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Crazy Brave: A Memoir

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4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  672 Ratings  ·  130 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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23rd out of 138 books — 67 voters
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Community Reviews

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McGuffy Morris
Oct 02, 2012 McGuffy Morris rated it it was amazing
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
Neile
Oct 27, 2012 Neile rated it really liked it
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
V
Feb 12, 2014 V rated it it was amazing
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.
Pam Bustin
May 11, 2015 Pam Bustin rated it it was amazing
This book came in the mail, this morning, from a friend.

I got my partner to drive home, so that I could rip open the envelope and begin reading.Crazy Brave: A Memoir
Something in this woman calls to me.

I just finished the book and ... Ahhhhhhhhhhhh ... So grateful to Sian who sent Joy's words winging across the miles to me.

What do I love most? The straightforward way that she weaves the day to day and the mythical/spiritual and oh the poetry.

Three small tastes, to whet your....desire....


From Page
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Amy (Other Amy)
I played with garter snakes, horned toads, frogs, June bugs, and other creatures. Some of my favorite playmates were roly-poly bugs. They busied about with several legs and didn't trip themselves up. They protected themselves when threatened by curling into a ball. As we played, I could see the light shining around their little armored bodies.

Roly-polys! This is like an automatic 5 star from me! OK, no, I will be good. 3.5 stars overall. I must say I really enjoyed this book, maybe more so becau
...more
Tina Cipolla
Apr 08, 2013 Tina Cipolla rated it really liked it
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
Sherri
Aug 04, 2012 Sherri rated it it was amazing
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
ElphabaNewlin
Jan 31, 2016 ElphabaNewlin rated it really liked it
(originally reviewed at elphareads.tumblr.com )

I love me a good memoir. Reading books about other people’s lives with a focused theme or style is much more appealing to me than biographies or even autobiographies, because to me it feels like memoirs have a lot of emotional charge to them a fair amount of the time. CRAZY BRAVE by Jo Harjo is no exception. I will admit that when I tossed CRAZY BRAVE on my request list, I had no idea who Jo Harjo was. I soon found out that she was an American Indi
...more
Helen
May 04, 2016 Helen rated it really liked it
It took Joy Harjo fourteen years to write her memoir Crazy Brave. In it she tells of her parent’s tumultuous marriage. Her beautiful mother opposes her father, traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma in search of a mate. When young, her father had been sent to a military academy where he “learned anger as a method to control sensitivity.” The violent marriage ends, and an abusive step-father steps in and consumes the family. At sixteen, when her stepfather tries to send her to a Christian boarding school, ...more
James Giddings
Oct 03, 2012 James Giddings rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystic
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.
Kyle Aisteach
Jul 07, 2012 Kyle Aisteach rated it really liked it
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
Lisa
Jan 22, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 15, 2012 Craig Werner rated it really liked it
Shelves: native-american
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
Aug 19, 2012 Heidi Utz rated it it was amazing
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
Amy
Jul 12, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
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
Nadia
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
Patricia Mccrystal
Jan 23, 2015 Patricia Mccrystal rated it really liked it
Part poem, part memory, and part imagining, artist Joy Harjo’s memoir echoes through you like a song rippling through the ages. Manifesting elements of Indigenous storytelling and summoning symbols from Muscogee/Creek mysticism, Crazy Brave is related with a vision and lyricism unparalleled by any memoir before it.
Anastasia
Feb 10, 2013 Anastasia rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 16, 2012 Lisa Beaulieu rated it it was amazing
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
Bernadette
Jan 30, 2015 Bernadette rated it it was amazing
Joy Harjo is an award-winning American Indian (Creek) poet whose oeuvre extends from the 1970s to the present day. Crazy Braze recounts the tumultuous journey that led her to poetry. Although some readers may be interested in passages that describe Harjo's growing interest in civil rights and social justice for Native people, I responded more deeply to the story of her emergence as an artist and feminist.

Harjo remembers early experiences with language and music as having changed her "relationsh
...more
Linnie Greene
Jan 16, 2015 Linnie Greene rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
There's a special alchemy involved in reading, wherein words become something more than the sum of their parts. I've never been more conscious of that phenomenon than when I began reading this book. Harjo's mind works so differently than mine, so it felt especially like slipping into someone else's skin. I'd say her experiences were foreign from mine (many of them were: growing up American Indian, an abusive father and stepfather), but then again there were these crystalline moments of recogniti ...more
Sharon Enright
Mar 21, 2016 Sharon Enright rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-autobio
I took a class this past winter that focused on the poetry of Joy Harjo, a Native American poet. I had never heard of her, but her poetry was fascinating--and very accessible--so I decided to read her memoir. It was a good, very quick read. The life she describes may be typical of many Native Americans--abusive home life from a step father and two relationships, both of which failed because of alcohol. She was born (I think) in the late 1940's, and she was able to take advantage of a few special ...more
Sarah
Sep 17, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
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.
Rhonda Clark
Jun 03, 2015 Rhonda Clark rated it liked it
I'm not a huge fan of poetry, and I feel misled by the information given in the flap about how she lived through the situation with her step-father. I didn't care for the obscure beginning going on so long, half as long would've been much improved...still I plugged away, hoping for more insight to the life of a Native American. Overall, some parts were good and parts were lazy/lame (in terms of using some poems she wrote to explain stuff). I kind of felt like the school was kind of like Hogwarts ...more
Teresa
Jul 15, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it
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.
Larry Smith
Dec 26, 2015 Larry Smith rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults, college students, general readers,
Well, this is a crazy mix of approaches to the memoir from a brave writer. Poet and fiction writer, musician and performer, Joy Harjo admits in an interview her struggle with writing this book and that fact it took four approaches and many years before she had it. There is impressionistic description, detailed accounting, stream of consciousness recall like a dream, and some real straight shooting about a difficult childhood--abandoned by father, then abused by step-father. She is, however, exce ...more
Aliya
Apr 04, 2014 Aliya rated it really liked it
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
Mark Valentine
Mar 01, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it it was amazing
I am completely impressed with Harjo's memoir. While reading it, I thought of reading Angelou's, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, or Wolff's, This Boy's Life. She has the perfect balance between factual re-creation of details and the creative, interpretative sense of the past. It is a new standard for creative non-fiction.

More, she writes about her sense of "knowing." A force for intuition, it speaks to her in pivotal moments when she needs to make the right choice--and what is honest about this
...more
Kristin
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.
Jun 04, 2014 Brittany M. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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.
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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
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More about Joy Harjo...

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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.”
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“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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