Favorite Authors and Books

The blogging 101 assignment today told me to use a prompt of some sort.  I scrolled through the various suggestions and came up with this one.

My all time favorite author is Leslie Marmon Silko from Laguna Pueblo.  Although her novel, Ceremony, is the most famous of her books, I prefer Storyteller.  The title comes from the long American Indian tradition of story telling plus it is also the title of one of the short stories in the book.  Storyteller contains a compilation of family photos, poems, anecdotes, and short stories, including my all time favorite short story, Yellow Woman.  By now I have probably read that story at least fifty times.  I jokingly refer to my occasional need to read it as getting my Yellow Woman Fix.  Every time I read it, I ask myself why I love this story so much?  Honestly, I have no clue, none at all.  The story speaks to me in a way like no other and I cannot figure out exactly why.  Perhaps some friend out there in blogging land or even a stranger may tell me.  Who knows?

Another of my favorite books is Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina Nahai, an Iranian Jewish woman who now lives in California.  This book reminds me of all the Latin American magical realism books I also enjoy.  The heroine of this book is not an ordinary woman.  For one thing, she flies. Often, I have asked myself why some Iranian novels remind me of Latin American novels and short stories.  If I were to go back to graduate school to study literature, I think I would explore this further.  For now, however, I simply wonder about this similarity and possible causes.  For those interested in Iranian history, and more particulary about the history of the Jewish people in Iran, I always recommend Cry of the Peacock by Nahai.  It traces the history of a Jewish family there for seven generations.

Other favorite authors include Julia Alvarez, Isabelle Allende, Louise Erdrich, M. Scott Momaday, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Although he is most famous for One Hundred Years of Solitude, my favorite book of Marquez’s is The General in His Labyrinth about the life and death of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of much of South America from Spanish rule.

As for poetry, Storyteller is the only book listed above that contains poetry.  When I ask myself about favorite poets, I think of William Butler Yeats, Joy Harjo, Sherman Alexie–who inspired one of the poems in my book, and, of course, Silko.  A unique poetry book, Carver, my Marilyn Nelson gives a biography of George Washington Carver in poems.  I learned a lot reading that book, especially since I am always looking for new ideas on writing poems for my own writing practice.

Finally, I hope some of those who read this respond with their favorites.


Brilliant books by brilliant writers

In case you are looking for something new to read. I would add any book by Leslie Marmon Silko. My all time favorite book, “Storyteller”, written by her contains a story I must have read 50 times, “Yellow Woman”.

Samuel Snoek-Brown

And all these writers are women.

I spotted this list of 30 books by women in my Facebook newsfeed — the always-glorious Lidia Yuknavitch shared it — and I loved the first line of the intro:

“Let’s be real: You should be reading books, and books by women, every month of the year.”


But yes, it’s Women’s History Month here in the states, and while Emily Temple, author of this listicle, claims, “That women have contributed just as much to our literary culture as men doesn’t even need to be said,” I think, sadly, it does. We need to say it again and again, not just this month but every month.

So read a bunch of books by women. And the ones you don’t finish? Well, there’s always next month, and the month after that, and the rest of the year.

Need a hint of where to start? There are a bunch…

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Who Is the Best Writer: A Matter of Taste and Viewpoint

Until I was asked to be a judge for a memoir competition, I did not spend a lot of time thinking about this topic.  For years my general awareness about writing preferences included the knowledge that the writers I prefer and usually read rarely hit the best seller list and generally are not white, main stream USA.  What do I read:  Native American (American Indian), Indian as in the country of India, and Latin American writers, and writers from the Middle East, especially Iran.  My favorite writer is Leslie Marmon Silko.  My favorite book of hers is Storyteller.  My favorite story, “Yellow Woman”, is in that book as well as numerous literary anthologies. I estimate I have read that story at least fifty times, maybe more.  Why?  In spite of asking myself that question, I remain somewhat clueless.  Because of my current teaching assignment which includes British literature from Beowulf to now, I try my best to read a bunch of British literature.  For instance, I just read I, Claudius by Robert Graves.  Of course, it has nothing to do with Britain; perhaps it does not count.   Next on my list is The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.  This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2006.  Although she writes in English, she obviously is not British unless you consider being in a former British colony counts as British.

Back to my contest assignment:  Two of the books I was assigned to read nearly put me to sleep.  One did not; in fact I liked it a lot–enough to mark pages with passages I plan to use when I need writing inspiration/ideas later.  When I read a bunch of reviews recently, it came as quite a shock to find one of those put-me-to-sleep books favorably reviewed.  Could I really have been that far off base?  I consider the possibility that even though I have read some excellent memoirs, I find many of them impossible to read.  Why?  From my viewpoint, many memoirs whine, lament, and carry on about the past in a way I find highly objectionable.  Who wants to read hundreds of pages about how someone overcame addiction or some hideous disease or a divorce? Apparently, a lot of people.  Even though I consider The Glass Castle an excellent book, I even had a difficult time plugging through the last 50 pages of that one.  Some of Storyteller is a memoir–a combination of poetry, vignettes, photos, but it also includes several enlightening short stories.  While writing now and reflecting, I can only think of one other memoir type book, I actually recommend to people, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s A Place to Stand.  While stopping by the library this morning, I did pick up Willie Nelson’s latest, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.  It even has a foreword by Kinky Friedman, who in my opinion would make a much better governor than any one we have experienced in Texas lately or will have for the foreseeable future.  With a title like that, about Willie, and Kinky thrown in, surely it won’t be too boring.


Geronimo: A Manly Legend, No Women Allowed!

Geronimo: A Manly Legend, No Women Allowed!.  This is from a blog I follow.  If you are interested in Native American history, this is definitely a must read, complete with photos of the Apache women who have totally been left out of most tellings of the Geronimo and Apache histories.  I also recommend the story by Leslie Marmon Silko, my favorite author, which relates another view.  The story is, “A Geronimo Story”.  It can be found in her book, Storyteller.  There is a belief among some that the real Geronimo was not the person captured and imprisoned.  Supposedly, the Apache tried to tell this to the whites, but they refused to believe it.


Sitting in the Children’s Museum,
trying to make time fly faster,
waiting on my daughter and grandson.
Still shocked and excessively annoyed:
This is New Mexico and
Laguna Pueblo is just down the road
more or less
and I can’t find a single Silko
book except Ceremony which
I already own and have
read repeatedly.
What’s the matter with people?
They don’t know a thing about
their own heritage except maybe
turquoise and Kachina dolls
probably made in China.
Then there’s me:
not a drop of Indian blood I know of,
obsessed with
corn maidens
puma fetishes
Indian fry bread
Navaho paintings.
The xeroscape garden between me and
the dinosaurs beckons.
If I leave this seat and
my grandson’s and daughter’s
stuff gets stolen…


I photograph myself in the distortion mirrors,

I read Yo, a book about family truth

if there is such a thing,

and think about how much

my sister hates me.