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Crazy Brave

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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 natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice.

Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo’s tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary.

172 pages, Hardcover

First published July 9, 2012

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About the author

Joy Harjo

96 books1,628 followers
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 internationally. Most recently she performed We Were There When Jazz Was Invented at the Chan Centre at UBC in Vancouver, BC, and appeared at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Her one-woman show, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light, which features guitarist Larry Mitchell premiered in Los Angeles in 2009, with recent performances at Joe’s Pub in New York City, LaJolla Playhouse as part of the Native Voices at the Autry, and the University of British Columbia. Her seven books of poetry include such well-known titles as How We Became Human- New and Selected Poems and She Had Some Horses. Her awards include the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She was recently awarded 2011 Artist of the Year from the Mvskoke Women’s Leadership Initiative, and a Rasmuson US Artists Fellowship. She is a founding board member and treasurer of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Harjo writes a column Comings and Goings for her tribal newspaper, the Muscogee Nation News. Soul Talk, Song Language, Conversations with Joy Harjo was recently released from Wesleyan University Press. Crazy Brave, a memoir is her newest publication from W.W. Norton, and a new album of music is being produced by the drummer/producer Barrett Martin. She is at work on a new shows: We Were There When Jazz Was Invented, a musical story that proves southeastern indigenous tribes were part of the origins of American music. She lives in the Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 827 reviews
Profile Image for Julie G.
897 reviews2,930 followers
August 31, 2020
Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Oklahoma

Joy Harjo published this memoir in 2012, at the age of 61, and I promise you, it is unlike any other life story you have ever read.

This memoir is nuts. Crazy. Crazy Brave to be more specific, and it makes me a little giddy that a major publishing house is still taking risks enough to print a story like this one.

If you could imagine combining Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits with Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements, you might come close to understanding Ms. Harjo's style. Maybe.

One minute she's telling you what it was like to be a 4-year-old with an alcoholic father, and the next minute she's telling you to hold on a minute because one of her ancestors just showed up in the room, demanding she share her story.

It's not literal, it's not chronological, it's not traditional, it's not predictable. It's wild, and it's definitely not for everyone, but, frankly, I was disappointed that it was as short as it was.

My other disappointment is that Ms. Harjo wrote this memoir in her late 50s, but she only takes us from before her birth until her early 20s. Why? Those of us who are older than our early 20s already know about those wild and wonderful things that can happen at those ages, like choosing the wrong lovers, choosing the wrong studies in school, and having conflicts with parents and siblings.

I wanted to know what she's done in the last forty years, when she's been publishing poetry, raising children, recording albums, touring, playing a saxophone and channeling spirits.

Damn, lady. Don't end it at the beginning!

Ms. Harjo explains that she has lived her life being guided by “the knowing.” She writes:

The knowing was my rudder, a shimmer of intelligent light, unerring in the midst of this destructive, terrible, and beautiful life. It is a strand of the divine, a pathway for the ancestors and teachers who love us.

She tells us that “the knowing” speaks “softly, wisely,” and that you are always clear on what “the knowing” is telling you, but you don't always listen.

She tells the reader the truth (she always tells the truth, by the way, you can feel it): she has sometimes listened to “the knowing,” and other times (like when choosing her violent and alcoholic male partners) she has intentionally ignored this guidance, or intuition.

I loved this concept of “the knowing,” and I am guided by my intuition, too, but I wish that she had addressed the application of “the knowing” at more mature ages. I think we often assume that life is more difficult or we are tasked with more challenging issues when we are younger, but now that I'm at midlife, I think it is the exact opposite. I think so much of youth is filled with black and white choices. Midlife is muddier, knee-deep in the gray areas, thicker and more complicated as we age.

I wished that Ms. Harjo had taken us deeper into the wisdom that has come with her maturity.

Nonetheless, I fell in love with her wildness. Several times as I was reading this I had the odd thought, that this woman has never been "another brick in the wall."

For me, discovering Joy Harjo was like finding out that I have this cool, quirky aunt who finally wants to talk to me, after the resolution of some decades-long family feud.

I was glad to meet her.

Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
March 8, 2019
Happy International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019!

Joy Harjo is one of my favorite poets. From both Creek and Cherokee tribal nations, she writes about her people’s history with such a poignancy and grace. Harjo usually includes background information about each poem so that readers can empathize with her as she addresses current events that still plague her people to this day. When I found out that she had written a memoir I was moved to read it.

