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Almanac of the Dead

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,447 ratings  ·  248 reviews
In its extraordinary range of character and culture, Almanac of the Dead is fiction on the grand scale. The acclaimed author of Ceremony has undertaken a weaving of ideas and lives, fate and history, passion and conquest in an attempt to re-create the moral history of the Americas, told from the point of view of the conquered, not the conquerors.
Paperback, 768 pages
Published November 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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There is, perhaps, no way to bestow readerly affection on a work so single-mindedly driven by an intense fury. But what one can do is reverentially acknowledge the handiwork of this authorial anger, appreciate the blurred edges of a story - an important one - that emerge from the void of a mass amnesia and a carefully preserved collective delusion. And applaud as a silent witness to the fictional resurrection of a people and civilization so meticulously blotted out, first from existence, then ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I wrote my master's thesis on this book, thus I've lost track of how many times I've read it. This is not for the faint-of-heart. Silko is putting Western, Euro-centric culture on trial and the evidence she cites is pretty damning. She has said in interviews that the anger that seethes on every page of this novel is not her personal anger but the anger of the Earth. Anger over the cruelty, greed and destruction that dominate the rise of European culture over Native American culture and other ...more
Cimi is six and is called death, owl's day. Lord of the underworld and Lord of death. Nonetheless day six, day of the skull, is a good-luck day.

The old almanac said “civil strife, civil crises, civil war.”
Talk of "the right book at the right time" has been floating around for a while now, so here, on the tail end of whatever mood spurred me on to delve into the USA breed of colonialism, I have this book. I mentioned earlier a summary of quick and easy reference, Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite
Oh my days* where do I begin? I'm glad I read The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir first in preparation for this behemoth, as I knew something about where Leslie Marmon Silko herself was coming from in her mapping of place and relationships, and I had seen the Arizona desert through her eyes so much already it was like a familiar friend here, a place to revere and protect, full of life and beauty. The desert is not the only place that comes to life in these pages – the muted light of the Mexican jungle ...more
Fucking wow.

This is not a pleasure cruise of a read. It's got a lot of things that would be a huge turn-off to many readers - drugs, violent sex, horrible things done to children and animals, disgusting characters of all sorts (racist, homophobic, sexist, abusive, drug-addled and/or drunk, pedophiles, scumbags), and more than can even be discussed on a surface level.

It's rough.

I've read complaints that Silko is an angry, bitter woman. So? Why can't a woman of color be angry or bitter? Does it
Tori (InToriLex)
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"Those who can't learn to appreciate the world's differences won't make it. They'll die."

This was Games of Thrones, meets Breaking Bad, with engaging, graphic and enlightening prose. The book consists of snapshots into a slew of diverse and broken characters, who realize how ruthless life can be. This is dense and long (763 pg's the longest novel I've read), but that didn't diminish the wonderful experience of reading this book. At the core of
Jennifer (aka EM)
Half-way through, and I'm giving up. The flat, 3rd-person, short-sentence prose is numbing. I see vague connections between the dozens of sub-plots, but I can't keep them straight. The torture porn is seriously off-putting without anything to redeem or explain its inclusion so far (other than the obvious); most of all, there's not a single heroic character in the bunch. And from the reviews I've skimmed, it's only going to get worse.

This is not a novel, it's a manifesto (in case the chapter or
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Epic. Silko nailed the epicness of this story. She has tried to tell 500 years of North American Native history, since the coming of the white Europeans, with the outcome of anger and hostility, the degradation and defeat of the people but not the defeat of the spirit. The spirit remains strong.

This isn't an easy read at times. It's gritty, detailed, hard, cruel and at times stomach-turning. But it tells a sweeping, deep story of colonization, exploitation, anger, distress, hopelessness,
Lark Benobi
As damning and excoriating as ever, the second time through. Fearless. Unassailable. Meant to be hated, in a way. I hated it more and enjoyed it less this time through, knowing where I was going, and that really seemed to be the point of it.

