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The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir

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"I sat down to write a book about pain and ended up writing about love," says award-winning Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan. In this book, she recounts her difficult childhood as the daughter of an army sergeant, her love affair at age fifteen with an older man, the legacy of alcoholism, the troubled history of her adopted daughters, and her own physical struggles "I sat down to write a book about pain and ended up writing about love," says award-winning Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan. In this book, she recounts her difficult childhood as the daughter of an army sergeant, her love affair at age fifteen with an older man, the legacy of alcoholism, the troubled history of her adopted daughters, and her own physical struggles since a recent horse accident. She shows how historic and emotional pain are passed down through generations, blending personal history with stories of important Indian figures of the past such as Lozen, the woman who was the military strategist for Geronimo, and Ohiesha, the Santee Sioux medical doctor who witnessed the massacre at Wounded Knee. Ultimately, Hogan sees herself and her people whole again and gives an illuminating story of personal triumph. "This wise and compassionate offering deserves to be widely read."—Publishers Weekly, starred review


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"I sat down to write a book about pain and ended up writing about love," says award-winning Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan. In this book, she recounts her difficult childhood as the daughter of an army sergeant, her love affair at age fifteen with an older man, the legacy of alcoholism, the troubled history of her adopted daughters, and her own physical struggles "I sat down to write a book about pain and ended up writing about love," says award-winning Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan. In this book, she recounts her difficult childhood as the daughter of an army sergeant, her love affair at age fifteen with an older man, the legacy of alcoholism, the troubled history of her adopted daughters, and her own physical struggles since a recent horse accident. She shows how historic and emotional pain are passed down through generations, blending personal history with stories of important Indian figures of the past such as Lozen, the woman who was the military strategist for Geronimo, and Ohiesha, the Santee Sioux medical doctor who witnessed the massacre at Wounded Knee. Ultimately, Hogan sees herself and her people whole again and gives an illuminating story of personal triumph. "This wise and compassionate offering deserves to be widely read."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

30 review for The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    The West has been vanishing almost since it was first inhabited by Europeans, and as a Native American writer, Hogan is devoted to the recovery of what has been nearly lost -- in particular, the culture and history of Native American tribes. This collection of personal essays, part memoir, argues that history lives, often unacknowledged, in our bodies. The catastrophe of shattered Indian cultures lives on, generations later, in the shattered lives of so many descendants of those tribes. Hogan is The West has been vanishing almost since it was first inhabited by Europeans, and as a Native American writer, Hogan is devoted to the recovery of what has been nearly lost -- in particular, the culture and history of Native American tribes. This collection of personal essays, part memoir, argues that history lives, often unacknowledged, in our bodies. The catastrophe of shattered Indian cultures lives on, generations later, in the shattered lives of so many descendants of those tribes. Hogan is of Chickasaw descent, her ancestors inhabitants of what is now Tennessee and Mississippi, forcibly relocated over 100 years ago to the "Indian Territory" of Oklahoma, a journey remembered as the Trail of Tears. Her father an Army sergeant, she spent her first years in Germany, and in later years lived in Colorado. It was a difficult childhood, including a teenage "marriage" to an older man, a silent mother terrified of other people, her father often absent. She writes of her own alcoholism and adoption of two Lakota sisters, both deeply scarred emotionally by a history of severe child abuse. Hogan's book is an account of her emergence from the "dark underworld" of her early life and the discovery of her own humanity and capacity for love. There is the love for her troubled daughters and the love she learns to feel for her parents, in particular her father, who grew up as a cowboy and whose world forever made cowboys and horses appealing to her. There is much about pain in Hogan's story -- physical, emotional, spiritual. There is the pain of cultural genocide, and its aftermath in the scourge of alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence, and child abuse. There is the pain of her own troubled life and that of her daughters. There is also the pain of a debilitating physical condition, fibromyalgia. Finally, there is a near fatal accident when she falls from a runaway horse, causing a head injury and fractured pelvis and requiring many months of recovery. Besides her own story, there are illuminating ruminations in this book on memory, dreams, lost souls, horses, the body, landscapes, identity, and myth. You put the book down after the last page with a sense that you have been on a long, deeply experienced personal journey. Hogan makes reference to Andre Dubus, another writer whose life was abruptly changed by an accident. As a companion to this book, I'd recommend his collection of essays, "Broken Vessels."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carol Douglas