Crazy Brave is Harjo’s raw, poignant story of growing up in an abusive home in Creek Territory close to Tulsa, Oklahoma and what lead her to study fine arts. Harjo’s mother divorced her biological father when she was five and her younger siblings were no more than babies. Quick to remarry because she was in need of money to support her family, Harjo’s stepfather was seventeen years older than her mother and an abusive drill sergeant. Keeping a double standard, he would go out drinking and seeing women each night while his new wife had to work two jobs and run the house. The children were not to be seen and if they as much as made a peep, they were beaten with a belt. Harjo’s mother was powerless to stop him because at the time there were few resources available to victims of domestic abuse and even fewer available to native women.

Harjo possessed a strong spiritual side and converses with the spirits and this lead to her flourishing in fine arts from an early age. Yet, her stepfather stifled her creativity and had his eye on her. To get out of the house, Harjo attended the Indian Affairs boarding school of International Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and left home for good. She thrived away from an abusive home and studied all branches of the arts including painting, poetry, and dance, winning a spot on a traveling theater and dance troupe that performed for all reservations in the west. Yet, in the 1960s, Santa Fe was the height of the hippie movement outside of San Francisco, and many of these students turned to recreational drug and alcohol usage, Harjo included. Fighting an internal battle to stop her maternal line’s history of alcohol dependency, Harjo was doomed to repeat a cycle of teenage pregnancy and domestic violence.

Joy Harjo did not turn to poetry for solace until after she divorced her second husband and her home became a safe house for Native victims of spousal and domestic abuse. As a literature student at the University of New Mexico, her voice and talent flourished as she also took up the saxophone, an instrument she plays to this day. While this slim memoir is another entry into the world of Harjo’s writing, it is not for the faint of heart as there is evidence of rape, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence within its page. It is tough to read what occurred to the women in her family but a relief to discover that they ultimately persevered.

Today, Harjo encourages women to seek shelter and her life cause is evident in all of her writing. International Women’s Day celebrates women from all walks of life, and Joy Harjo in her work to assist women victims of domestic abuse should be lauded and included reading on any Women’s Month lineup.

3.5 stars rounded up
Profile Image for Jennifer Welsh.
258 reviews222 followers
November 26, 2020
3.5. I loved spending time with Joy Harjo, a poet, painter, and memoirist, a mother and daughter, part Cherokee, part oil-rich Creek, and part Irish. She genuinely felt like someone I’d like – sensitive, spiritual, artistic and kind.

I loved how Harjo opened each section with a quote about one of the four directions, and how the spiritual sense of these both connected to her culture and informed her story’s shape. I felt how Harjo hadn’t lost touch with something more basic and grounded in nature, despite having lived in her country as a second-class citizen.

My favorite part was her talk of “the knowing.” This really resonated with me – the experience of this unexplainable sense in your body, and the impulse to rationalize it away. And then, living for years rationalizing until it becomes evident that the knowing, however intangible, just knows.

Her poems were sprinkled throughout the memoir, but they didn’t wow me, so I felt they interrupted the flow rather than enhanced it. I haven’t yet read a book of her poetry, so I don’t know how they compare to the ones she selected for this memoir.

Harjo had a rich life, and she shares it. But I found myself wanting more. Intensely personal experiences flit by in quick succession, only sometimes pausing to feel through what happened. When she does take the time, it’s lovely. But there’s a sense of intensity buried in the trauma, and of Harjo wanting to share hers as a step towards healing, but of not quite being ready to explore all of its layers.

I want to know these stories of Native Americans, and I haven’t read much. I wish Harjo took me deeper. I felt like she was capable of it.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
April 21, 2020
A contemplative memoir sketching Harjo’s journey toward becoming a woman and a poet. For much of the work she reflects on her youth, thoughtfully considering everything from the origins of her love of art to her struggle to evade her violent white stepfather, but in the final stretch she shifts to recounting her experience of early motherhood, as well as the overwhelming panic she felt in the wake of a string of abusive relationships. The end feels a bit rushed and inconclusive, but Harjo’s account of her coming of age is moving and poetically written.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,996 followers
April 27, 2019
3.5 stars

Love the raw vulnerability and commitment to art in this memoir. In Crazy Brave Joy Harjo writes about growing up with an abusive stepfather, developing her love and vision for poetry, and escaping from the cycle of abuse again later on in her life. Harjo grounds this memoir in tribal myth and ancestry. The two themes I found most compelling in Crazy Brave: overcoming abusive relationships and healing through art. Harjo writes about her family's and her own experience in abusive relationships in such a powerful way, showing what draws women back into abusive dynamics (e.g., patriarchy) and the difficult yet ultimately life-affirming act of breaking free. Harjo also writes so purely about her love for art and how it saved her when she could have chosen so many other more damaging coping mechanisms. I appreciated her vulnerability, especially given how she shared about some pretty awful experiences.

