Novel by Christina Carson
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Quote from Suffer the Little Children:
"Perhaps what we call misfortune is actually a place where the universe interrupts our habits that keep life so limited and small, forcing us to respond differently. The opportunity it offers depends on how hard we work to close the gap or hold it open, allowing ourselves to glimpse realities we've never glimpsed before."
Novel by Christina Carson
Quote from Dying to Know:
"I knew in that moment, we were never meant to surrender our childlike innocence, to trade a world in which we fit like a glove for one that hung on us like ill-fitting hand-me-downs. However, all about us insisted on our membership. And instead of a handshake or a mystical password as entrance into this spurious society, we agreed instead to share a lie, the one that says we’re safe, secure, and fulfilled living this way."
A book sits on the short shelf above our bed where I keep my treasures. It is a book that elicited heated debates, accusations, cruel judgments and little praise when first published. It was commissioned, in a sense, by a man in his seventh decade, a man who was one of the few remaining who still knew the suppressed songs and ceremonies of the Dakotah. His name was Chunksa Yuha, and for forty years, he searched for a writer to record what he knew. He said many approached him, wanting an “as told to” story, all looking for the blood, gore and glory of a warrior saga, but none agreed to take the time, years most likely, “to enter into an understanding of the Indian as a man of habitual spiritual consciousness.” That is how Chunksa Yuha described it. To do this, according to Chunksa Yuha, the writer would have to discard almost every concept relative to Indians formulated by the whiteman. In other words, whoever was to write this book had to lay aside their notions about most everything in their world and step into another, one that was neither fantasy nor fiction; one that housed the hearts and minds of a race of people so truly in touch with the nature of life that it disturbed our race deeply.
Ruth Beebe and Chunksa Yuha
You may think of disturbing books as those that are filled with the horror mankind is capable of, but I suggest that the most disturbing books are those that reveal to us our undeveloped capacities to live expressly as our true nature instructs us to, were we to listen. Thus, Hanta Yo, was a disturbing book and Ruth Beebe Hill spent twenty years bringing it to life. To do it, she had to learn the language clear down to its idiom. Language is that powerful, that transformative, that creative. And like it or not, admit to it or not, language suggests something about us that we have yet to own. So when a book comes along that describes fellow human beings who did not disavowal the awareness and responsibilities that accrue naturally to our species, it is definitely disturbing to many.
Chunksa Yuha said that the writer had to start by understanding what Indians meant by the word, spiritual, how they began with the spirit of man and worked down through the laws of the universe: Taku skanskan, something-in-movement, spiritual vitality.
We mistakenly think that the world exists, and we come along and describe it through language. What if it were the other way round, that we create the world with our thoughts and words; that rather than scribes, we are artists?
In the Dakotah language, the following words, plus the concepts for which they stood, did not exist: admit, assume, because, believe, could, doubt, end, expect, faith, forget, forgive, guilt, how, it, mercy, pest, promise, should, sorry, storm, them, us, waste, we, weed. Notice what notions you'd have to abandon to accommodate that list.
We as writers are the keepers of language and thus the most active creators of worlds. That's a great deal to be answerable for. What would a Dakotah Sioux have suggested in the face of such responsibility? Well since they didn’t have the concepts supported by words like because, sorry, assume or end, for starters, they likely would have said something like: Be as you are. Know what that is. Live only that.