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GARDENS IN THE DUNES: A Novel Paperback – April 13, 2000
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Grandmother Fleet, one of the few remaining Sand Lizard Indians, tends a traditional desert garden while teaching the old ways to her granddaughters Sister Salt and Indigo. At a time of crushing hopelessness, Wovoka's Ghost Dance messianic movement appears, drawing in the girls and Grandmother Fleet:
While the others danced with eyes focussed on the fire, Indigo watched the weird shadows play on the hillsides, so she was one of the first to see the Messiah and his family as they stepped out of darkness into the glow of swirling snowflakes. How their white robes shined!Indigo is also one of the first to sense the approach of soldiers and Indian police bent on breaking up the gathering. The action then moves her from the secret garden and small family to an Indian school in Riverside. She eventually flees the school and ends up traveling through Europe with an aristocratic Victorian family, as companion to an unmarried woman. Despite her many adventures and her exposure to a life of privilege and luxury, Indigo never loses her affinity for the traditions of her own people. Silko uses this novel to explore contrasts between Native American and European customs and morals--with white culture often coming up short. On occasion this ambitious novel strays into the political proper, but there's no denying the sheer force of Silko's prose and the sweep of her story. Gardens in the Dunes offers both a vivid portrait of 19th-century Native American life and a provocative exploration of disparate cultures' relationships to the world around them --Schuyler Ingle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first section is about a young Native American girl named Indigo, her Sister Salt and their Grandmother Fleet. They are making a life for themselves in a small town in the American Southwest around the turn of 19th century. Their greatest wish is to return to the home of their people, the Sand Lizards, and tend their desert garden in the dunes. But they are in constant fear of being caught by the white government and forced to live in schools or on reservations.
Although the beginning of the book is wonderfully descriptive, I became very engaged with the characters about 50 pages in. Indigo escapes from the Indian school and wanders into the gardens of Hattie and Edward, a wealthy married couple. Edward's monkey, Linnaeus, charms Indigo out of hiding and as the 2 get acquainted, we learn of Hattie's life.
Hattie was a scholar devoted to studying the role of women in early Christianity. However, the all male Harvard review board rejected her thesis topic and when she returns home, she meets and marries Edward, an older man with a professional interest in botany. Edward travels the world in search of plant specimens and his trip to South America to gather rare orchids is described in detail. In Brazil he was sabotaged, causing him personal injury as well as legal and financial difficulties. His leg was hurt so badly that intimacy is painful and unlikely for him, but Hattie wished to marry him regardless of their passionless future.Read more ›
When Leslie Marmon Silko advised Gary Snyder not to look to native American traditions for his poetry, her anger was justified. Garden in the Dunes, Silko's latest work in hardback, may represent the author's mature outlook, synthesizing native and European traditions in one fascinating work which, nevertheless, carries her earlier message. Documenting the horrors of Western European culture as they manifest in the culture of the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, Silko manages to send Hattie, her Caucasian heroine, back to Europe, much as Hawthorne sends Pearl in The Scarlet Letter. Indigo, the child heroine of the novel, encounters everything from a cruel episode recalling D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover in the northeastern United States to manifestations of early goddess figures in an Italian black garden. The latter are most recognizable to the child as emblems of her own Sand Lizzard culture, one related to but independent of other Southwest Indian cultures. Silko's condemnation of greedy white males is balanced by Hattie's abortive attempt to bring forth a thesis on the heresies of Southern France, particularly that related to Mary Magdalene. Eventually, Hattie pays the price for her naivete, though she has educated Indigo in the process, loving her and receiving affection from the child in return. More clearly organized and faster paced than Almanac of the Dead, Gardens in the Dunes provides readers with an intriguing, web-like tale of a host of characters, Messianic traditions involving the Ghost Dance, and Biblical symbolism of the Garden of Eden.Read more ›
However, unlike some of Silko's earlier work (ie. "Ceremony"), "Gardens" is written with little attention to prose style. Instead of showing the characters' emotions through their actions or dialogue, Silko is often content to describe them ("Hattie felt sad...") which has little impact for the reader.
Considering the themes it deals with (suppression of Native cultures, women's rights, ecological destruction), the book is fairly apolitical. No one ethnic group is given a monopoly on meaningful spirituality or wisdom. White people are not the villains; the general human failings of greed, dishonesty, ignorance and condescension are what cause trouble, and the people that display these faults are in every culture. The destruction of nature and the oppression of fellow humans are the ills; a respect for the ancient wisdom (of any culture) and the beauty and providence of the natural world are the remedies.
"Gardens" may seem dry to some, but it's well worth the effort to discover Silko's unique and detailed cultural vision.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting, informative & simply beautiful! Perfect if you have an interest in Native American culture or the SW.Published 15 months ago by Carol A. Orme
This novel follows the lives of two, Native American sisters after they are separated. The novel follows the traditional “Victorian” form. Read morePublished 20 months ago by CRW
I received it on time and it is in proper condition, except i was sent a paperback instead of a hardcover. I;m not complaining, however. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Liz
A wonderful read. Thoroughly enjoyable and will recommend to family, friends and clients. Any chance author will be coming to St. Louis, MO?Published 23 months ago by Craig Kessler
I enjoyed this book a lot. It makes a lot of references to gardens, plants, and crops. You'd go dizzy trying to find all of the references to those. Read morePublished on November 26, 2013 by Jenna
A good story, with interesting characters. It contains lots of information about the role of women at the turn of the century, about Native American customs, and more than the... Read morePublished on May 26, 2013 by Shirley H. Erickson
It just wasn't my type of book - I ordered it because one of my grandsons recommended it. He is in to organic gardening and natural farming, and I was curious to see what he liked... Read morePublished on January 6, 2013 by happy buyer 84
I'm a lover of Barbara Kingsolver and Roy's God of Small Things, and this book was a delight. It is beautiful, slow to unfurl, and riveting. A must read.Published on July 5, 2010 by Anna