08 Encouragement Song.mp3

March 31, 2011

Review of The Elder

Author Manny Moreno was kind enough to send me a copy of his book The Elder. An excerpt from the book's introduction tells what it's about:

Manny Moreno SiteManny Moreno’s book The Elder is about many things--loss, tribute, grief, brokenness, the mending power of ceremony—but above all, his book is a plea for the reintegration of elders into the fabric of our culture. Moreno’s book documents his long (and often thorny) relationship with revered Navajo elder and prayer man Harry Jack, especially his last years when he was changing from a spirited and healthy 500-mile runner to an increasingly incapacitated elder requiring a great deal of vigilance and attention. He is mugged on the streets, suffers strokes, and must be accompanied by someone at all times because, after his strokes, he is unsteady and capable of hurting himself. In spite of Jack’s infirmities and his telegraphic English (his first language was Navajo), he continues to enrich the ceremonial life of the Indian community through the power of his prayer and understanding, through his availability to those in distress, and through his luminous presence evident even to elementary school children who would write him love notes after visiting.

Jack, tough and unrelenting (applying what some California Indians call the “elder hammer”), teaches the author, and many other recovering alcohol and drug addicts (at the Central Valley recovery lodge he helped sustain), the importance of health, commitment to community, and sensitivity to the suffering of others, no matter what their backgrounds. And the author, young and hardheaded when they first meet and seeking refuge from gang-infested Stockton, is not easy to teach.
More on The Elder and Manny Moreno:

Review:  In Writing A Tribute Writer Shares His Own Destiny...

Interview by Livingston Chronicle

Comment:  At 63 pages including photos, The Elder is a slight book. But I'm glad I read it.

It's relatively rare to see the struggle of urban Natives in fiction. Mysteries such as Tony Hillerman's present middle-class Native professionals. A few movies--e.g., The Exiles, Four Sheets to the Wind, and The Business of Fancydancing--and Sherman Alexie's stories give you a hint of what it's like.

Moreno survives a youth filled with alcohol and petty crime. He works menial jobs for room and board. He lives in a trailer or a friend's rented room. He shuttles between the city, a recovery center, and an occasional sweat lodge or powwow.

It could almost be a sequel to The Exiles. A couple of decades after drinking to excess, running with bad crowds, and being locked up, he's more or less hit bottom. Now he's middle-aged and searching for meaning in his life.

Enter the elder

Moreno has an off-and-on relationship with Harry Jack, a Navajo powwow dancer and prayer leader. At first, Harry treats him with disdain, yelling at him or ignoring him. Moreno has to learn patience and fortitude to endure the harsh treatment.

But when Harry has a stroke, he calls upon Moreno to help him. Moreno becomes his driver, keeper, and ceremonial assistant. He learns more about compassion and helping others. Eventually Moreno rails against those who don't visit elders like Harry or treat them with respect.

Finally, Moreno wonders who will perform the ceremonies when Harry is gone. He finds that others expect him to lead a prayer or pour water for a sweat lodge. He's come full circle, growing from a troubled young man into a respected elder himself.

If you want to know how Indians live on the margins of the white man's world, The Elder is a good start. It presents a slice of Native life we seldom see. Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

You can order the book directly from Moreno's website and have him autograph it for you.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.


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Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: In Writing A Tribute Writer Shares His Own Destiny...


The Elder: 
A Tribute

By Monolin "Manny" Moreno

I was honored to have had the opportunity to read The Elder by Monolin Moreno with Lillian Vallee, a renowned literary professor and translator, providing the Introduction. How many of us show the love we have for another through the creation of a statement of memoriam to that individual (and other elders)?

The Elder is so much more than that, for in showing his love and respect for the elders in this book, Manny Moreno has also shown us an important part of his life and the lives and rich culture of his people. I have read many fictional books that are based upon our Native Americans Indian culture and learned much, but none of them have given me the opportunity to love their characters as I did in Manny's book. For it is these individuals who have and are still trying to retain the ceremonial and prayer heritage that was once so much a part of their lives. I am grateful for that experience!

The Elder
begins as the funeral is conducted for Harry Jack and Manny comes and says a prayer to Grandfather to receive Harry Jack's spirit. But soon, Manny is enclosed within a blanket. Harry had sponsored Manny and he would be received today into the Black Wolf Gourd Clan and participate as part of that clan as honor is given to Harry Jack. It is as they dance and wept that Manny began to look back as to how he and Harry Jack had crossed paths.

