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Crazy Brave

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,912 ratings  ·  285 reviews
In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo 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. Narrating the complexities of ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published July 29th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company (first published July 9th 2012)
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4.10  · 
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 ·  1,912 ratings  ·  285 reviews

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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 growin
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 relatio
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 cle
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
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 patter
McGuffy Morris
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Pam Bustin
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
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tina Cipolla
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Giddings
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
(originally reviewed at )

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
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
“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.” 

“I am born of brave people and we were in need of warriors.”

I discovered Harjo, through her poetry, recently finishing In Mad Love and War. It was a collection, I immediately fell in love with and once, I learned she had penned a memoir, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint. Harjo was born in O
This is such a good book I don't know where to begin. It makes me recall my own childhood and with the joy of a child I want to run up and share with someone my love of this book. I want to give a copy to my friends and read this again with my wife and read it to my daughter and have my son read it to me. I love her use of language and her life story is compelling, I have to read more from her
anyone who can write like this it's a waste of my time not to be reading her.

"Once the world was perfe
Audible memoirs read by the author are quickly becoming a HEAR the author say her own words, with the exact emphasis, inflection, she intended is a gift. But the down side is not SEEING the words on the page. I'll be getting the kindle version also so I can see.

This is a book that needs to sit next to I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. Two towering talents whose childhoods did not necessarily hit at their gifts. Two little girls who struggled with relationships, who watched and wond
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
Joy Harjo was recently chosen as the United States Poet Laurent, the first Indigenous writer to be appointed to this position. I read a short news article on her a few weeks ago and decided to pick up some of her books, starting with this memoir. This book is divided into four sections (East, North, West, South) and covers her early life, from her ancestors, through her childhood and adolescence, into the mid 1970s around her time in university and the birth of her children. She would go on to b ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a quick read, though it might be wise to slow down and savor the rich prose. It is in most ways a typical American memoir: overcoming a dysfunctional family, abuse, drunken, inept men, alcohol, etc. to become . . . a writer! What sets this one apart is the sporadic (especially in the first part [of 4] and near the end) eloquent, poetic prose infused with Native spirituality. As with most memoirs, I just don't know what I'm supposed to do with this.
Esther Bradley-detally
Such a fusion of worlds and dimensions, wrapped in prose which speaks of a hard, hard upbringing. Harjo's love of language shines through, as her courage and her perseverance reveals she is clearly a lover of language, people, and life. There is much honor portrayed within these pages; don't miss it.
This was a nice memoir but the story didn't really interest me.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Poetic and beautifully written book by Harjo. This book explores her youth and young adulthood.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite her difficult family circumstances as a child, she followed the "voice" and found her soul purpose in poetry. Her writing is indeed like poetry that gives readers high vibration.
Craig Werner
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kyle Aisteach
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, review
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
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
Lisa Beaulieu
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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“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.”
“She exists in me now, just as I will and already do within my grandchildren. No one ever truly dies. The desires of our hearts make a path. We create legacy with our thoughts and dreams.” 9 likes
More quotes…