    This is a beautifully written books, as are all of Linda Hogan's works. Hogan is the Chickasaw Nation's writer in residence. Her many books tell of the beauty and extreme difficulty of Native Americans' lives. The Woman Who Watches over the World is her autobiography. The title is based on a statue she bought that broke but is still beautiful, and it ushers in the story of people who are broken but still full of love. Hogan was literally broken by a fall from a horse. But despite a life of pai This is a beautifully written books, as are all of Linda Hogan's works. Hogan is the Chickasaw Nation's writer in residence. Her many books tell of the beauty and extreme difficulty of Native Americans' lives. The Woman Who Watches over the World is her autobiography. The title is based on a statue she bought that broke but is still beautiful, and it ushers in the story of people who are broken but still full of love. Hogan was literally broken by a fall from a horse. But despite a life of pain, she struggles on. She tells of growing up with a mother who was silent because of her own pain, and of Linda's own struggles in her youth with alcohol. That surprised me. She has done so much to lift the human spirit that I never would have guessed that she had once been its captive. She tells of adopting Native daughters who had suffered, and believing that she could mend their injuries. She found that one's pain was too great to be healed, but the other flourished after much help. It is good of Hogan to show that a fine novelist and poet has been through great suffering but continues to watch over the world and love all of its creatures. Her nature writing is always superb.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This is the first Linda Hogan work which I've read in whole--I've read excerpts from Dwellings and The Book of Medicine. The times I've read her it's been assigned reading, and I have to say I'm not really sure how well known she is outside academia. I read this for my women's and gender studies class, where we learned a lot about systems of oppression, including race, and how these perpetuate other systems of oppression. I almost wonder if it would have been better to start with this out of all This is the first Linda Hogan work which I've read in whole--I've read excerpts from Dwellings and The Book of Medicine. The times I've read her it's been assigned reading, and I have to say I'm not really sure how well known she is outside academia. I read this for my women's and gender studies class, where we learned a lot about systems of oppression, including race, and how these perpetuate other systems of oppression. I almost wonder if it would have been better to start with this out of all her works, as it's Hogan's memoir and explains who she is. However, this isn't just Hogan's memoir, but a memoir of her people. If I had to summarize this book in one sentence, I would say it's about Hogan's experiences growing up and living as an American Indian in America. Hogan places a lot of emphasis on family and tradition and how traditions are passed down. She covers a lot of serious and explicit subject matter in this work. It is true that in some ways, non-American Indian readers might relate to certain areas of this book, such as the difficulty of passing down tradition through generations. However, as a white reader, one really isn't supposed to be able to connect with this book. To me, this whole book is about the problems that resulted because white people wanted to kick American Indians off American soil. It's about the oppression of a race. It's not only a great lesson in American history, but a reminder that American Indians still don't have great lives. Hogan writes a considerable amount about spirituality and uses intimate diction in her work. She writes about spiritual connections with land and place which no white man can have--I know I've felt connected with nature before, but not quite to the extreme that Hogan does, if that's even the word I'm looking for. This may sounds like an alienating thing, but to me it wasn't. American Indians and Americans have had very different relationships with the land, such as using every part of the buffalo versus building railroads for ourselves on the land. I found the spiritual aspects of this work to be eye-opening, and I think it's important for Americans to become more educated about American Indian culture, because understanding their relationship to the land versus ours helps us understand how we repress them and what we can do to make it right. On the back of this book, there is a quote from Hogan saying, "I sat down to write a book about pain and ended up writing about love." At many points in the work Hogan talks about how much more she and those around her thrived in a loving atmosphere. At the end of her book, she doesn't give her reader an exact call to action, but I thought her call to action was to love. Learn more about other cultures that exist in the same country as your own. Learn to love them, and gain a better understanding of they want and need to live happier lives. I think we should not only take action on our own to get this education, but works like Hogan's help with this process, and maybe eventually there will be more love between races, instead of oppression.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Reading this was like having a religious experience. I spent two days reading this in order to answer one exam question for a Women's Studies course and I am deeply moved by the stories Hogan told. For the longest time I have been in a bad place but Hogan helped me shed some light on the bad, showed me how I can change for the better "knowing that the horrible and beautiful are together in the world," and passing "the threshold into something finer." There's something tragically beautiful about Reading this was like having a religious experience. I spent two days reading this in order to answer one exam question for a Women's Studies course and I am deeply moved by the stories Hogan told. For the longest time I have been in a bad place but Hogan helped me shed some light on the bad, showed me how I can change for the better "knowing that the horrible and beautiful are together in the world," and passing "the threshold into something finer." There's something tragically beautiful about her story and the truths that are revealed. Something life-changing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Randine

