Synopses & Reviews
"A name creates life patterns," Allison Adelle Hedge Coke writes, "which form and shape a life; my life, like my name, must have been formed many times over then handed to me to realize." Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer
is Hedge Coke's narrative of that realization, the award-winning poet and writer's searching account of her life as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off-reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Cherokee and Huron heritage.
In a style at once elliptical and achingly clear, Hedge Coke describes her schizophrenic mother and the abuse that often overshadowed her childhood; the torments visited upon her, the rape and physical violence; and those she inflicted on herself, the alcohol and drug abuse. Yet she managed to survive with her dreams and her will, her sense of wonder and promise undiminished. The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to the life-revelations that brought Hedge Coke through her trials, the melding of language and experience that has brought order to her life.
In this book, Hedge Coke shares the insights she has gathered along the way, insights that touch on broader Native issues such as modern life in the diaspora; the threat of alcohol, drug abuse, and violence; and the ongoing onslaught on self amid a complex, mixed heritage.
"[A] harrowing book....[Hedge Coke] writes in a stately, unashamed manner of beatings and binges, always connecting her personal sufferings to the larger
questions of how Indian people can reclaim their cultural and personal pride
and authority." Booklist
"[A] journey that slashes at reader's emotions but also celebrates the
ability of the human spirit to battle on and the power of the author to let
us share the road with her." Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette
"What I've always admired about Allison Hedge Cokes poetry is her astounding courage. And the ability to seamlessly weave the tobacco fields of childhood with the stark plains and hills of South Dakota. And more than all that the shining spirit of compassion." Joy Harjo, Mvskoke poet and musician
"Telling is one thing. That's what we do when we tell stories. But coming to know by experience and telling about it is another. Allison Hedge Coke in Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer shows us 'knowing' in her unique and wonderful way." Simon J. Ortiz, author of Out There Somewhere
"Razor-sharp."-Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette
“Hedge Cokes childhood and young adult years as recounted in this gritty and courageous memoir are not only a story of survival but a story of strength.”—Campbell Editorial.com Campbell Editorial.com
“This book has the ability to open eyes, and to provide freedom on a deep and pesonal level through the glory of truth, which is a beautiful thing no matter how shocking its origins. Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is one read that you will not forget.”—Diane Zephier, Quiet Mountain Essays Joy Harjo
"This is a harrowing book. Statistics about alcoholism and family violence among dispossessed American Indians fail to show the sheer human suffering it causes and the personal heroism of those who struggle through to an integrated life. Hedge Coke was endowed by her Cherokee father with insights into the Indian way of life, but the pressures of prejudice and her mother's insanity drove her into years of drug and alcohol abuse as well as into abusive relationships. She writes in a stately, unashamed manner of beatings and binges, always connecting her personal sufferings to the larger questions of how Indian people can reclaim their cultural and personal pride and authority."—Booklist Booklist
"Razor-sharp."—Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette Chris Rubich
“An extraordinary story of survival, compassion, courage, and a balanced comprehension of acceptance and the will to live.”—Maggie Necefer, Multicultural Review Maggie Necefer
“It is through her lush yet controlled use of language that Hedge Cok Maggie Necefer - Multicultural Review
“Razor-sharp. . . . [Hedge Cokes] award-winning skills as a poet bring another element of sharpness to her book—crisp sentences full of detail. Her carefully chosen words are like snapshots in their ability to capture her struggle just to remain alive and, later, her journey to a place of peace. . . . Its a journey that slashes at readers emotions but also celebrates the ability of the human spirit to battle on and the power of the author to let us share the road with her.”—Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette Chris Rubich
“[A] beautifully written, courageous memoir.”—Joyce Carol Oates Joyce Carol Oates
About the Author
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is the author of Dog Road Woman: Poems
, winner of the American Book Award. She is the coeditor of Voices of Thunder
and It's Not Quiet Anymore
, and her collection of poetry
Off-Season City Pipe
is forthcoming with Coffee House Press.
Hedge Coke is the National Endowment for the Humanities Visiting
Distinguished Professor for fall 2004 at Hartwick College. Over the last twenty years, Hedge Coke has pursued a career as a visiting
writer and scholar at many institutions and as an activist in Native
American community organizations. She is a recent addition to the MFA in
Writing and Native Studies faculty at Northern Michigan University. She has
also taught at the Naropa Institute, the Institute of American Indian Arts,
Stonechild College, California State University at Long Beach, Oxnard
College, Kilian College, the University of Sioux Falls, and elsewhere in New
York, California, New Mexico, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Hedge Coke holds
an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College.