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Reviewed by:
  • Leslie Marmon Silko's Storyteller: New Perspectives ed. by Catherine Rainwater
  • René Dietrich
Catherine Rainwater, ed., Leslie Marmon Silko's Storyteller: New Perspectives. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 2016. 192 pp. Cloth, $55.

The publication of this collection on Leslie Marmon Silko's second major work, following Ceremony (1977), is both timely (considering the revised edition published in 2012 with Penguin) and important in shedding new light on Storyteller (1981) as a crucial work in Silko's oeuvre and a central text in the canon of Indigenous life writing. Catherine Rainwater's succinct introduction aptly places the book within Native traditions of storytelling, both oral and written, and within Silko's larger body of work. In particular, her discussion of Silko's recent comments on Storyteller's revised edition allows us to see it not only as a finished product but as part of an evolving creative process that continues to bear on Silko's writing, including her 2010 memoir, The Turquoise Ledge. In addition, Rainwater identifies Storyteller's central critical issues, predominant among them its proximity to oral tradition and its structural complexities in mixing multiple literary genres and photographs as part of a unified composition. The ensuing chapters continue and expand on these considerations, while pursuing additional issues such as race and space, the context of the book's 1980s publication, and Storyteller's value for teaching theory.

Rainwater groups the chapters loosely into three sections: the first reconsidering Storyteller's "epistemological ground" (12), the [End Page 355] second revisiting questions of genre, and the third taking up "the critical reception of Storyteller over the years" (17). The first three chapters explore issues of relationality and continuities in Native and Laguna Pueblo epistemology. Susan L. Dunston argues that the theory of storytelling underlying Silko's text is based on Laguna Pueblo and Indigenous ways of knowing, a "Storytelling Science" whose emphasis on relationality and situatedness differentiates it from a universalizing principle of Western science (21). Complementary to that, Nancy J. Peterson's theorization of Silko's storytelling draws on Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe's concept of tribalography, arguing that Howe's theory on the characteristics and impact of Native storytelling allows us to see Silko's Laguna Pueblo place-based stories of past and present as a means of envisioning "future stories of Native presence and empowerment" (41). This formative idea of relationality is explored further in Lee Schweninger's chapter, which argues for a serious consideration not only of text-image, but also image-image relations in order to comprehend the scope of Storyteller's poetics more fully.

Although David L. Moore's chapter stands at the beginning of the section on genre, its shared interest in interconnectedness also illuminates the fluidity among the sections. Moore considers Storyteller in relation to Silko's habit of shifting from fiction to memoir in the progression of her work, alternating her storytelling within the grounding "real" after pursuing it in the realm of fiction. He also indicates the centrality of dialogism not only within her novels but across her different iterations of genre. In the following essay, Elizabeth Archuleta takes a compelling look at Storyteller's structural complexities, refusing to dismiss episodes outside of Laguna Pueblo territory as anomalous, viewing them instead as part of Silko's larger effort to examine issues of racializing space and spatializing race. Linda Krumholz's conclusion to this chapter grouping evokes Dunston's contribution, proposing an Indigenous theory of language underwriting Storyteller that can cause direct change in the world, which she contrasts with a poststructuralist emphasis on how language works foremost to affect an audience's subjectivity.

Among the concluding chapters, David Stirrup makes a strong case for how the promotion of Storyteller as the "Native American [End Page 356] Roots" illuminates the problematics of subsuming minority texts under a multiculturalist umbrella that works to elide both aesthetic and political specificities of an Indigenous text like Silko's. And Ami M. Regier provides an overview of how Storyteller can be productively used for teaching theory.

Taken together, the contributions display multiple perspectives from which readers can approach Storyteller productively. The volume might also have profited from contributions in addition to...


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pp. 355-357
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