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An American Sunrise

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  5,445 ratings  ·  844 reviews
In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her ...more
Hardcover, 116 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  5,445 ratings  ·  844 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
There is nothing quite like poetry to give balm to ones soul. Thoughts, feelings, praises, regret, hopes, dreams told with few words but great emotion. Here, the US poet Laurete, Jo Harjo returns to her native land and in a series of works honors what was, what was lost, taken away and what will never come again. The poems are beautiful, regretful and bittersweet, but most of assessible to all readers, lovers of poetry or not.

The piece I'm quoting is part of a longer work, but this section calle
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Joy Harjo has been named the new US Poet Laureate in 2019, becoming the first Native American to hold the position. American Sunrise is her first published work since becoming the top poet in the United States, and, as with other collections of hers that I have read, she does not disappoint here. This new volume pays homage to her ancestors who traveled the Trail of Tears. Her spiritual grandfather Monawee has been able to travel beyond the boundaries of time and visit members of his tribe and b ...more
Dec 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Some nice cross-pollination between this and her memoir, Crazy Brave. I chose the audible version in which Harjo reads her own work. Lovely voice. Except when she sings. Her poetry is informative; it very organically paints a portrait of Native American culture and experience. But her poetry is ok. I liked it more as I listened, and then by the end I was tired of it. Still, I enjoyed the experience of learning through her, and the two books together supported the learning of that experience.
Nov 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
This collection is short, and I chose the audiobook because it’s read by the author.

I won’t analyze each offering, but I would like to share a brief, illustrative story about one poem called Washing My Mother's Body.

I listened to this poem, which is fairly long, without much emotion as I drove to pick up dinner. I heard the words, but I didn’t realize how deep they were hitting until I got a strong urge to call my mother. For some reason, I tried telling her about the poem, and I got exactly t
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Singing Everything
by Joy Harjo

Once there were songs for everything,
Songs for planting, for growing, for harvesting,
For eating, getting drunk, falling asleep,
For sunrise, birth, mind-break, and war.
For death (those are the heaviest songs and they
Have to be pried from the earth with shovels of grief).
Now all we hear are falling-in-love songs and
Falling apart after falling in love songs.
The earth is leaning sideways
And a song is emerging from the floods
And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the
Within intense misfortunes and cruel injustices, the seeds of blessings grow.

And we have been blessed with the heart and mind of Joy Harjo, Poet Laurete of the United States in 2019. You can't be a voice for a people unless you have immersed yourself in the walk-through of suffering, desperation, joyless moments, and the elements of want. And you can't be a voice for a people unless you have touched the threads of happiness, determination, and the soft murmur of satisfaction. Harjo does know...
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2020, poetry
USA Poet Laureate Joy Harjo returns to the lands her (Mvskoke, sometimes referred to as Creek) grandparents were removed from, and writes here about the history, the experience, the people. Brief blurbs explaining history and quotes from oral histories and other poets are interwoven with her own work. Time moves in a spiral and the generations are not finished speaking.

Favorites include:
Directions to You
Washing My Mother's Body
For Earth's Grandsons
Let There Be No Regrets

"...And no matter what ha
Dave Schaafsma
Dec 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Joy Harjo's An American Sunrise—her eighth collection of poems—revisits the homeland in Alabama from which her ancestors were uprooted in 1830 as a result of the Indian Removal Act signed by President Andrew Jackson. The Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to "Indian Territory," which is now part of Oklahoma, via what is now referred to as The Trail of Tears,

An American Sunrise
Joy Harjo

We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ours
Deacon Tom F
Nov 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Lovely Collection

This truly a beautiful group of poems. They are based on the beliefs and feeling of Native Americans.

Their love for the land is reflected throughout. I especially loved the final poem that gives thanks for all aspects of Mother Earth

This is a good one to savor.
Who sings to the plants
That are grown for our plates?
Are they gathered lovingly
In aprons or arms?
Or do they suffer the fate
Of the motor-driven whip
Of the monster reaper?
No song at all, only
The sound of money
Being stacked in a bank
Who stitched the seams in my clothes
One line after another?
Was the room sweaty and dark
With no hour to spare?
Did she have enough to eat?
Did she have a home anywhere?
Or did she live on the floor?
And where were the children?
Or was the seamstress the child
With no home of h
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Named the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019, Joy Harjo has written a collection of poems honoring her tribal history, her mother, ancestors, singing, remembrance, exile, saxophone, spirituality, and much more. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. Her tribal ancestors of Muscogees (Mvskokes) were ousted from their homes and lands in Alabama, forced to abandon their lives and possessions, and trudged a Trail of Tears to the Oklahoma Territory. I was surprised to ...more
Mar 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Harjo has a beautiful, poetic voice that leaves a unique impression upon you - mix that with the originality of the topics of her poems and you have a collection here that is truly remarkable.
Nov 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have been reading these poems by Native American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo over the past month. The collection is a perfect companion to her memoir, Poet Warrior.

I am a mere beginner when it comes to reading poetry. I began reading a poem a day in 2016 with Mary Oliver's A Thousand Mornings. I have learned that just as there are many ways to tell a story in fiction, there are many ways to write a poem. With some poems I can get pretty close to what they are about. Others confound me. I usually r
I was born and raised in the Mvskoke nation of Oklahoma. In those days, we always referred to it as the “Creek” nation, a moniker assigned to Mvskokes by white immigrants.

