Crazy Brave: A Memoir
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Crazy Brave: A Memoir

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  397 ratings  ·  88 reviews
In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo, one of our leading Native American voices, details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the n...more
Hardcover, 172 pages
Published July 9th 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company
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McGuffy Morris
I have been a follower of Joy Harjo for many years. I have her books and CDs.
Her wisdom is deep, abundant and true. It is born of experience, pain and survival, though she imparts her truths with insight and clarity.

In this memoir, Joy Harjo recalls important aspects of her life. Joy’s journey in life has been a difficult one. Being of Native American heritage (though mixed), her experiences are clearly rooted in tradition and spirit. Yet, she has always felt this “knowing”. It has been her guid...more
Tina Cipolla
Joy Harjo is a fixture among college English majors. Somehow I managed not to read her until now, and I'm sorry I waited. This memoir was touching, realistic and honest. She paints a vivid picture of her life growing up in the American West in the 60s, and no matter your cultural background this book resonates. I was rooting for her on the whole way; I found her both likable and courageous. Harjo takes a hard look at some very difficult, if almost universal, issues (poverty, child abuse, incest,...more
First, as always, I must thank Goodreads for giving me the opportunity to read this book for free as part of the First Reads giveaway. I'm so glad that I am reading such a wide variety of books.

As you may recall, I am not a fan of memoirs because of my experience with "Eat, Pray, Love." This is another memoir and it presents another reason for me to be wary of the genre: meandering. See, this book is a poet's journey of discovery of language and poetry, specifically. There are many layers to th...more
I read this in a single sitting. I didn't intend to, I had things to do but all that fell away when I began to read. Even now I have things to do but they don't seem as important; Wal-Mart can wait.

I plan to buy and give copies of this book to my sisters and a couple of friends. There is so much truth, pain, beauty and humor in this tiny book. I found myself laughing out loud at some paragraphs, outraged at others and feeling the same sadness Harjo recalls in others. She writes simply and beaut...more
I love Joy Harjo's poetry, but at first when I started this it felt way too all over the place and stream of consciousness for me--but I'm glad I kept with it, as like some poems it gradually came into more and more focus as Harjo talked about her life after early childhood. The earlier images/stories began to her shape the later images and stories. It ended up feeling like an impressionistic, but vital, depiction of childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood. Not an easy read or life, but Ha...more
James Giddings
I love the way she covers traumatic incidents in her life briefly and matter-of-fact-ly but dwells lovingly on her visits to the spirit world and relationships with ancestors and guides. Hers has been a triumphant and successful life in spite of great personal and historic tragedies. I'm so glad to understand more of where her poetry and music are coming from.
Ate this book in a sitting. One to be passed down through generations. Hauntingly beautiful, poignant, and true. Carefully tells its own story while calmly talking of the universe.
Kyle Aisteach
I erred on the side of giving this one the fourth star because it really is hauntingly beautiful, but I tend to think of it as a 3.5-star book.

Harjo weaves together memory, fantasy, fiction, and poetry like an artist painting with various colors of sand. The lines blur (or are deliberately smeared), creating a narrative that could only have come from the mind of a poet.

Ultimately, however, this blending of narrative becomes one of the book's greatest weaknesses. Harjo doesn't only pull the stren...more
Joy Harjo is an amazing poet, writer, songwriter, artist and strong Native woman. Her memoir is heartbreaking and full of life at the same time. Heartbreaking because it is the story of so many native persons. Generations of trauma, generations of colonization. She stated it eloquently when she wrote: "As peoples we had been broken. We were still in the bloody aftermath of a violent takeover of our lands. Within a few generations we had gone from being nearly one hundred percent of the populatio...more
Craig Werner
Crazy Brave reads like part one of what I hope will be a two or three volume series, following Harjo's life from her (to say the least) difficult childhood in Tulsa through her connection with Native aesthetics and cultural traditions at the American Indian Arts Institute in Santa Fe which she attended during the vibrant awakening of the 1960s to her embrace of her poetic (and later musical) vocation. As a result of the cut-off, the book reads as a sort of "prelude," spiced up with excerpts from...more
Heidi Utz
Harjo's memoir is as graceful and lovely as the artist herself. The book limns the earliest parts of her life through her early 20s, as she grew up in OK, nurtured her muses at IAIA and UNM, gave birth to 2 children and mothered 3. It is a tale of difficulty and struggle, with only occasional periods of respite.

