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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 6, 2001 - Issue 46


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 Red Woman with Backward Eyes and Other Stories


Reviewed by Kathryn Cooper

In her new book, Red Woman With Backward Eyes and Other Stories, Cherokee author MariJo Moore has successfully woven the metaphors of traditional storytelling with the harsh sometimes grim realities of present day Indian society. Her finely crafted, double weave writing has as its strength multidimensional characters with hopeful yet pragmatic understandings of the challenges facing today's Indigenous peoples.

Unlike other writers inside and outside the Indian community, who seem predisposed to retreat to the past in order to give the reader a romanticized view of Indian life, Ms. Moore confronts the very real social issues of alcohol abuse and familial dysfunction as it relates to the poverty with which many present day Indians must deal. Most of the eleven short stories included in the collection have a first person spiritual connection to the characters in conflict. It is as if Ms. Moore has reached inward into her own personal experiences and gathered us to her storytelling table.

This candid look is expressed to us through the eyes of the characters Ms. Moore has created and given voice to in such stories as "Siren's Voices," "Old Tsa Tsi," "Rumors," "Suda Cornsilk's Gathering," as well as "Red Woman With Backward Eyes" which also serves as the title of the collection. The way in which the author leads us through the sometimes painful, sometimes humorous experiences of the characters is a pleasant reminder of Ms. Moore's poetic abilities. The author has presented us with an opportunity to receive a teaching gift rich in the Cherokee language and yet often tragic in the cultural complexities of its subject matter. The author herself suggests this in her introduction when she writes that these stories are "medicine sometimes strong in the healing ---------- sometimes gentle."

This dichotomy of character complexities is further exposed in the story, "Sweet Voices Among Sour Souls." The author speaks through the personage of Singing Martha whose voice takes us to the confines of a women's prison located in Raleigh, NC. Here we are shown the cleansing power of song as prayer. Singing Martha, often feared and always misunderstood, is classified as crazy by the other inmates because of her inability to conform to the cultural expectations of those surrounding her. It is this inability to understand that forces the character to seek comfort from the only source that is left, her songs.

Like the prayer songs of Singing Martha, the story of "Howanetta and the Eyes of the Dead" is yet another cultural expression of metaphorical reverence. The opening line, "There are some who are never able to leave the shadow of responsibility," invites the reader to move away from the expected conformity and step into "the place where hummingbirds and cacti hold tiny hands and speak of their similarities." It is the understanding of these similarities that Ms. Moore gifts to those of us who by reading this book find ourselves seated at the storytelling table of this very talented author.

Included in the back cover quotes is the following recommendation with which I wholeheartedly agree:

"MariJo Moore delves into the activities of mystical worlds that constantly intrude into our consciousness reflecting a greater spiritual reality than we can imagine or grasp. She understands the continuity of the spirit that only manifests itself to us in sudden broken insights and reflections. These are powerful stories that need attention and help us to connect our most diverse feelings into a satisfactory whole."
-------Vine Deloria, Jr.

Kathryn Cooper, Cherokee, is a freelance author writer living in Raleigh,NC. Her work has appeared in Feeding The Ancient Fires; A Collection of Writings by NC American Indians, The Raleigh News and Observer, Frontiers Journal, and New Life Journal.

To order Red Woman With Backward Eyes and Other Stories
by MariJo Moore send check or mo for $16.00 per copy (includes S&H) to:

PO Box 2493
Candler, NC 28715

Thank you for supporting an American Indian owned company

MariJo Moore
MariJo Moore, author/artist/poet/journalist, is of Cherokee, Irish and Dutch ancestry. Her writings and collages take integral meaning as they stem from dreams, ancestral memories, and the many voices of Spirit.

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