My native american ancestry is so slight that it is not worth mentioning, but I grew up immersed in pow wow country and surrounded by Mvskoke (and Seminole, and Cherokee, and Choctaw) friends. In Mvskoke-land, Harjos are everywhere. The surname is about as common as caucasian “Smith.” I say this because seeing the name Harjo a
Apr 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, poc
There are a few excellent pieces that I’m looking forward to teaching in this one. Enjoyed most of them, but as usual, some went over my head or didn’t resonate with me as much. But for someone who doesn’t love poetry, I really did enjoy it!
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first poetry I’ve read by Joy Harjo, who was named US Poet Laureate in 2019. In 1830 Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing indigenous peoples out of the southeastern United States. Harjo’s family were force-marched from current-day Alabama to Oklahoma. This collection takes that Trail of Tears as a backbone, interweaving experiences from Harjo’s own life and politics, as well as relationships with the natural world, family, and those around her. I was grateful to lear ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-justice
Thought provoking, vivid, and mindfully rooted in Mvskoke heritage.
For Those Who Would Govern" is a wise lyrical poem in 7 questions.
I feel honored to again listen to this wise woman read her poetic verse.
Viv JM
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I struggle to review poetry but I can say that I found this a very moving collection of poems - recommended.
Ashley Marie
A gorgeous, moving, devastating collection. I recommend the audio so Joy can read and sing to you. Planning on a reread to see how the words and phrasing are structured.

from Bless This Land:

Bless us, these lands, said the rememberer. These lands aren’t our
lands. These lands aren’t your lands. We are this land.

And the blessing began a graceful moving through the grasses
of time, from the beginning, to the circling around place of time,
always moving, always
Leigh Kramer
Apr 28, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A stunning, powerful collection using a range of forms that examines the forced displacement of Harjo's Mvskoke ancestors from Alabama due to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act in 1830. Several lines stopped me in my tracks.

CW: Trail of Tears, forced displacement, death of loved ones (including murder of grandfather by Andrew Jackson’s troops), war, government removal of children to residential schools, religous indoctrination, self-harm, death by suicide, substance abuse, alcoholism
Fernanda Otero
Jun 21, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We are right. We build walls to keep anyone who is not like us out of here. God gave us these lands. We separate children and cage them because they are breaking our God’s law.

** I know this is out of context but it’s criticizing not supporting 🙌🏻

Estuvo interesante este poemario, no tengo un acercamiento a los pieles Rojas pero esta autora la recomendó Matt Haig así que decidí aprender de ellos. Esta muy bonito como honran la naturaleza y cómo aman 🙌🏻 creo que su cosmovisión es otra que la conqu
Apr 17, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2022-bookshelf
My first time experiencing Joy Harjo’s work.. I chose to listen to the audiobook of this poetry collection. I was not disappointed! Joy read her own work and she has a beautiful voice filled with compassion, tenderness, and nuance. It was an amazing experience! Most Indigenous history is oral so I felt that listening to her would be the best way to comprehend and honor her work. I highly recommend it!
Joseph Spuckler
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Story of forced migration in verse. Powerful new moving.w
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There aren’t that many books of poems that are like this: a journey, a witnessing, a testimony, a lyric, a song, a history, a lament, a condemnation, a love bigger than the world.

In Sunday school we were told Lot’s wife Looked back and turned To salt. But her family wasn’t leaving Paradise. We loved our trees and waters And the creatures and earths and skies In that beloved place. Those beings were our companions Even as they fed us, cared for us. If I turn to salt It will be of petrified tears
R.J. Sorrento
“Bless us, these lands, said the rememberer. These lands aren’t our lands. These lands aren’t your lands. We are this land.”

A masterpiece collection of poetry by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States (at the time of publication).

Many of these poems should be required reading for history class in schools.

“The Old Ones will always tell you, your ancestors keep watch over you. Listen to them.”
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
"So many earth spirits take care of this place. They emerge from the cliff walls.
They emerge from the waves of waters.

Our ancestors are not only human ancestors.
What do you see when you fly to the top of the ancestor tree?

Let there be no regrets, no sadness, no anger, no acts of disturbance to these lands."
Grace W
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
(c/p from my review on TheStoryGraph) A beautiful book of poems. Powerful, moving, breathtaking. So happy to have read this and will for sure pick it up many times.

TW for this book include: Genocide, Death, Hate crime, Violence, Racism, and Grief

Apr 24, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I borrowed this book from the library but I know it’s a book I will want to pick up again. These poems deserve to be read multiple times and savored.
Anna Baillie-Karas
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this extraordinary book of poetry, broken up with short extracts from history and Joy Harjo’s reflections. I enjoyed the variety & innovation in structure & the way some of the poems were moving and poignant without being heavy. An important re-telling of history done with a light touch, with poems that are both rich and playful. A short book that will reward re-reading.
Shane Douglas Douglas
You think you can write poetry, then you read someone like indigenous American 3 time poet laureate Joy Harjo and realize you still have a LOT to learn. Harjo is a force to be reckoned with. Her voice is powerful and her words are imbued with magic that will change you. There's a damn good reason she's only the second person in our history to be named laureate 3 times (previously only Robert Pinsky had held that honor). This book will show you what that reason is. ...more
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BarringtonLibrary...: Poetry - Mar/Apr 2022 3 4 Apr 14, 2022 09:19AM  
Malden Reads: resilience & identity 1 2 Feb 27, 2022 03:15PM  
SB Indy Book Club: November 2021 Book Pick: An American Sunrise 4 11 Dec 01, 2021 11:28AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Wrong Page # for Joy Harjo 2 273 Nov 04, 2020 07:02PM  
Books & Banter: Celebrate National Poetry Month 1 8 Apr 13, 2020 10:44AM  
Reading Women: September - An American Sunrise 1 25 Sep 17, 2019 07:13PM  

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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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