    This book had an enormous impact on me. So much so that I looked Linda Hogan up and watched a 3 hour interview with her on In-Depth Books and then I requested her friendship on FB. Her story is exceptional. The first half of the book is almost too sad to read but her writing is poetic and it's impossible to not feel her love and acceptance of life generated from a Native American point of view. She has a stunning soul.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Hogan has some beautiful turns of phrase in this book, and some excellent descriptions. Beyond that, it's hard to find anything good to say. There was no story. There were probably a dozen stories interwoven, except they didn't go anywhere and coalesce into a larger point. I'm not even sure what this book was supposed to be about, except as a vehicle for Hogan to whine about how painful her life is and has been.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    This is a poet I want to keep close tabs on. Her beautiful and rending thoughts of pain illuminated many things for me and as a result, healing came. She's lived a rough life but she's hung on and has eyes for great beauty amidst suffering.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Linda Hogan's writing is insightful and lovely as always, but I wanted her to dig in a little deeper in each essay than she did--or else to weave back and forth between them and give us a little more of a sense of her life as a whole. I was really intrigued by her statement in the introduction that she wrote the book as an answer to all the young people who asked her how she survived her life, but having finished the book, I don't feel like I quite know the answer. I really enjoyed her essay col Linda Hogan's writing is insightful and lovely as always, but I wanted her to dig in a little deeper in each essay than she did--or else to weave back and forth between them and give us a little more of a sense of her life as a whole. I was really intrigued by her statement in the introduction that she wrote the book as an answer to all the young people who asked her how she survived her life, but having finished the book, I don't feel like I quite know the answer. I really enjoyed her essay collection _Dwellings_, so I'm trying to put my finger on what didn't quite work for me about this collection. I think maybe that these essays were not as thematically linked as the ones in _Dwellings_ were, and I missed having a thematic throughline?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    Very beautiful and tremendously apt sentiment. Took me a while to get through as I did not flow with the abstract organization easily. But Hogan has a gift with words which made me reminisce about the importance of writers as well as the roles of storytellers she discusses in the novel. Sharing and connecting through these means give us the power to understand intergenerational pain and struggle. From this novel there are many lessons to be learned if only we would listen.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura Avellaneda-Cruz

    I loved loved loved this book in parts. I was absorbed in it. I felt like a friend was telling me stories because there is something intimate, loving, and wise about Linda Hogan. At other parts of the book, I was lost or bored or put off by her poetic, philosophical musings. Some of the historical, scientific, or cultural literature from which she draws in her musings is very interesting and powerful for narrating certain truths about Native American history or the importance of the bones of our I loved loved loved this book in parts. I was absorbed in it. I felt like a friend was telling me stories because there is something intimate, loving, and wise about Linda Hogan. At other parts of the book, I was lost or bored or put off by her poetic, philosophical musings. Some of the historical, scientific, or cultural literature from which she draws in her musings is very interesting and powerful for narrating certain truths about Native American history or the importance of the bones of our ancestors. And some of her poetic interpretations of these ideas are incredibly poignant--I had to underline them and write them down in my journal. But other parts seem like an attempt to connect too many disparate things and a lack of an editor. Her narratives about her own life, however, are incredibly compelling, as well as her reflections on her life: why her mom may have been so full of fear and incapable of love, or why, as a 12-year-old, she was drawn into a romantic relationship with a soldier. Everything about these sections was powerful, except or those places where an editor should have intervened to prevent redundancy. Some of Hogan's words that I love: "And always, when confronted with smallness, all I wanted to have count was my own capacity to love." "There are events or times remaining from childhood that stay within a person for no known reason, as if they wait within a person for a kind of clarity or meaning." <3 <3 "As a young person coming from silences of both family and history, I had little of the language I needed to put a human life together. I was inarticulate to voice it, therefore to know it, even from within...Language is an intimacy not only with others, but even with the self. It creates a person." So, if you can slog through certain parts, the book is a beautiful narrative of hurt and healing, and very worth reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Larry Strattner

