Brina's Reviews > Crazy Brave

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
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really liked it
bookshelves: memoirs, native-american-theme, poetry

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
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Reading Progress

March 7, 2019 – Started Reading
March 7, 2019 – Shelved
March 7, 2019 – Shelved as: memoirs
March 7, 2019 – Shelved as: native-american-theme
March 7, 2019 – Shelved as: poetry
March 8, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Luffy (new)

Luffy Read your review-it was very well written; I wouldn't enjoy this type of poetry however, but I concede that I like few poems.


Brina Luffy, I enjoy poems that tell a story. This one was hard to take but it was a memoir, not Harjo’s poetry. She made the best of a bleak childhood whereas many would have failed.


message 3: by Luffy (new)

Luffy Brina wrote: "Luffy, I enjoy poems that tell a story. This one was hard to take but it was a memoir, not Harjo’s poetry. She made the best of a bleak childhood whereas many would have failed."

I understand. You like to read about sad stories to gain more wisdom. Well I applaud you for that.


Brina Thank you. Although I think when I’m done with this month of women trailblazers I’m going to need a break.


message 5: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Fantastic review, Brina.


message 6: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Terrific choice for women's month and an awesome review. Brina.


message 7: by Holly (new)

Holly  B Great review Brina!


Brina Thank you, Angela, Diane, and Holly :-)


message 9: by Barbara (last edited Mar 10, 2019 07:40AM) (new)

Barbara I despair at how many (true) stories there are where a woman brings a stepfather into the family, who turns out to be an abusive turd and sexual abuser.

I applaud Joy for getting out. It's sad that she suffered domestic abuse afterward....but she empowered herself, which is wonderful. Kudos to Joy. 👍


Brina Barbara I agree. I personally know women looking to remarry and they are being careful for the reason you post above. This book wasn’t an easy read by any means but thankfully Joy emerged from a bleak childhood.


message 11: by Andy (new)

Andy interesting, so what do you think were the reasons for her panic attacks?


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