Miranda (English/Washington and Lee Univ.; The Zen of La Llorona, 2005, etc.) blends narrative, poetry, photos, anthropological recordings and more into a mosaic of memory of her own life and that of her people, the California Indians.
“The arc of leather, sharp edges of cured hide, instrument of punishment coming from two hundred years out of the past,” writes the author about yet another beating of her brother by her violent, alcoholic father. She ties this personal violence to the historical violence of the padres of the California missions, who, through beatings, torture, rape and enslavement, decimated and broke the California Indians. Miranda rails against turning this saga into a “Mission Fantasy Fairy Tale,” and through history, contemporary accounts and newspaper clippings, she reveals the brutality behind the myth. And what of the legacy of this brutality? Was her father, from whom she inherited her Indian blood, blindingly violent as the only way he knew how to survive? To survive the padres’ past, need the victims become destroyers? Neglected, abandoned, terrorized, raped (by a neighbor) as a child, Miranda slowly found her way through writing and through the work and hope that the surviving California Indians might rebuild in creative new ways their lost lives. This is not a linear narrative; present and past weave together, historical account leaves off for poetry and lyrical fantasy, the personal and political collide. This is confusing at times and does not always work, but such weakness is overcome by the bold beauty of Miranda’s words.
A searing indictment of the ravages of the past and a hopeful look at the courage to confront and overcome them.