66 Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko (1948- )

“Yellow Woman”

Native American

Contemporary Literature

Leslie Marmon Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but was raised in Laguna Pueblo. She is a talented poet and prose writer, whose work incorporates elements of Native American storytelling traditions. She studied English at the University of New Mexico, and graduated with honors. After her graduation, she published her first story, “Tony’s Song.” She briefly studied law, but left the program to pursue a graduate degree in English. In 1974, she published several stories in Kenneth Rosen’s anthology, The Man to Send Rain Clouds: Contemporary Stories by American Indians. Her first novel, Ceremony, a World War II veteran’s attempts to find peace after the war, was published in 1977, to critical acclaim. The novel led to Silko being awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. In her writing, Silko commonly addresses ideas of healing and reconciling conflicts (cultural, spiritual, internal). “Yellow Woman” was first published in The Man to Send Rain Clouds: Contemporary Stories by American Indians. It is one of her most commonly anthologized pieces. In the story, Silko explores the Laguna tradition of Yellow Woman, who is often abducted, taken to the spirit world, and later returns with a great power that helps her people. Whether or not the characters from the story are Yellow Woman and other spirits is something that Silko does not clarify. The uncertainty is a compelling aspect of the story.

Consider while reading:

  1. How does Silko’s work draw from the storytelling traditions of the Laguna Pueblo people?
  2. What commentary is Silko making about identity?
  3. Discuss Silko’s symbolic use of color in the story.
  4. What is the significance of geography in the text?

Written by Laura Ng


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