Our next read for Native American Literature Book Club, hosted by the Center for Poets and Writers at OSU-Tulsa, is ROCK, GHOST, WILLOW, DEER, by Allison Hedge Coke. Allison will be joining us!
From the Publisher, University of Nebraska Press:
Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s searching account of her life as a mixed-heritage woman. In a style at once elliptical and achingly clear, Hedge Coke details her mother’s schizophrenia; the domestic and community abuse overshadowing her childhood; and torments both visited upon her—(rape and violence) and inflicted on herself (alcohol and drug abuse during her youth). 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 life-revelations guiding the award-winning poet and writer through her many trials, as well as her labors in tobacco fields, factories, construction, and fishing; her motherhood; her involvement with music and performance; and the melding of language and experience that brought order to her life. Hedge Coke shares insights gathered along the way, insights touching on broader Native issues such as modern life in the diaspora; lack of a national eco-ethos; the threat of alcohol, drug abuse, and violence; and the ongoing onslaught on self amid a complex, mixed heritage.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke was born in Amarillo, Texas, on August 4, 1958, and grew up in North Carolina, Canada, and on the Great Plains. In her initial days of high school, Hedge Coke dropped out and went to work sharecropping tobacco, working fields and waters to support herself. She had already been working in factories, fields, and food service on a North Carolina child work permit since early youth. She finished her GED at sixteen years old and went on to study photography, traditional arts, and writing in community education classes at North Carolina State University. Hedge Coke moved to Tennessee and then California, where she participated in retraining for former field workers, studied performing arts, and completed a play, Icicles. She received an AFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and then took the GRE, skipping her bachelor’s degree to earn an MFA in poetry from Vermont College.
Hedge Coke, who is of mixed heritage, frequently addresses issues of culture, prejudice, Indigenous rights, the environment, peace, violence, abuse, and labor in her poetry and other creative works. She has authored six full-length books of poetry: Look At This Blue (Coffee House Press, 2022); Burn (MadHat Press, 2017); Streaming (Coffee House Press, 2014), winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Native Writers Circle of the Americas, a 2015 PEN Southwest Book Award, and a Bronze Medal in the 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Blood Run (Salt Publishing, 2006); Off-Season City Pipe (Coffee House Press, 2005); and Dog Road Woman (Coffee House Press, 1997), winner of the 1998 American Book Award and a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. In 2004, she also published a memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival (University of Nebraska Press), about her cultural heritage, her childhood growing up with a schizophrenic mother, and her struggles with substance abuse and domestic violence.
Our friends at Whitty Books have ROCK, GHOST, WILLOW, DEER in stock. We’ll see you there!