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Ceremony (Contemporary American Fiction Series) Paperback – March 4, 1986

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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction Series
  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 4, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140086838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140086836
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Tayo is a half-white Laguna Indian emotionally stricken by white warfare and almost destroyed by his experiences as a World War II prisoner of the Japanese. Unable to find a place among Native American veterans who are losing themselves in rage and drunkenness, Tayo discovers his connection to the land and to ancient rituals with the help of a medicine man, and comes to understand the need to create ceremonies, to grow and change, in order to survive. He finds peace by "finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together -- the old stories, the war stories, their stories -- to become the story that was still being told." Ceremony is somber in tone, its narrative interspersed with fragments of myth, the writing imbued with the grace and resonance of a ceremonial chant. It powerfully evokes both a natural world alive with story and significance, and the brutal human world of Highway 66 and the streets of Gallup, where Navajos, Zunis, and Hopis in torn jackets stand outside bars "like cold flies stuck to the wall." Ceremony is deeply felt, but avoids glib mysticism; it is informed not by bitterness and racial animosity, but by a larger sense of sorrow and an awareness of "how much can be lost, how much can be forgotten." Tayo's spiritual healing becomes an offering of hope and redemption for tribal cultures. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Prudence Hockley

About the Author

Leslie Marmon Silko was born in 1948 to a family whose ancestry includes Mexican, Laguna Indian, and European forebears. She has said that her writing has at its core “the attempt to identify what it is to be a half-breed or mixed-blood person.” As she grew up on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation, she learned the stories and culture of the Laguna people from her great-grandmother and other female relatives. After receiving her B. A. in English at the University of New Mexico, she enrolled in the University of New Mexico law school but completed only three semesters before deciding that writing and storytelling, not law, were the means by which she could best promote justice. She married John Silko in 1970. Prior to the writing of Ceremony, she published a series of short stories, including “The Man to Send Rain Clouds.” She also authored a volume of poetry, Laguna Woman: Poems, for which she received the Pushcart Prize for Poetry.

In 1973, Silko moved to Ketchikan, Alaska, where she wrote Ceremony. Initially conceived as a comic story abut a mother’s attempts to keep her son, a war veteran, away from alcohol, Ceremony gradually transformed into an intricate meditation on mental disturbance, despair, and the power of stories and traditional culture as the keys to self-awareness and, eventually, emotional healing. Having battled depression herself while composing her novel, Silko was later to call her book “a ceremony for staying sane.” Silko has followed the critical success of Ceremony with a series of other novels, including Storyteller, Almanac for the Dead, and Gardens in the Dunes. Nevertheless, it was the singular achievement of Ceremony that first secured her a place among the first rank of Native American novelists. Leslie Marmon Silko now lives on a ranch near Tucson, Arizona.

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Customer Reviews

Maybe my exposure to Alexie made me feel that Silko was trying just a little too hard here.
And then I read the book again because there are so many moving passages, that it is easy to miss some of the beautiful details of this story.
Truely a beautiful book, perfectly written, and entrancing story filled with lovable and unlovable characters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on October 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'd read some of Leslie Marmon Silko's short stories before starting on this novel. They were like gems, polished, smooth, and echoing with a gentle quiet not commonly found in English literature. CEREMONY is a far more ambitious undertaking; the building of a literary castle. Set in New Mexico, in and around Laguna Pueblo, immediately after WW II, the plot concerns a young Indian war veteran who has been traumatized by his experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese. When we meet him, he's barely conscious, being released from a mental hospital. He lost his half-brother on the Bataan death march, his favorite uncle had died at home, a herd of special cattle---adapted to life in the desert---has disappeared, and his old friends are drinking themselves away in bars. To top it all off, Tayo, the central character, is illegitimate and half-white, raised by relatives, not accepted fully by everyone in the family. He seems destined for the asylum, jail, an early death from alcohol, or suicide; not exactly unknown fates for young Indians then or now.
Elders arrange a healing ceremony for him, but the healer is a maverick, not tied to traditional methods. Tayo's whole life and consciousness merge into the healing process and that process begins to look like a prescription for the Indian peoples in North America to heal nearly-fatal wounds dealt their cultures over the last five centuries. Silko sees the materialism and violence of Western civilization as a curse threatening the continued existence of everyone on the planet, a curse stemming from evil itself rather than from a particular group of people. In tones that ring most uncannily today, she wrote in 1977 [p.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By C. B. Newman on May 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Never have I read such a novel as cathartic and therapeutic as Silko's "Ceremony". I first encountered it in an English Lit. class in college. As 'sophomoric' as I thought I was at the time, it was not until a few years later that I reread the novel and fully grasped what was being said through the protagonist Tayo and his actions.
"Ceremony" is a journey of the soul, a Bataan Death March that we are all forced to experience at some point or another in our lives. That is what makes this novel timeless and accessible to us all. Leslie Marmon Silko, who I believe won a literary award for this novel, opens the heart and mind of the reader to a theme which has been recorded since the ancient Greeks (see Aeschylus' "Oresteia"), that of mathos through pathos, enlightenment through suffering.
Having already paid a heavy price as a veteran of WWII, Tayo returns to the suffering of his tribe. It is then that Tayo is able to recover what he never knew he had lost, his heritage and soul that was intricately linked to everyone and everything around him. The author attacks the demons plaguing Tayo with the rich symbolism in Native American culture (pay particular attention to the use of yellow and blue colors) and the aid of an enigmatic medicine man. Silko's weapons are in Native American song and myth, histories that empower Tayo to fight the state of mind that oppresses the Laguna Pueblo people on his reservation. With this, Tayo is able to finish his Bataan Death march once and for all, his past behind him, and his heart born again as true a Native American.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By RICHARD ALVAREZ on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Richard Alvarez Gonzalez 802-90-0261 Expository Writing
Review of Ceremony
War is one of the most terrible evils man has known, yet is has been going on for ages. Since the beginning of known history man has been at war with his fellow man, himself and the world. In Leslie Marmon's novel Ceremony the point of view towards war is different from that of most people. A sense of loss takes central stage in the novel; loss of loved ones, loss of land, of heritage, and loss of self. Tayo and his cousin, Rocky, joined the army looking for a way out and adventure, they would go and fight a Great War. While fighting in the jungles of Asia, Rocky gets killed. Now Tayo is back, the war is over, but not for him. Tayo feels responsible for his cousin's death. He was supposed to protect him and he failed, and now his memory haunts Tayo's every second of existence. In the beginning of the novel we take a look into Tayo's disturbed and tormented mind, as he takes us along the story of his life, of death, war, and rejection. Tayo is a man desperately trying to hold on to his sanity while he wastes it away on a bottle of alcohol which sends him into constant sickness spells and confines him to a bed from which he is terrified to move. As his sickness progresses, Tayo is taken to see a medicine man that sends him on a journey to retrieve his uncle's dreams, thus putting his own fears and doubts to rest. It is during this journey that Tayo completes his healing process with the aid of a woman with whom he will fall deeply in love, Ts'eh, a mystical character that appears and disappears various time in the novel, seeming as if a dream or a creation of Tayo's mind.
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