An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo


Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, colonization and oppression, transgenerational and intergenerational trauma

Friends and fellow readers, what an incredible read. This was such an impactful reading experience. How often do you hear someone talk about the various Trail of Tears and the way Native Americans have been impacted throughout history? Not very often. While this book is ownvoices for the Mvskoke representation (the author is Mvskoke), I can’t speak for this experience. I’m not Mvskoke, I’m Apache and so please take my opinions with a grain of salt. But I truly loved this book and I think many readers who want to diversify their reading and hear one voice about one of the many Trail of Tears, this is a great book to start with.

β€œThe heart is a fist. It pockets prayer or holds rage.”

This book is a collection of poems and history woven together about the early 1800s when the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their homes, their original land, just east of the Mississippi, to the Indian Territory which is now part of Oklahoma. Harjo ends up returning to her homelands and discusses an abundance of emotions, about her family, and history.

When I say this book took a piece of me, I mean it truly chipped a piece of my soul and kept it for itself. The swirl of emotions and feelings I felt while reading this were enough to sink a whole ship. There is so much hardship, grief, a large sense of loss and heartbreak, but there’s also love and hope laced throughout this book. This was the first work by Harjo that I have read and after reading this, I just want to pick up even more of her work.

Some of my favorite pieces from this book are the following:

πŸŒ„ Once I looked at the moon

πŸŒ„ Rising and Falling

πŸŒ„ Falling from the Night Sky

πŸŒ„ Rabbit Invents the Saxophone

πŸŒ„ Let There Be No Regrets

πŸŒ„ Tobacco Origin Story

πŸŒ„ Beyond

β€œI was taught to give honor to the house of warriors. Which cannot exist without the house of the peacemakers.”

Overall, I enjoyed this and as I mentioned, if you’re looking for books by Native American authors talking about The Trail of Tears, this is a great book to start with. The author weaves such an important picture for those who have never done any independent research of The Trail of Tears or looked for those talking about their family’s history with The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears is one of the most important pieces of colonization of the United States and I can’t express enough how important it is to listen to First Nation voices of their experiences.

Special thank you to Donna from Momsbookcollection for gifting this book!


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