What distinguishes this volume from most memoirs are the author's shifts into metaphor, dream, and poesy. These lyrical junctures form a lovely collage of image--the fragments apt echoes...more
Poet and Native American Jo Harjo writes lyrically about her difficult childhood in the Midwest. Her stepfather was an abusive alcoholic; she faced extreme challenges as a Native American and pretty much raised two children on her own. While she recalls these horrific moments in her past she’s also hauntingly philosophical and forgiving. She writes: “In the end, we must each tend to our own gulf of sadness, though others can assist us with kindness, food, good words, and music. Our human tendenc...more
Aug 10, 2012 Nadia added it
I didn't want to stop reading, but I had to sleep. Beautiful to see this writer's life unfold. Joy believes in her visions and sees earth and our universe as pulsing entities very much linked in harmony at every level.
Yet in finishing this book, Joy also showed the injustices of a life growing up in the shadow of racial and gender discrimination, alcoholism, poverty, meanness and hautedness, which does not immediately speak of harmony. I think back to her poem, "Reconcilliation" in stanza 2 whe...more
Crazy Brave is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Joy Harjo has an incredible ability to see to the heart of things. She expresses herself in ways that are woven with the ways of her people, and conveys the sadness of what has happened to Native Americans with hope, renewal, anger, love, compassion, and joy. This book is as multifaceted and diverse as Harjo herself. I felt like I was having a conversation with a friend who was relating her experiences without any self-pity...that is a rare...more
Lisa Beaulieu
Joy Harjo is a poet, not a memoirist - this is not your average memoir - and since I hate memoir and love Joy Harjo, that was a good thing. She skims over the facts and dwells in the poetry, and takes us also to those mysterious places the poetry comes from - the moon (I kid you not!) and an underwater place full of alligators ... the other dimensions are as fleshed out, no, more fleshed out, than the narrative thread. She sees everything and everyone with a poet's eye - it's a fascinating look...more
I received this book in a goodreads giveaway. I loved the fact that this book wasn't a traditional biography type book. I found it to be inspirational, spiritual and poetic. It was easily read in just a few short hours and I wish it had been a larger book. I especially loved the Eagle Poem and I'm not a big poetry fan. I plan on picking up a few of her poetry books. The only downsides were that I wished the book had been longer and had included more about her music.
Not a memoir in any traditional sense of the word. More a set of impressions and conclusions about her life, told in non-linear fashion. Still, Harjo is not a conventional person. Even though I wished there had been more specificity in the telling of the story, I gleaned a lot of inspiration out what she had to say. And in the end, I suspect that was her goal in writing it.
Apr 04, 2014 Aliya rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everybody
Recommended to Aliya by: Dr. Cherian A.
A real storyteller. Better than so many white American authors that we had to study as part of our 'literature' classes WHY WASNT THIS BOOK IN OUR SYLLABUS! You can't not love Harjo. She is so brave, you wonder if you'll ever be half as brave!

When I read the reviews of this book on Goodreads before buying it, I wondered why there were no negative reviews. I mean no book can be THAT great, right? Well I understand now. There is no way in hell anyone (unless you're racist) could give this book a...more
This is a great book, with amazing, insightful, wise writing. Because of that, I couldn't get through it- when her account of the evil man who oppressed her family began, it was entirely consuming in its terribleness. Engulfed, trying to get out of the head space created by the book was like trying to escape from heavy mud up to the neck. I was not easily able to shake off depression from that. Men who do what that man did deserve to be tied to railroad tracks with their mouths propped open with...more
Brittany M.
A review on the back of this book states that "it's a book for people who want to re-fall in love with the world". I wholeheartedly agree. Beautiful book.
Donna Fleetwood
A compelling personal journey
What makes a poet? For Harjo, the story-telling spirit within her and the rough experiences of her early life turned into poetry in her early 20s. This memoir tells the story of how it happened. We learn about broken families and abuse, dreams and adventures in the spirit world, the challenges of being Native American in a white-dominated world, and Harjo’s struggle to emerge free to be her creative self. She offers a variety of formats here, including poems and dreams to tell her inspiring stor...more
*Check out for other reviews and sundry thoughts!*

