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Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s searching account of her life as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Huron, Metis, and Cherokee heritage. In a style at once elliptical and achingly clear, Hedge Coke details her mother’s schizophrenia; the domestic and community abuse overshadowing her childhood; and torments both visited upon her—(rape and violence) and inflicted on herself (alcohol and drug abuse during her youth). Yet she managed to survive with her dreams and her will, her sense of wonder and promise undiminished.
The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to life-revelations guiding the award-winning poet and writer through her many trials, as well as her labors in tobacco fields, factories, construction, and fishing; her motherhood; her involvement with music and performance; and the melding of language and experience that brought order to her life. Hedge Coke shares insights gathered along the way, insights touching on broader Native issues such as modern life in the diaspora; lack of a national eco-ethos; the threat of alcohol, drug abuse, and violence; and the ongoing onslaught on self amid a complex, mixed heritage.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Oklahoma, is a Great Plains Fellow at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is the author of The Year of the Rat, Dog Road Woman (winner of the American Book Award), Off-Season City Pipe, and Blood Run, and she most recently edited Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas and Effigies.
“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
“An extraordinary story of survival, compassion, courage, and a balanced comprehension of acceptance and the will to live.”—Maggie Necefer, Multicultural Review
— Maggie Necefer
“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
“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
“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