Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo


I was introduced to Joy Harjo through an On Being interview. She is primarily a poet, but she also plays the saxophone both solo and with pulled-together players she often calls the Arrow Dynamics Band. She became the first Native American Poet Laureate in 2019 and will serve through 2021. Crazy Brave is her memoir which captures Harjo’s profound connection to her Native American heritage. Her story with its deep roots in her personal, ancestral and tribal Native American history is very moving. Harjo’s life is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit even in the face of trauma and systemic injustice that has been ongoing for centuries. Harjo came of age during the 60’s when there was an explosion of Native American literature. She escaped an abusive home life by leaving Oklahoma to attend the Santa Fe Indian School when she was a teen. The boarding school focused on the arts which was lifesaving for her. I gained insight into what growing up in a culture within a culture was like for Harjo and all the others who are woven into her story. As I read, I had to set aside Western notions of time. Boundaries between the living and the dead became fluid. It was almost like participating in a dream landscape while grounded in the here and now. Harjo includes some of her stunning poetry in this “Fantastic, terrible and beautiful” (Boston Globe) memoir.

6 comments on “Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo”

  1. Barbara, this book will fit right into my recent readings. I listened to the On Being interview, too.

    And, by the way, the end of The Night Watchman was entirely satisfying and so skillfully done. I didn’t get the feeling, like I often do, that the editor said this book is too long, and the author’s solution is to chop off the end and abruptly wrap things up in a few pages. This one has a smooth landing. And the author’s afterword is concise and important.

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  2. Barbara, I am deeply moved by your review of Harjo’s book. Especially fascinated with what you have said about time. And boundaries. Will definitely add this to my stack. I have read quite a bit of Harjo’s poetry – I loved Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings – but this sounds like a necessary read. Thank you.

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  3. I meant to mention that in the middle of reading Crazy Brave, which is full of otherworldly tales, I opened my door to find a large beautiful black feather in the center of my backdoor stoop–quite a surprise. I looked up the meaning–it’s a sign of protection from dark spirits. Life!?!

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    1. That is so cool. Speaking of feathers, I have done much eaglet-watching today, the day the youngest fledged into that wild life.

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  4. Discovering the feather from Teri’s comment today was like a fun adventure through our blog. 🙂 I am a huge fan of birds as well and the signs they send us- such a magical part of nature. @thinklaughfeel also has lots of feather interactions in her life she might want to share ❤

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