Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


In his User's Manual, David Treuer reviews many of the works of contemporary Native American writers as well as Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and Asa Carter to demonstrate that "there is no such thing as Native American Literature-at least, no such thing as Native American novels anyway." For Treuer, good literature is good literature and the standards that govern the great works of Western literature govern novels by Native writers. He sees the inclusion of myth, oral tradition, and ceremony as a longing for culture and not culture itself and believes that readers and writers have misconstrued artistic structure for authenticity.

Certainly he has a point if one were to look at criticism of Native American literature from the 1970s and 1980s, but both the positions of writers and the approaches of critics in the 1990s did not lean in that direction. Fortunately for Treuer, he did not really need to look at much criticism to make his points. His whole section on Silko's Ceremony ignores the vast scholarship of thirty years, because, though the novel takes place in Laguna Pueblo, he finds more relevant connections to Chateaubriand, Hemingway, and Luke Skywalker. "The problem-and this extends to most other Native American novels-with interpreting Ceremony," he writes, "is one of orientation: it is fruitless to ask about where the book is coming from. It is much more interesting to look at where it is going and to ask how the reader is being carried along." Many scholars have done this, and Silko even suggests answers to the question. The reader may be carried to new perspectives on a different worldview, and the characters return to reestablish a new equilibrium at their places of origin.