Overall I enjoyed this one and would recommend to those interested in reading a memoir by a Native woman. While I found the narrative a little dry at times (e.g., this happened, then this happened, then this happened...) and wanted more content toward the end to flesh out her story, I still liked Crazy Brave. Looking forward to discussing it with my feminist book club.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,860 followers
July 4, 2021
"It was the spirit of poetry who reached out and found me as I stood there at the doorway between panic and love."

Joy Harjo's raw and radiant memoir Crazy Brave is the story of how she arrived at the threshold of domestic abuse, addiction and poverty and stepped through into the possibility of education, art, music and poetry.

Harjo's childhood in Oklahoma, where her Cherokee and Creek ancestors were forced to settle after the mid-nineteenth century Indian Removal Act, had enough art and laughter and love in its early years to instill in Harjo a deep sense of lyricism and a passion for education. But her father's abuse, affairs and alcoholism broke the family apart. Harjo's mother's remarriage to a predator split the family even further. Harjo escapes, thanks to the music and art she carefully nurtured apart from her stepfather's fists, and made it to Santa Fe as a teenager, attending the Institute of American Indian Arts. It is there that Harjo encounters the vastness and profundity of Native American cultures and the legacy imposed by colonization and genocide. She further explores and develops her poetic and musical voice. She also falls for the attentions of a beautiful man and becomes pregnant while still in school.

Despite teenage motherhood, two failed and abusive early marriages, alcoholism and poverty, Harjo digs in and endures; eventually, as a scholar at the University of New Mexico, she thrives.

The retelling of these wrenching hardships does not make Crazy Brave a misery memoir. It is about becoming. It is about transcendence and integrity, love of family, and most of all, a tender prayer of peace and forgiveness for Harjo's mother and a ode of devotion for Native cultures.

Part prose, part poetry, Crazy Brave is a reflection of a poet, musician, mother and survivor who chose art over despair. It is heartbreaking, haunting, luminous and lovely. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,115 followers
April 5, 2020
I wanted to read the memoir of the U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo before I read her poetry so I was happy to find the ebook through my public library. From her childhood in Oklahoma until she was accepted into a native American arts school in Santa Fe, this is also the story of how she found her poetry voice. At times she wrote a bit obtusely about events, which felt like her taking a step back from her own experience and asking the reader to fill in the gaps. There is a lot of pain there, but also a deep spirituality that has pulled her through her life.

I marked some bits in Kindle which should show up somewhere else in this review so I will not paste them here.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
December 8, 2016
The GR book description states: 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 natural world.

The author's lines describing the abusive family situation of her youth are clear, albeit emotionally draining.

When she speaks of her personal development and transformation through transcendental spirituality the lines become abstruse. Perception of the world around her becomes vague, clothed in bewildering metaphors and unclear. What I saw happening could easily have been expressed in ordinary words. For example, while I might explain a nagging suspicion through intuition, she speaks of diffuse ancestral Native American beliefs confusingly described. Poetry is pretty, but to convey a message is it the best means?

The author’s connection with the “natural world” is scarcely touched upon.

Her passage toward psychological stability is not explained in a manner that I can understand. I do not believe others can learn from her experiences.

You learn little about Native American beliefs or customs. This is a personal story.

The author reads her own book. There is a beauty in some of the author's poetic lines, but unfortunately the flow of the words is jagged. Pauses are inserted in the wrong places and the wrong words were emphasized. The import of the lines became unclear. She does have a strong, deep voice that resonates well.
89 reviews13 followers
January 2, 2019
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.
July 2, 2019
3.5 stars

I've stacked several books by Joy Harjo over the last couple years but it wasn't until she was recently named our U.S. Poet Laureate that I finally grabbed this memoir from the library!

Harjo masterfully weaves her life story with tribal myth, poetry, and stream of conciousness.

From the loss of her father to abuse at the hands of her step-father, Harjo (of the Muscogee/Creek Nation) found healing as a teen at the Institute of American Indian Arts.  Later, she was able to break the pattern of abuse in her life and overcome poverty; raising two children and pursuing her passion for music and poetry.