    This is one potent memoir. It is difficult for many of us to appreciate the history of indigenous people of America after the arrival of Europeans. Years of injustice, intolerance and cruelty sowed, and continue to sow seeds of dissolution and despair. Even those who immigrated to America to escape persecution and genocide never seemed to make any connection between their own plight and dreams of freedom with Native Americans. They merely robbed, raped and killed the original owners of our land This is one potent memoir. It is difficult for many of us to appreciate the history of indigenous people of America after the arrival of Europeans. Years of injustice, intolerance and cruelty sowed, and continue to sow seeds of dissolution and despair. Even those who immigrated to America to escape persecution and genocide never seemed to make any connection between their own plight and dreams of freedom with Native Americans. They merely robbed, raped and killed the original owners of our land. Many say, "get over it," "move on," but this is not so easily accomplished and the inclination of we colonists and our government has been to "contain" a problem entirely of our creation. We take this same approach with today's immigrants, "speak English to me, etc." the difference being we were the immigrants heartlessly forcing the conquered Native Americans into a mold they could not fit. All of this pain frustration and conflict is verbalized in The Woman Who Watches Over The World, and it is an eye-opener. There are heavy doses of love and hope which help you to keep your footing but the story remains tough all the way to the bone. Occasionally there is some repetition and you must read carefully to follow some threads but by and large the tale is lucid, lyrical, astounding, moving and ultimately uplifting. You will not soon forget you have read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    The book started off strong and I was intensely interested with the stories of her own adopted children and her past life with her own mother, but I grew more disinterested when the rest of the novel seemed to focus more on her pain and her accidents from falling off of the horse. I understand that this book is a book of healing and it was written as a means to cope with the pain, but it was not as effective as I would have liked it to be. Perhaps it is because I have never been in an accident l The book started off strong and I was intensely interested with the stories of her own adopted children and her past life with her own mother, but I grew more disinterested when the rest of the novel seemed to focus more on her pain and her accidents from falling off of the horse. I understand that this book is a book of healing and it was written as a means to cope with the pain, but it was not as effective as I would have liked it to be. Perhaps it is because I have never been in an accident like the one she described. I know what it's like to suffer through pain, but I also felt that some of the facts seemed out of place with the rest of the memoir. I would have liked to see more elaboration on the facts and quotes, but it just led me to believe that she was trying too hard instead and desperately wanted to include them in her work for a reason relative to her life, but not relative to the rest. The writing was good and simple, and it was an easy read. I finished it in one day.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    This book was so hard for me to read. I had to put it down several times because of the abuse she suffered, along with what other relatives suffered. It was just too sad. I have to give the author credit, tho, for having such a forgiving spirit and coming out of her experiences, both mental and physical, with a kind and loving heart. She was so in touch with her Native American background, its history, spirituality, connection with earth and sky, that she came out whole. She is a very strong wom This book was so hard for me to read. I had to put it down several times because of the abuse she suffered, along with what other relatives suffered. It was just too sad. I have to give the author credit, tho, for having such a forgiving spirit and coming out of her experiences, both mental and physical, with a kind and loving heart. She was so in touch with her Native American background, its history, spirituality, connection with earth and sky, that she came out whole. She is a very strong woman in her own right. If we all could be so grounded to come out of adversity this well, the world would be a much better place.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hiram Diaz III

    I can't say very many positive things about this book. The tone is self-pitying and self-righteous. The narrative is, it would seem, inadvertently discontinuous, aimless, and inadvertently aporetic - on the one hand, the book is supposed to be a memoir, but on the other hand, the author eventually tells her reader that she "no longer know[s] what truth there is in memory" (p.170). Hogan's heavy-handed sentimentalism, in my opinion, trivializes the very real problems she wants us to remember, pond I can't say very many positive things about this book. The tone is self-pitying and self-righteous. The narrative is, it would seem, inadvertently discontinuous, aimless, and inadvertently aporetic - on the one hand, the book is supposed to be a memoir, but on the other hand, the author eventually tells her reader that she "no longer know[s] what truth there is in memory" (p.170). Hogan's heavy-handed sentimentalism, in my opinion, trivializes the very real problems she wants us to remember, ponder, and address in the public sphere.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Smith

