walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

_Gardens in the Dunes_, Leslie Marmon Silko

Book group pick, if anyone is wondering.

I'm fairly certain that if I pick on this book for colonizing, I'll get in trouble, because Marmon Silko is 1/4 Laguna.

However, that does not have to stop me from pointing out a few themes in this book that I find annoying. One of our main characters, Hattie, is Roman Catholic, well-educated (attended graduate school but didn't finish because the religious folk didn't care for her thesis proposal on Coptics regarded as definitely heretical and possibly forgeries), only child of her parents. She waffles between fear of childbirth and desire for a child; her not-quite-adoption of Indigo, probably the heroine of the novel, reflects this tug-of-war. Hattie is specifically described as not interested in the suffragists and their focus on temperance and similar.

Indigo and her half-sister, Sister Salt, raised by Grandma Fleet and Mama to not abandon the old ways, successfully elude efforts to push them onto the reservation(s) and/or lock them up in Indian "schools". Sister Salt makes money doing laundry and having sex with men for money. Indigo runs away from the school, discovers a monkey and is taken in by Hattie. There is much traveling on the part of all the Sand Lizard women, separately and together. Also by Hattie and her husband Edward. And Sister Salt's baby-daddy Candy. And others.

Edward is a fairly classic, turn-of-the-century try-anything-to-make-a-buck idiot who demonstrates that the quickest way to make a small fortune is to start with a large one.

What I see in all this is fairly straightforward: a sincere admiration for "the old ways" and "women's power" and "women's history" has run up against conservatism in several forms. The conservatism of Catholicism. The conservatism of old money. The conservatism of indigenous folk who won't assimilate. The results are complex. You could say flowery, but there's so damn much going on in this book botanically anyway I just can't get any interest in any more. Marmon Silko's depiction of a highly educated young woman who is explicitly opposed to her suffragist sisters, a young Sand Lizard woman who can raise orchids and gladiolus in the desert (and figure out a way to make soup from the latter), another young Sand Lizard woman who uses kangaroo care to protect her premature baby born while she's alone in the desert -- all strike me as fantasy creatures. Yeah, sure. It's fiction. But these are not creatures who get more believable as they are provided with additional detail. In fact, they get a lot less believable. In particular, I'm completely mystified why anyone would try to make up these particular characters. And such a lot of them, too.

Maybe someone will have a theory tonight to explain it all. Me, I figure this is right up there with women who pursue leadership positions in highly conservative churches. Pointless foolishness.
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