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Crazy Brave: A Memoir

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  3,349 ratings  ·  501 reviews

“Compressed . . . lyrical . . . unflinching . . . raw. . . . Harjo is a magician and a master of the English language.”—Jonah Raskin, San Francisco Chronicle

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
Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published July 9th 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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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 un
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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 acco ...more
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
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 als ...more
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
Laila (BigReadingLife)
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.
Lyn Caglio
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A cosmic, visionary look at her BRAVE Life!
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.
Jacques Coulardeau

A short memoir on the author’s own life as a young Indian woman. As such she both lives in her own time the re-emergence of Indian Tribes and Nation – and was as an Indian very lucky to be able to integrate the Indian cultural Center of Santa Fe as a high school students – and the women’s liberation movement within the Indian tribes and nation – and was as a woman very unlucky with her father, her stepfather, her submissive mother and her successive boyfriends a
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
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, famil ...more
Erik Caswell
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I needed to read this book. And am so grateful for having done so.

Joy Harjo's insights into her life and the world it's embedded in, one tethered to ancestors, spiritual messages, and all the grief & power that comes along with--in her words--the knowing, are at once harrowing and healing. She recently was named the first Native American Poet Laureate, of the Muscogee Nation, in the history of the U.S. This memoir shows the time of her youth as one in which, while a resurgence of Native energy,
Amy Layton
Joy Harjo is a master of words, able to weave meaning and lyricism into the story of her life.  Despite adverse conditions from the get go and travelling from one abusive household to another, her efforts did not go unnoticed by friends and other family members.  

Told in four parts--childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood (additionally North, South, East, and West though not necessarily in that order) her own manner of storytelling resists that of the colonizer's storytelling stru
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adlww-2020
'In the end we must tend to our gulfs of sadness...'

I found a beautiful flow of earth and spirit, fire and water while reading this memoir. Joy Harjo describes in clear prose, the love she had for her mother, father, brothers and sister as she was growing up. However, she also saw the imbalances around her; her father's drinking vs her mother's beauty, generational grief vs voice of the knowing and the ancestral visions that came to her while she created art.

'Our heartbeats are numbered. We have
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note to self: read more books written by poets. The words!! The words. So beautiful, so strange, so painful and true. Joy Harjo is the current and the first Native poet laureate of the U.S. This is her memoir of her childhood and early womanhood, and her path to poetry. I could say a lot more, but the simplest thing I can say about this book is that it made me feel like Toni Morrison didn't leave me here alone. Deeply grateful.
Sharon Van Meter
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Nothing I write can do Crazy Brave justice. Joy Harjo’s words, especially her passages about “the knowing,” will stay with me for a lifetime. I look forward to revisiting this book and reading her poetry. Everyone should read Harjo’s heartbreaking yet mesmerizing prose.
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally read one of the longest running books on my tbr shelf. Started last month, IndigAthon 2020 spurred me to finish it.

A lithe volume, felt almost ephemeral while replete with potency. She does have a gift for vision. Gratefully accepted.
Jenny Clark
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A story rich with the past, and with stories. This will not be one for everyone, as there is some emphasis on story telling, and Native American stories as well, but for me it was an amazing book. Joy Harjo has overcome so much, and I only wish I had learned of her sooner.
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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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