Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is the heart-wrenchingly beautiful story about Tayo, a young Native American boy from the Pueblo community. After Tayo returns from fighting in the Pacific during World War II, his experience and loss faced both abroad and at home force him into a long period of battle fatigue. Ceremony recounts Tayo’s spiritual journey to reconnect with himself, which requires a rediscovery of his culture through ceremony.
Ceremony is a beautifully written historical fiction novel that also calls upon poetry muses throughout the story. Published in 1977, it won the 1980 American Book Award for its efforts in literature. Here are ten quotes that will make you want to read this story!
“And if he could hold that image of the deer long enough, his stomach might shiver less and let him sleep for a while. It worked as long as he could keep it a gray buck on an unrecognized hill; but if he did not hold on to it tight, it would spin away from him and become the deer that Rocky had hunted.”
“He can’t talk to you. He is invisible. His words are formed by an invisible tongue, they have no sound.”
“The destroyers had only to set it into motion, and sit back to count the casualties. But it was more a body count; lies devoured white hearts, and for more than two hundred years white people had worked to dill their emptiness; they tried to glut the hollowness with patriotic wars and with great technology and the wealth it brought. And always they had been fooling themselves, and they knew it.”
“From that time on, human beings were one clan again, united by the fate the destroyers planned for all of them, for all living thing; united by a circle of death that devoured people in cities, twelve thousand miles away, victims who had never known these mesas, who had never seen the delicate colors of the rocks which boiled up against their slaughter.”
“They fear / They fear the world. / They destroy what they fear. / They fear themselves.”
“It might have been possible if the girl had not been ashamed of herself. Shamed by the ways of the Indian people; holy missionary white people who wanted only good for the Indians, these people urged her to break away from her home.”
“Here they were, trying to bring back that old feeling, that feeling they belonged to America the way they felt during the war. They blamed themselves just like they blamed themselves for losing the new feeling; they never talked about it, but they blamed themselves just like they blamed themselves for losing the land the white people took.”
“They have their stories about us– Indian people who are only marking time and waiting for the end.”
“He never lost the feeling he had in his chest when she spoke those words, as she did each time she told them stories; and he still felt it was true, despite all they had in his chest when she spoke these words, as she did each time she told them stories; and he still felt it was true, despite all they had taught him in school— that long ago things had been different.”
“Every evil / which entangled him / was cut to pieces.”