Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Feb 6th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge, Media Reviews

CRAZY BRAVE JOY HARJOBy Joy Harjo
W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. (2012)
208 pages

Review by Michael W. Simpson

Joy Harjo (Muscogee) has given us a great gift—the poetry of her life. Our responsibility is to make sure that the lessons she has to offer are received by all who are in need of them. At a time when schools narrow curriculum by cutting funding for the arts, we need to be reminded what good teachers and the arts can offer humanity.

Harjo discusses the many doorways that we encounter along our paths and notes that we live in times of great fear—much of which has come down through the ages. Harjo’s own life experience can serve as a starting point for people in dealing with their own personal fear. Her path can lead to doorways of liberation and enable us to become all that we are to be.

Harjo places her life in historical context and confronts many of the forces that have affected American Indians. For example, she sheds light on how the Indian Health Service embarked on a campaign to sterilize Native women. Further, she shows how members of our very own communities can often silence us as much as the dominant society. Crazy Brave—winner of the 2013 PEN Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction—needs to be on the shelves of every tribal college library and should be included in courses on women’s studies, history, American Indian studies, education, and literature.

Michael W. Simpson is a doctoral candidate in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona.

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