rituals and healing: reading ceremony

This week I have returned to reading my university texts, giving up frivolous plots and cocktails in hand, for the more sombre note taking, pencil behind the ear and post-its stamps. Lucky I love my degree.

This week’s book was the fantastic American novel, Ceremony, from the multi-heritaged Leslie Marmon Silko. On the surface the book appears to be about a man trying to cope with post traumatic stress disorder after returning from the Bataan Death March in World War Two. Heavy stuff, I know.

The story gets heavier when Silko starts throwing in alcoholism and the mental consequences of war, racial tensions in America, and the importance of connecting with and caring for the land.

The way Silko deals with these lump in your throat topics is beautiful though. The book is a mixture of prose, poetry and hummah-hah stories, the traditional stories of Native American people from the time when animals could talk.

The story takes you in and wraps around you, making you feel the sandy dirt slip through your fingers and the hot wind passing across your neck.

The story is grim and dark in places, Tayo finding it hard to adjust to many aspects of his new life, but is also a celebration of the uniqueness of humanity and individuals, of animals and the earth.

The book is an interconnected web of stories, experiences and feelings, which, even when morbid, sweeps you into the world and brings you on the ceremonial journey as Tayo attempts to cleanse himself.

The book is a very clever piece of contemporary American literature, but it simply slid over me, making me forget I was reading it more for class than enjoyment, not to mention forgetting the essay I had to write at the end.

Although heavy in some aspects, the book maintained a classic simplicity that gripped your attention and made you feel the importance of what the author wanted to share.

The book reminded me of early Australian writing with a focus on the connection to land and earth, and obviously early and contemporary Indigenous Australian writing and dream-time stories.

The only difficulty I found in the book was the way the stories were told. It ended up jumping between characters and their perspectives which became confusing if you weren’t ready for it, or hadn’t noticed the change.

This meant some parts of the story I had to re-read because I had read them assuming I was still with the original character, or didn’t understand the character well enough to get what they were trying to say.

This was a beautiful book to transition me back into my class work, wrapping me up in the world and making it easy to get lost in its pages.

From the reader who now has a little bit more green in her room,

The Cat


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