Speak Like Singing

Classics of Native American Literature
By Kenneth Lincoln



Speak Like Singing focuses on select Native American writers showcasing the distinct voices and tribal diversities of living Indians. Through the pan-tribal medium of English, a second language for some and now a mother tongue for most, many of these Native writers begin as poets and go on to write novels. Pulitzer novelist and Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday says, "I believe that a good many Indian writers rely upon a kind of poetic expression out of necessity, a necessary homage to the native tradition."

Black Elk remembers the wanékia or "make-live" prophet of his Lakota Ghost Dance vision "spoke like singing." The leaves, grasses, waters, leggéds, wingéds, and crawling beings all listened and danced. "They were better able now to see the greenness of the world," Black Elk says, after heyoka curing songs, "the wideness of the sacred day, the colors of the earth, and to set these in their minds." This book honors that talk-song vision for all relatives.

"Scholar, novelist, and essayist Ken Lincoln blends his fierce cultural commitments and propulsive, lyrical prose in page after page of this passionate yet reference-rich book, persuading us that native dream songs, ritual liturgies, trickster narratives, and modern novels deserve to sit at every table of American literature."--Peter Nabokov, author of Native American Testimony and Where Lightning Strikes

"Lincoln is that rarity among literary critics, a paragon of empathy and generosity; he immerses himself, he rejoices in it. The proof lies in the burn and torsion of his prose that heartens his intelligence and extraordinary learning."--Cal Bedient, author of Eight Contemporary Poets

American Indian authors included:
Sherman Alexie
Sherwin Bitsui
Louise Erdrich
Joy Harjo
Linda Hogan
N. Scott Momaday
Greg Sarris
Leslie Silko
Luci Tapahonso
James Welch

Contributor Bios
Adopted into the Oglala Sioux by the Mark Monroe family in his western Nebraska hometown, Kenneth Lincoln is professor of literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has written six books in American Indian Studies, including Native American Renaissance, The Good Red Road, Indi'n Humor, and Sing with the Heart of a Bear, and White Boyz Blues.