother was still working and my stepfather was out bowling or at an Elks club meeting. We had a babysitter who was watching television in the living room. A light brighter than any light I’d

as it ran from Tulsa to San Francisco. My lifeline was frayed and cut short. As I pondered my dilemma as a teenager, curled up in my bed in the dark of night, I could feel the bright sun of knowing way in the distance, as if it were rising over the mountain of my distress. The sun gave me another way to consider God. The God I knew radiated such light. I could not accept an image of God as an angry white man who looked like my stepfather or the preacher. The knowing told me there was another

house alone, I was taken in by a story. I was taken to somewhere in the Pacific; it could have been Indonesia, Malaysia, or New Guinea. I watched as a shaman was called to assist someone in need of healing. There was an exchange between the patient’s family and the shaman. He called his helpers. He chanted and sang, and as he sang, the song literally lifted him up into dance. As he danced, he became the poem he was singing. He became an animal. A medicine plant accompanied him. He became a

next world. Now, follow them. Everyone is carrying a light that was given to be shared. One night after a long, exhausting day of studying for finals, I lay down and fell into sudden deep sleep. But sleep didn’t last long. I felt demons grab hold of me and tug me with them into their lower world. I wrestled, struggled, and fought to get free. I got loose, leaped up, and turned on the light by the bed. I kept it on all night to keep them away. They didn’t like light. I could see their cold

reasoning, it remained a fact of my life. I recalled how the dream of the chase began around the time our father left home. It would begin with the sound, just like the panic, like whirring bullroarers making an eerie echo that traveled across time. And I would begin running. One night after writing my last paper for a class, I struggled in a sweaty, anxiety-ridden sleep. I was running, and then I was cornered in a white room. I could not find my voice. In all the years of the chase, I had

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