    A friend suggested that I read this as she felt it would assist me in my battle with chronic pain. Since I try everything I immediately ordered it and put all other books on hold. While the sections that deal with pain are extremely profound and on target, you can count them on one hand. I probably had myself set up for a book that was not to be. Therefore was disappointed. I found the writing choppy and disjointed (maybe from residual of the authors accident) and very difficult to make thoughts A friend suggested that I read this as she felt it would assist me in my battle with chronic pain. Since I try everything I immediately ordered it and put all other books on hold. While the sections that deal with pain are extremely profound and on target, you can count them on one hand. I probably had myself set up for a book that was not to be. Therefore was disappointed. I found the writing choppy and disjointed (maybe from residual of the authors accident) and very difficult to make thoughts flow.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Putnam

    During a period when the author felt relatively whole in her life, she purchased a Navajo figurine, the woman who watches over the world. Later it shattered. What happens when the a being meant to be the guardian of the world falls apart? What happens when the woman you are falls apart, when your way of seeing is shattered? Hogan, long a beloved author of mine, explores several such dismemberments in her own life and in the history of her people, the Chickasaw. A powerful story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This is for my class this semester - so I finished it, and I really found her life to be somewhat distressing because of all the things that happened, and I feel bad because alot of it is legacy from when the white settlers moved the Native Americans to reservations. But it was a very interesting book to read and to see another point of view.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    Beautiful memoir; personal history woven with tribal history. "I come from warriors," Hogan writes, "yet I can hardly speak. That's why I write this." A strong sense of healing in the book, not a relief from pain (physical or emotional) but a strength to thrive within it somehow, like the man Hogan writes about who believes he can warm himself with the beauty of fireflies.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Greathouse

    In The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir, Linda Hogan's language is beautifully written. Her sentences are spiritual and this book was a way for herself to heal her wounds. Finally getting everything out onto a page about her life cleaned her scars. This is a book I would like to re-read when I'm older to get a different perspective on it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Don Flynn

    Between a difficult upbringing, the adoption of two troubled children, and a crippling fall from a horse, I'm not sure how she ever got any writing done. But she did, and this finely wrought memoir of a native Chickasaw woman gives us a glimpse into her patient, indomitable spirit and her efforts to reconnect with her tribal identity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    I found some of this book very thoughtful and worth pondering. Some parts seemed like white man bashing. That can be OK if it helps people recognize personal prejudices so they can grow, but sometimes enough is enough. Overall I liked the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Powerful memoir written by a Native American poet and writer who not only describes her life but the condition of many of her people who have suffered loss of identity and culture and are now returning to the knowledge and traditions of their elders.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    This book is my all time favorite. Bestowed upon me by my most influential professor, Dr. Jackie Alexander of Toronto University, I have held this piece so dear to me. Linda has a way of finding beauty in pain and articulates it biologically. I appreciate her spiraled writing style.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Mundell

    It is September and I found this book in the closet thinking I had not read it. I see I just read it in March but did not recognize until I was already a couple of chapters into it. I read it all over and enjoyed it. Either that shows my senility or just how good the book really is!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I found much of the language in this book to be beautiful and poetic, but overall, many parts seemed redundant while other parts were very underdeveloped. For this being a memoir I feel like I only got a few glimpses into her life. I'm willing to try one of Hogan's novels, though.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dustin

    An important testimony of Native American life past and present, but not a book you should read before bedtime. Dustin Renwick Author, Beyond the Gray Leaf

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I admired her honesty, her rawness.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    "Maybe it was a place where words emerge form silences." -Linda Hogan There is a great section on the myth of atlantis that makes it all worth it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I adore everything Linda Hogan writes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Amelong

    Opening with, I remember the first time I saw the clay woman. I found my dead brother, standing in a barn, from reading her words!

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