At under 200 pages, this is a brief but powerful glimpse into Harjo's life.  I keep coming back to the vulnerability she shares with readers and how she ultimately found the strength to listen to her inner voice and take control of her own life.

Crazy Brave is a beautiful memoir written in an original voice.  I would've loved more detail but deeply appreciate what Harjo has chosen to share and the style in which she shares it.

I recommend this to readers interested in memoir, poetry, and Native American heritage/tradition.

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Dan.
1,135 reviews52 followers
January 22, 2023
I've had the good fortune of reading many excellent memoirs. This is one of them, the title is apt.

I read in some of the GR reviews that there is a distance in her writing in this memoir that some didn't care for. I think this slight detachment is actually a sign of wisdom. And perhaps penning a memoir about childhood and young adulthood some fifty years later is also part of it.

I found Harjo's writing here more relatable and less cathartic than most memoirs. This is remarkable since I have an upbringing - at least on the surface - that is quite different from hers.

5 stars. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac).
684 reviews603 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
November 2, 2021
Oh dear, her audio narration was way too incantatory and, well, poet-giving-a-public-reading voiced for me, exacerbating the problems I have with memoir at the best of times. Didn’t get very far in before opting to put this rather expensive audiobook down in favor of a Native American novel (The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson).
Profile Image for McGuffy Morris.
Author 2 books18 followers
October 2, 2012
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 guide and her saving grace throughout her life. Her ability to trust her inner vision, her “knowing”, and this unspoken voice is indeed more than brave. Her example in following this is powerful.

I greatly respect the strong ties to nature and the earth found in Native American spirituality. I incorporate many of these beliefs and thoughts, personally. My own heritage is mixed and rough. Unfortunately, I do not know much about this part of my ancestral history.

In addition to this brave, lyrical memoir and her poetry, Joy Harjo is a gifted musician. I highly recommend all of her creative and important offerings. She is both inspiring and wise.
Profile Image for John Mccullough.
571 reviews42 followers
March 7, 2022
March is Women’s History Month – time to remind ourselves of how women’s lives have affected ALL of our lives, and of the struggles they fought through to gift us these blessings. A woman I have greatly admired for years is the Mvskoke poet, artist and musician, Joy Harjo. She has visited Salt Lake City where I live several times and I have always enjoyed her mixed music and poetry performances immensely. I also purchased a copy of her early life – Crazy Brave – years ago when it was published but somehow never read it. Now is a great time to do so.

When a brilliant poet writes a book, the reader is in for a different journey. When the author is Native American, the journey will lead to unexpected places in unexpected ways. I enjoyed this phenomenon last year with the writings of N. Scott Momaday and now Harjo’s book entirely lived up to expectations. A’Ho!!

From the first Europeans who touch land in the New World, Natives were to be no important part of the colonies, and later countries, that lay in the future. They could be slaves or servants or dead, usually the last option was – and still is – preferred. Was it Bishop Edmund Tutu who said, “When Europeans first arrived among us, they had the Bible and we had the land. They invited us to close our eyes and pray with them. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible and they had the land.” It was the same story everywhere, including what was to become the United States. Harjo’s autobiography of her early life is what has happened to Americans as Europeans dominate the country in every way.

Unfortunately for “The Plan,” Native Americans are still around and still trying to hold on to the vestiges of what is genuinely American. Native American religions were outlawed from the late 1880’s until 1979. Children were abducted and sent to Indian schools where their languages and religions were strictly forbidden; their hair was cut (in many American cultures this is a sign of death) and they were trained to be the servants and manual laborers of their European overlords. Many died at these schools and were buried where they died, in enemy land.

Life for Native Americans is tough, especially so for Native women who are assaulted, raped and murdered at a much higher rate than European women both in the US and Canada. The murder rate is 10:1 – ten times the White rate. This is like the practice of some New England whalers who when they came close to an island where they would not stop, and used the natives for target practice. Love Thy Neighbor!!

This is all to put Harjo’s book in perspective. Her experience is not unusual although her intellect and spirit are. She tells her story bluntly and with all her warts out and obvious. Readers accustomed to thinking is strictly transactional terms may be turned off by the spirituality of Native Americans – “it’s just wishful thinking,” or “they must be hallucinating” or “don’t they think everything is supposed to be sacred?” Harjo brings the space-age reader back to human roots and offers a different perspective, one that links generations together and why some Natives believe that the limited time planning perspectives of most of our countrymen and women are both stunted and destructive. Think 7 generations, not 2 years.