First review:

This novel is exorbitantly, lavishly violent. It's a sordid kind of violence, violence done to and by characters with a pathological level of cruelty. It was impossible to not feel assaulted by it as I read. It jolts me right out of my
Mary Spielmann
May 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
Someone said a good book tells about a good character, and a bad book tells more about the character of its author. I believe this book is the latter, and I don't believe I would care to cross paths with Leslie Marmon Silko. Among the many fold things I disliked about this book (homophobia, long academic pretension, shock tactics, faux-spiritualism, and completely soulless characters), I found the anger in it to be the most disturbing. It was anger DISGUISED as prophesy and renewal, but in the ...more
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Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As I've re-read this book twice, and regularly go back and read some of my favorite parts, I'm having trouble remembering what it was like reading it the first time around. It is a devastating portrait of the violence, greed, and moral corruption of colonization, making it often extremely difficult to read (there are several scenes of sexual violence that I skip when I re-read it). However, the violence is never, ever frivolous, rather, it feels like Silko demands that her readers bear witness ...more
Intricately plotted novel covers southwestern U.S. history for the past five hundred years and into the future, though most of the action takes place in present-day Tucson. There is a huge cast of characters and when they reappear after a few hundred pages you can be forgiven if you've forgotten exactly who they are. Much of the plot describes the venality of the capitalistic way of life in North America. Drug dealers, arms runners, pornographers, corrupt judges, and murderers are among the ...more
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who wants to have a life-changing experience. But maybe not children.
This is the book that helped me realize that time doesn't have to be the way we think. Both the past and the future are our partners. We need them both, and we have them both with us all the time. This is the book that made me realize that although Bush totally rots, his time and his influence are temporary. What I got out of it was, "We have Life After Bush in our hands already -- we can make it better."

It doesn't say anything about Bush, actually, since it was published a while ago. Actually
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was determined to finish this and I did. I was so hungry for the narrative: drug dealing and real estate development in Tucson, an army of the homeless, military fortifications on the border, a tv psychic, persistent rumors of an indigenous uprising coming from the south. Some of these themes overlap with 2666, and it's also similar to 2666 for being a Big Book. But I just couldn't get past the writing. First of all, most of the book is written in the past perfect, for no grammatical reason I ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Imagine Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee crossed with Infinite Jest, plus a dash of The Women of Brewster Place. That's basically what Almanac of the Dead feels like. This is some great storytelling in its interweaving of characters, its evocation of the desert Southwest (me gusta!) and its force-to-be-reckoned-with politics. It leaves you wishing that the predicted uprising would really happen. Is that last sentence so very fifteen-sixteenths European of me, to assume "we" are safely ensconced ...more
Jeanne Thornton
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I feel like it is maybe immoral to imagine the death by starvation and thirst of literally millions without being willing to imagine these deaths and disasters in any specific psychological detail. The part with Alegria in the desert is about the only part of this book I can think of where a character's death (or near death, anyway) isn't played either (a) essentially for satiric/allegorical effect (or for lurid, sadistic horror), or (b) referred to entirely in passing (moments where characters, ...more
Joey Beatty
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Almanac of the Dead took me eleven months or so to complete. I picked it up in spurts. Which i thought was fine; the intricacies and tangents allow for that type of reading, which I rarely employ. I will try and state my opinion of it simply. As information, as history, as ideology, and as a tool for pinpointing political and social accountability, this book was beautiful, accurate, extremely justified, and I celebrate every second of it. It is an extremely valuable, and, as I'm sure is the case ...more
Dec 28, 2011 added it
It was emotionally painful to read this book. So little redemption, and so varied an assortment of reasons to despair about human nature and the direction of the world, made it feel like a task to keep turning the pages. I'm glad I finished it, and I think it says things that are important to've been said, but I couldn't wait for it to be done. Drug trade, organ trade, sex trade, the rich discounting the poor, the poor despising the rich, betrayal personal and professional, a widespread movement ...more
Feb 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
I'd be one of those people watching Days of Our Lives, getting up to make tea, sitting down in unison, this shit-eating look on my face. Being swung up and let go. Then landing someplace shitty, like LA, where they spend their noontime making everything stretch out, writing scripts to things like "Criminal Minds" and "Desperate Housewives" and then watching everyone play it out. I'd be Silko's culturally-aware equivalent, riding on top of the days of our lives, smokin' hot, ready to be where the ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare books that challenges your spirit and historical view on so many levels. After two decades, this novel is more relevant today than it was in 1991. Mexico is at war; North Africa is on the brink of overflowing into Southern Europe and terrorism is the new global economy.