Mvskoke (Creek) Nation citizen Joy Harjo (She Had Some Horses) has given us poetry with a lyrical Native American voice for decades, keeping the narrative of the contemporary native world alive in American literature. With Crazy Brave, Harjo's memoir of her journey to becoming a writer, her fans can learn the story behind the voice.

Born in Tulsa, Okla., where the Trail of Tears forced her ancestors to settle, Harjo s...more
Page Lambert
From my small window seat, I can see the left wing of the plane that was taking John and me from Portland, Oregon, to Denver, Colorado. I have just finished reading Joy Harjo’s new memoir CRAZY BRAVE. Painted on the wing tip of the plane are two polar bears. Stenciled in bold white paint on the curve of the jet engine, and on a flimsy metal fin bolted to the engine, are the words NO STEP. The unstated meaning, DANGER, is clear.

If our impending births came with the same warning, LIFE IS DANGEROU...more
I loved reading about her process of becoming an adult and becoming more in tune with her intuition. beautifully written. The story feels somewhat outside of time - I don't know how old she is when the book ends - and flows freely through her discoveries and experiences.

And when you were born I held you wet and unfolding,
like a butterfly newly born from the chrysalis of my body.
And breathed with you as you breathed your first breath.
Then was your promise to take it on like the rest of us,
the imm...more
Apr 05, 2014 Alexis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
This is a very short, very sparse poetic memoir. Joy Harjo describes the hardship that led her to become a poet. I'm excited to read some of her poetry now.

This is a must read for anyone who is interested in Canadian native studies. I've read a lot of Canadian First Nations literature, but this gave me additional perspective into some of the struggles in the US. Liked the personal nature of this book.
Suzanne Reymer
Joy Harjo recounts a difficult childhood and young adulthood. Yet one is captivated by her poetic descriptions and indefatigable pursuit of beauty and a better life. I listened to the Audible version, which was, if anything, even more captivating. Like poetry, it was very moving to hear it recounted, presumably by the author.
John Orman
Displayed here is the life that brought Harjo to poetry, where "crazy" means close to the necessary risks for the survival and grace shown in her poems.

Raised in a hardscrabble life in Oklahoma, the Native American effectively uses that background in her many volumes of poetry and songs.

Only 2 photos in the book, both from Joy's early youth, so would have like more pictures of her adult life. Still, an inspiring tale of evolution from poverty to the wealth of literature and poetry.
Don Flynn
Native Poet Joy Harjo's memoir of her childhood and early adulthood, recounting her escape from an abusive stepfather, only to encounter a violent husband later on. Through it all she suffers intense anxiety, but a personal source of power she dubs the "knowing", and the desire to tell stories through images, words, and music, lead her out of the darkness and on to creative triumphs. Simple and polished prose...very inspirational.
Andrew Brown
I write this knowing my unfair perspective as an White Heterosexual Adult Male, but I was irked by the way every character in this story was either an abuser, or a victim, with very little room leftover for even-handed character portrayals. Very few characters, even Harjo herself, come across as particularly likable people. But the result is nevertheless a work of sadness, neglect, and occasional moments of lyrical beauty.
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Bio Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. She has released four award-winning CD's of original music and won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year. She performs nationally and internationally solo and with her band, The Arrow Dynamics. She has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, in venues in every major U.S. city and...more
More about Joy Harjo...
She Had Some Horses The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems In Mad Love and War How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 A Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales

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“A story matrix connects all of us.
There are rules, processes, and circles of responsibility in this world. And the story begins exactly where it is supposed to begin. We cannot skip any part.”
“Those of fire move about the earth with inspiration and purpose. They are creative, and can consume and be consumed by their desires [...] My father-to-be was of the water and could not find a hold in the banks of earthiness. Water people can easily get lost.” 2 likes
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