In the end, Harjo describes her journey and invites us to join her. Mitakuye Oyasin! Hidadatseli! We are all related! Never forget!!
Profile Image for Lisa.
220 reviews
January 23, 2013
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 population of this continent to less than one-half of one percent. We were all haunted."

As a Native, you think about this constantly as you try to figure out how to fix things, how to help your Nation heal and become whole again. I know that I constantly think about what I can do to make life better for Natives as a whole. This is why I became an attorney and chose to focus on Indian law. I am still trying to figure it out. :)

It is also full of life as you read about culture, traditions, storytelling, the strength in our people. Great book!
Profile Image for Neile.
Author 10 books15 followers
October 27, 2012
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 Harjo shines through it like a meteor. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Helena.
182 reviews
July 29, 2021
I like Joy Harjo a lot, by which I guess I mean I have read two of her poems and think about them frequently and also I like the idea of who she is, and I thought this was nice and I like the way she uses language but it did not make me realize things about my own life which is what really gets me going from memoirs
Profile Image for Jim.
2,098 reviews700 followers
December 1, 2021
Joy Harjo is currently the Poet Laureate of the United States and, not coincidentally, one of the greatest living American poets. Crazy Brave: A Memoir is her retelling of her early life, up until the point she became a poet. As a special gift, there are a number of her poems interspersed through the telling of her story.

Much of Joy's early life was marked by parental abuse. After her parents divorced, her mother married a religious fundamentalist who beat his step-daughter. Then, as she escaped home to go to school, she met up with men who seemed attractive but who, finding solace in alcohol, became abusive themselves.

Joy managed to keep her head on her shoulders and her spirit intact, which comes across vividly in her book and her poetry.
Profile Image for Laila.
1,315 reviews47 followers
May 2, 2020
An unflinching but ultimately hopeful look at a hard upbringing and the legacy of Native American genocide and oppression that shaped generations after, specifically in her family. Harjo is the U.S. Poet Laureate and she shares her family story, her dreams, her failures, and her creativity in an appealing mix of spiritual/cultural exploration and memoir.
Profile Image for Abbi Buckmiller.
156 reviews5 followers
March 27, 2023
woof, no wonder she has so much poetry in her.

my favorites parts were when she sang her poems so the next collection i read of hers will definitely be on audible.
Profile Image for Karen.
325 reviews21 followers
December 23, 2017
This one was a hit or miss for me, in the beginning especially. I enjoyed it more toward the end because she wrote about places where I'd lived in New Mexico -- Farmington in the Four Corners region, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. When she described UNM and crossing the traffic on Central Ave. I got little a nostalgic. Other times, though, it felt like I'd start to get into a story and she'd abruptly shift to a memory or a myth or a poem. I guess there's nothing wrong with a metaphorical style and no rule that says you must tell your story in the most direct way possible, period. She has another book coming out soon, and I would read it.
Profile Image for James Giddings.
100 reviews16 followers
October 3, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Lyn.
63 reviews32 followers
September 13, 2020
Excellent book - beautiful storytelling. I’ve always enjoyed her poetry. Would be interested in a follow-up memoir as this was written in 2012 and she has now been appointed the US Poet Laureate for the 2nd year in a row. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Erin || erins_library.
126 reviews181 followers
November 30, 2021
#IndigenousReadingCircle #ErinAndDanisBookclub

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo is the October selection for @ErinAndDanisBookclub. The book details Harjo’s life beginning with her childhood through to her twenties. It details the foundation of her life that has led to who she is today. I chose to listen to the audiobook narrated by the author (inspired by Dani) and read along with the physical book. Joy is a gifted performer and poet, so of course it was a wonderful listening experience. I loved getting an insight into how she views the world and the way she thinks about things.

Some things that stood out to me include what she calls ‘the knowing’. She talks about when she followed and ignored her instincts which told her what path to take. It’s a good reminder about the importance of listening to and trusting ourselves. It’s important when you sense danger, but is also important when going toward opportunities. I also took note of the way Harjo highlighted the huge impact that adults have on children. The things we say and do are more important than any of us realize. With one word we can completely shift how a child thinks about themself or what they believe. It rings true, especially when reflecting on my own childhood and the memories that have stuck with me.

I’m looking forward to reading Poet Warrior, her second memoir and learn more from her unique perspective.