Almanac is truly a masterfully crafted epic novel on an Americana scale. The voices of indigenous America is heard throughout,
as they seek justice and land reclamation.
Sep 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Sara by: My teacher
700 + page book I had to read for Native American lit. One of the most exhausting, if not the most exhausting book I have ever read. There were too many characters and none of them were likable. I was so sick and tired of the book that I just skimmed the last 100 pages.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Leslie Marmon Silko is a superb novelist, and this massive tale of cross-border life has a strong indigenous feel to it. A sign of its quality is that (like Tolstoy) despite the huge cast and interwoven tales the narrative flows clearly and elegantly.
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
An intricate epic that portrays people as not only perverse in their exploitation of the earth, but their exploitation of each other. Graphic and hard to stomach at times, but with an important message for the inheritors of the planet.
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book through to the end requires some fortitude and determination. Kind of like Moby Dick. But this novel is, well, prophetic. Occasionally, when I come across some item in the news (like the buying and selling of human organs), I say to myself, Oh, that was predicted in Almanac.
Jul 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
BUT, don't read this if you are tender-hearted or images of violence are likely to seep beneath your skin. i couldn't put this down. then it stayed with me in a haunting and awful way for years.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Almanac of the Dead is an incredible piece of literature. It is the most angry book I have ever read. Silko is rewriting the history of the Americas-- this time, with the introduction of the indigenous and African perspectives. I loved her long lists of insurrections, rebellions, and successes of the indigenous people of the Americas and the African slaves. The driving belief of the entire novel is that the Americas will return to their tribal origins. Silko's portrayal of the fall of the ...more
You cannot read this book quickly, no matter how quickly you read other things.
I thought that nothing I read, versus something I saw, would be able to disturb me.
This book has plenty of pieces that will disturb you. It isn't a horror story.

Almanac of the Dead is an epic, that sprawls across centuries, Mexico, the Southwest, and mythic space. If you know pieces of Mexican history, American history, Indian history, you will see echoes in these pages. The homages to reality in a work of fiction
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
what an extraordinary, extraordinary thing. looking at this brick of a book i was expecting a bit of a slog but was open to it, but i was pretty much was captivated by it from the beginning. masterful doesn't begin to cover the author's writing craft, in that as a reader i could trust her fully. she would introduce new characters constantly but always reward the reader for paying attention and we would eventually understand what's going on, she just trusts us to care enough to keep going. as ...more
Ai Miller
Before I read it, I heard this book was long, and BOY IS IT FUCKIN' LONG, Y'ALL. It's so, so long, and I would say the last third sort of feels like you're circling around a drain, slowly. It's certainly a beast to behold, and Silko does a great job of building up to her climax. It's also uh graphic as HELL--at one point, I described it as "indigenous Game of Thrones in Tucson" and I honestly stand by that, so please be wary as you approach this. If there's a trigger warning you can think of, ...more
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2015: The Year of...: The Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko 18 51 Nov 24, 2015 07:18AM  

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Leslie Marmon Silko (born Leslie Marmon; born March 5, 1948) is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the First Wave of what literary critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

Silko was a debut recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Grant, now known as the "Genius Grant", in 1981 and the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas
“Because if you weren't born white, you were forced to see differences; or if you weren't born what they called normal, or if you got injured, then you were left to explore the world of the different.” 10 likes
“The truth of course was otherwise, but Lecha had never felt she owed anyone the truth, unless it was truth about their own lives, and then they had to pay her to tell them.” 8 likes
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