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Visiting Writers Series: Best-selling Novelist and Poet Leslie Marmon Silko

BOONE–Painting with the images and colors of her native New Mexico, Leslie Marmon Silko takes readers on a magical journey of ghost dances and sacred rituals, and of hardship and hope.

Turning oral history into written word, the best-selling author has become a master of Native American literature.

Her personal heritage of Native American, Caucasian and Mexican backgrounds results in stories of extraordinary courage as once separate worlds collide. Silko will read from her works and answer questions at Appalachian State University during the Visiting Writers Series’ annual Kathy Fitzpatrick Memorial Reading April 4, 7:30 p.m. in the Linville Falls Room of the Plemmons Student Union.

The feeling of the story is what the Laguna Pueblo Native American seeks to convey in her works. “If you can remember the stories, you will be all right,” Silko said her elders taught her. “Just remember the stories.”

She’s done more than just remember. Silko has created a legacy of novels, short stories, poetry and essays for all people of America’s southwest.

Her recurring themes are heavily influenced by her family background, ancestors’ participation in community affairs, continuing Laguna culture interfacing with Euramerican culture, as well as her personal experiences and travels in the southwest.

“If you begin to look at the core of the importance of the language and how it fits in with the culture, it is the story and the feeling of the story which matters more than what language it’s told in,” she said. “I don’t think about Indian and white. What I wanted to do was clarify the interrelationship between the stories I had heard and my sense of storytelling and language that had been give to me by the old folks. I developed these elements in prose, into fiction and into poetry, moving from what was basically an oral tradition into a written tradition.”

Part of a Native American Renaissance, Silko draws on her tribal heritage. Major influences in Silko’s life were family and community members who reinforced the Laguna traditional culture and their adaptability to an ever-changing world.

Silko’s work has been widely studied and anthologized. She is author of the bestseller, “Almanac of the Dead” and the modern classic “Ceremony” as well as other publications, including “Storyteller,” “Sacred Water” and her most recent novel “Gardens in the Dunes.”

Silko taught in a number of colleges and universities in New Mexico, Arizona and spent several years in Alaska. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and a MacArthur Foundation grant.

Dawn Medlin and the friends of Kathy Fitzpatrick sponsor the reading. Co-directed by Lynn Doyle, Jade Huynh and Susan Weinberg, the VWS is supported by community sponsors Mildred Luckhardt and Robert Moren.

The series is funded by North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment of the Arts; Watauga County Arts Council’s Grassroots Fund; Wordwide: Writers of the America; Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of University Advancement, University Bookstore, Equity Office, Office of Multicultural Student Development, Women’s Center, Humanities Program, Appalachian Cultural Museum, Friends of Kathy Fitzpatrick, The Appalachian Journal and the Richard T. Barker Friends of the University Library; The Gideon Ridge Inn and Red Onion Restaurant.

Parking is available in any university lot after 5 p.m. For daytime guest parking, call the university’s traffic office at (828) 262-2878. Call Susan Weinberg (828) 262-2871 or Jade Huynh (828) 262-2313 for more information about readings, sponsorships, scholarships, or directions.