CW: domestic violence, racism, alcoholism, rape, suicidal thoughts
Profile Image for Amy (Other Amy).
455 reviews89 followers
March 31, 2016
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 because even though I know next to nothing of Native American culture, it is clear that this author and her folks are my people. From the children running through yards playing with reptiles and bugs to the struggles making ends meet and the bouts of too much alcohol and smoke and the housework that is never done and the poetry that might make it all better. My folks, to the core. (I say this with full awareness of one massive genocide standing between our peoples, which kills me because I am helpless as to what can bring any healing. It is clear to me that we are different, but as all differences do, this resolves down to our same. Because we have been the same kind of coward, and I aspire to be the same kind of brave.)

As a read, it is a little disjointed having no grounding in the dream travelling and the visions of things that happen before birth and such, but by the end of the book these things fall into a rhythm, become one of its charms. But then it all ends very abruptly. Nonetheless, I probably would round this up to a 4 star were it not for one of the most gripping stories she tells being "partially fictionalized," with no indication of what exactly was fictionalized. Names changed to protect the innocent? What actually happened? People's reactions? No idea. It is one of the best stories in the book. Ah, well. (3 stars means "I liked it" and I in this case I totally recommend this book.)

From page 56:
And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It's the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
A door to the mind should open only from the heart.
An enemy who gets in risks the danger of becoming a friend.
Profile Image for Pam Bustin.
Author 2 books23 followers
May 12, 2015
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 20

Though I was reluctant to be born, I was attracted by the music (her mother's song - p).  I had plans.  I was entrusted with carrying voices,songs and stories to grow and release into the world, to be of assistance and inspiration.  These were my responsibility.  I am not special.  It is this way for everyone.  We enter into a family story, and then other stories based on tribal clans, on tribal towns and nations, lands, countries, planetary systems, and universes.  Yet we each have our own individual soul story to tend.

From Page 164

To imagine the spirit of poetry is much like imagining the shape and size of the knowing. It is kind of resurrection light; it is the tall ancester spirit who has been with me since the beginning, or a bear or a hummingbird. It is a hundred horses running the land in a soft mist, or it is a woman undressing for her beloved in firelight. It is none of these things. It is more than everything.

"You're coming with me, poor thing. You don't know how to listen. You don't know how to speak. You don't know how to sing. I will teach you."

I followed poetry

And a final ... Blessing.... From Page 168

May our eyes and ears continue to open to hear and know our ancestors. May we remember the stories. May this story be food for your own. 

Much thanks, Joy, for this wonderful work.

Go easy ~ p
Profile Image for Sherri.
397 reviews4 followers
August 5, 2012
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 beautifully, with honesty and her use of imagery is extraordinary. The poetry flows through her prose and what could seem strange in another writer's hands is natural and real in hers.

I enjoy reading her monthly column in the Muscogee Nation News and there are similar elements from the columns in the book. Understated and without anger or bitterness she recounts a life that would have crushed a woman less strong. The book ends with Harjo as a struggling college student with two young children and I hope this means there will be a sequel.

I've seen her perform twice and both times were mesmerizing. She includes some of her better known poems in this book and I felt a little thrill recognizing opening lines and reading further familiar words. I also like that she mentions she discovered a fondness for Bizet and the Doors, much as I did a generation later. She deals with some harsh realities of Indian life and I winced a few times and found myself nodding sadly.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys poetry, biography, feminist thought, contemporary history and Native history. No, I just recommend it to everyone.
Profile Image for Jessica.
573 reviews103 followers
January 16, 2020
The U.S. poet laureate's memoir reverberates with language that reads like English, but seems to come from a world Harjo has created for herself. And that may very well be the case; Harjo's story of her life brims with hardship and heartaches, yet it never ekes a moment of pity. She frames her memoir with cardinal directions and prose that explains what they represent to the earth, to people, to herself. Her lyrical storytelling invites you in while she illustrates ancestral trauma, abuse, familial strain, trusting in oneself, and creativity. She imbues something spiritual as well and relays visions of possible futures and evokes emotion rather than clinical or straightforward descriptions. She is in her own league and it's a beauty to witness.
Profile Image for Gaspar.
136 reviews
October 19, 2021
1.5 stars. I wanted to like this book, but it was too all over the place. Ms. Harjo has an interesting story to tell, but the manner in which she tells it is too stream-of-consciousness/slam poetry style, so that it is hard to follow at times. Despite the many hardships she had to overcome, it is hard to really feel for the author, because of the lack of cohesion and chronology.
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