Kyle Aisteach's Reviews > Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
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Jul 07, 12

Read from July 06 to 07, 2012

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 strengths of all these various media, she is hampered by their weaknesses as well. Accessibility suffers for those not well versed in the various media or those who enter with an expectation of a typical memoir.

The narrative tracks Harjo's development from an abused child to an abused wife to a poet. While a powerful tale and easy to relate to, it felt somewhat incomplete to me. Only briefly in the afterword and acknowledgments do we get the sense that Harjo has truly moved beyond the pain and into a place of forgiveness and understanding. Since the abuse she has suffered (and not just at the hands of individuals) forms such a powerful through-line in her life, I would have liked to have seen more of the wisdom and enlightenment she found later in life worked into this particular piece.

But, as I said before, this book resonates powerfully. The story is both uniquely personal and universal. I feel after reading it that I've gotten to know Harjo, like she's a member of my own family now. That bespeaks of powerful writing, and I think there's a lot to recommend about this book. If you're the type who enjoys memoirs and/or redemption stories, and you're engaged by rather than put off by writers bending the "rules" of narrative, then this book is definitely for you.
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