It had been in the 1980's at a
powwow, when there was a dance contest. All of the young were dressed in full ceremonial garb except Harry came with just one feather. As if ordained, Harry won the contest, dancing as he had always danced so many years before... At that event, Manny stumbled literally into Harry and though he immediately apologized. Harry scolded him. This was to be the relationship that seemed to occur over and over for many years, though Manny continued to treat his elder with the respect due.

Manny begins to tell his own story at this point, sharing that his life was essentially one long drunk until one night at an AA meeting he met Chili Willie Burns and Beaver. They encouraged him to go to the Three Rivers Indian Lodge, an alcohol and substance recovery center for
Native Americans. Harry Jack was there...

And Manny was for the first time to enter the sweat lodge. While Harry talked about Indian ways, about sobriety, Manny began to feel good and at peace. But then it got hotter and hotter; that first time Manny ran out of the lodge. Harry called him crazy. Beaver came to help him back to his place.

But Manny came back to the Lodge and he stayed...

Both Harry Jack and Manny were stubborn men and they had many "run-ins" over the next decades. However, slowly the love and respect were what held them together until Harry Jack, when he had a stroke, chose Manny as his "nephew" to pour the water for him...

Manny and I are in the same situation now. We are now "the elders" of our respective families. One of the main issues that you cannot fail to miss in Manny's book, is the need to consider and reconsider the treatment of our older family members. As Lillian Vallee states, "his book is a plea for the reintegration of elders into the fabric of our culture." Now, Manny is the elder and he is called upon to give the prayers, to pour the water, to pray over a new-born... He does this while working as a laborer and living with others as possible...

The Elder must be placed on the shelves of many.  Pain of Forgiving is also in manuscript ready for publishing.

The Bridge is Gone
was Manny's first book and is available at Amazon or Back40 Publishing (click on article title to go there).


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: The Bridge is Gone! A Common Man's Must Read!

2007 PowwowImage by Smithsonian Institution via Flickr
The Bridge is Gone:
Poems by Monolin

By Monolin "Manny" Moreno

The Bridge Is Gone, ©2008, (1st)Perhaps it was because we are around the same age and have many years to look back on that I so much became involved and appreciated the poetry in The Bridge is Gone by Manny Moreno. Actually, he set me up right from the first page by adding a beautiful image, "Time." In fact, each image throughout the book took more time to study, than to read his words--they are that compelling.

Each of the five drawings, especially the one on the back cover, are worth the price of the book! Each is intricately created, with a basic collage of Indian faces, but then, somehow, nature, God, people, and love radiate from the overall effect and we, who are privileged to see them, are filled with wonder as we stop to study the symmetry, the detail, and imagination flowing from each...

As with his other book, soon to be published, Manny also includes photos from his life and his surroundings, which provides readers with a cultural "inside" that would not easily be found.

Now I must tell you about his poetry! Readers of my reviews have always wanted a sample, so I will include the last one in his book, which, in essence, seems to represent the man I am coming to know:

Common Man

There's a lot of things
I don't understand
I'm just a common man
ask me how the world was created
I'll direct you to the sky
ask me about politics
I'll say lie   cheat   genocide
Imperialistic pride
ask me about religion
I'll say man's plan
ask me about spirituality
I'll say Creator's plan
ask me about anything
I'll say who wants to know?
There's a lot of things
I don't understand
I'm just a common man.

And it is within this poem that we find the essence of this poet--he is a commoner, just like most of us, and his words easily become those that we might think or say, if only we had the gift to poetically share our thoughts. Manny takes us back to our childhood and points out so much of that time has disappeared, with what it is called progress and perhaps it is progress, but it also means that part of our memories no longer exist, except in our minds.

Manny talks of lost love, that keeps him awake, "can't sleep, for a hurt that hurts like hell..."(p. 21) and goes on to say, "I cannot love anybody if I cannot love me..." ((p. 91). But remembers well of his early life, "mom's cooking beckoning us into the house with love. (p. 65)

The most dramatic work must be "Sleepless Night in Stockton" which has 14 parts on 11 pages. Picture a single man, alone in the city, coming home to the quiet apartment, no noise, no people, only his words to help create an escape, trying to unwind, realizing how old he is, remembering his past, his family, yet  his "thoughts find themselves in travail and pow-wow in circles...A Yaqui/Tarascan maneuvering in this reservation of modern-I-zation, everyday a warrior." For he, like all of us, must hold on to what we are..

And then Manny Moreno sings, prays...and catches some z's...

An Introduction provides readers with a little of this poet's personal story, along with over 50 beautifully written poetic stories to complement his days. Now he is an Elder--he has his hand drum, a rattle, sage, sweetgrass and cedar for the fire and will continue to celebrate and pray for our world--where
The Bridge is Gone! A Must-Read for we who are the common people of America...
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