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Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival (American Indian Lives) Hardcover – May 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This is a harrowing book. Statistics about alcoholism and family violence among dispossessed American Indians fail to show the sheer human suffering it causes and the personal heroism of those who struggle through to an integrated life. Hedge Coke was endowed by her Cherokee father with insights into the Indian way of life, but the pressures of prejudice and her mother's insanity drove her into years of drug and alcohol abuse as well as into abusive relationships. She writes in a stately, unashamed manner of beatings and binges, always connecting her personal sufferings to the larger questions of how Indian people can reclaim their cultural and personal pride and authority. A tragic loss ends the book's story, but far from making it a tale of failure, this final death confirms, through Hedge Coke's presentation, her growth into a profound witness to Indian culture and its deep-rooted spiritual and philosophical values. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“Hedge Coke’s childhood and young adult years as recounted in this gritty and courageous memoir are not only a story of survival but a story of strength.”—Campbell Editorial.com
(Campbell Editorial.com)

“[A] beautifully written, courageous memoir.”—Joyce Carol Oates
(Joyce Carol Oates)

“An extraordinary story of survival, compassion, courage, and a balanced comprehension of acceptance and the will to live.”—Maggie Necefer, Multicultural Review
(Maggie Necefer Multicultural Review)

“Telling is one thing. That’s what we do when we tell stories. But coming to know by experience and telling about it is another. Allison Hedge Coke in Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer shows us ‘knowing’ in her unique and wonderful way.”—Simon J. Ortiz, author of Out There Somewhere
(Simon J. Ortiz)

“It is through her lush yet controlled use of language that Hedge Coke successfully creates a narrative of both personal and cultural history. . . . She is often unflinchingly succinct in her telling of some painful event, and other times, especially when describing moments when she is close to death, she offers us lyric gems. . . . She travels like a liminal being, moving fluidly across boundaries between prose and poetry, dream and reality, myth and history, animal and human, the personal and political.”—Mira Bartok, Fourth Genre
(Fourth Genre)

“Allison Hedge Coke’s intimate narrative details her journey through suffering to wholeness. Her story will inspire anyone who has faced adversity. . . .[Hedge Coke’s] insight is luminous.”—Great Plains Quarterly
(Great Plains Quarterly)

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Product Details

  • Series: American Indian Lives
  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803215274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803215276
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is an American Book Award-winning author of mixed Metis, Huron, Cherokee, French-Canadian, Luso, Irish, Scot, English heritage. Her books include: Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer (paperback 2014), memoir, Blood Run (Salt), and (with Coffee House Press) Dog Road Woman, Off-Season City Pipe, and Streaming (2014). Hedge Coke just released an album with Rd Klā (Kelvyn Bell, Laura Ortman, and Allison Adelle Hedge Coke), titled Streaming, to coincide with the upcoming release of the book by same title. She is currently at work on Red Dust: Native Resiliency in the Dirty Thirties, a film. Her edited anthologies include, Effigies and Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas (National Book Critics Circle Critical Mass Best of 2012, Wordcraft Circle Best Editing, 2012) and Effigies II. Raised in North Carolina, the Plains and Canada, she came of age cropping tobacco and working horses, fields, waters, and factories.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. R. Campbell on October 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke's childhood and young adult years as recounted in this gritty and courageous memoir, are not only a story or survival but a story of strength. Under the best of circumstances, a mixed blood Cherokee/Huron child looks out at a world where discrimination against Native Americans is the norm. Add to this an insane mother, mental and physical abuse at home as well as in her relationships, rape, alcoholism, drugs, theft, and numerous periods of hospitalization for life-threatening injuries and you have a powerful recipe for disaster. If you are strong, this memoir will test your strength. If you are standing in similar shoes, this memoir will uplift you and provide hope. In the final analysis, the culture that we've placed behind the eight-ball of our misunderstandings was the foundation of A. A. Hedge Coke's strength and her emergence as a survivor. Life and memories endure through stories, and this story is strong medicine.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing story. I won't lie, there are some horrible things in this book. Not everything will be pleasant. The most amazing this is not only did Hedge Coke survive these horrors, but she preserved her ability to laugh and revel in the beauty of the world. The writing is sometimes poetic, and sometimes plainly bold in setting forth terrible things that happened without flinching or becoming maudlin. Simply put, they happened and she survived. The book is an emotional and beautiful story. Just be prepared, the writing is enjoyable...but not everything is easy to read about.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What kind of childhood can a little girl have when she frequently watches her mother being dragged away to receive shock treatment therapy for schizophrenia? Allison Adelle Hedge Coke's memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer, tells how her mother's schizophrenia and its ineffective treatment tears apart her family and her life.

Ms. Hedge Coke uses her Native American backdrop to add depth and dimension to her memoir and exposes a society intolerant of Native Americans. Her poetic prose immerses the reader in a world not only of mental illness and paranoia, but also of pride in her Cherokee and Huron heritage, as evident in this passage: "My father recounted tales of rich black soil and luxuriant flora greening the topsoil quilled with lavish tree trunks and topped with a canopy of leaves and pine needles thickly spread about all over this great place we originated from."

Because she is the main focus of her mother's paranoia, Ms. Hedge Coke is forced to leave her family's home at a young age. At first she goes from friend to friend, sleeping wherever she can, but later she resorts to hitchhiking back to the land of her Native American heritage, North Carolina. The memoir follows her journey from Arkansas, where she escapes from racist children who throw rocks at her, to the point where she nearly overdoses on drugs.

At the age of seventeen she marries a Native American who is a veteran of the Vietnam War. They make a living working in the vegetable fields on a reservation. Ms. Hedge Coke says these are the best days of her life--but they don't last. Her husband begins to show signs of paranoia, reminding the author of her mother's schizophrenia. Her marriage ends and she journeys to California, into another abusive relationship.
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