Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring 2005, pp. 135.
Allison Hedge Coke's intimate narrative details her journey through suffering to wholeness. Her story will inspire anyone who has faced adversity. Hedge Coke was the "extra girl" whom her schizophrenic mother said she had "hated since the day she was born." The author suffered depression and suicide attempts, drug and alcohol addiction, rape and physical assaults, discrimination and poverty.
At the same time, Hedge Coke's insight is luminous: "congenital memory that of belonging by nature to landscapes runs the deepest of all the rivers of the earth." Her book remembers many landscapes-from North Carolina, the Tsalagi (Cherokee) homeland, to Texas, to Oklahoma, to California, to Georgia, and finally to South Dakota.
Hedge Coke barely survived the sixties and seventies as a teenager living on her own without protection or guidance. Again and again, it was the stories her father told her of their Tsalagi traditions and values that helped her survive. The Cherokee, her father told her, are "relatives of deer." He provided a stable source of love and respect for her and always trusted that his wife's mind would heal. Hedge Coke first moved out of her parents' home at the age of nine.