Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s searching account of her life as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Huron, Métis, and Cherokee heritage. In a style at once elliptical and achingly clear, Hedge Coke details her mother’s schizophrenia; the domestic and community abuse overshadowing her childhood; and torments both visited upon her—(rape and violence) and inflicted on herself (alcohol and drug abuse during her youth). Yet she managed to survive with her dreams and her will, her sense of wonder and promise undiminished.
The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to life-revelations guiding the award-winning poet and writer through her many trials, as well as her labors in tobacco fields, factories, construction, and fishing; her motherhood; her involvement with music and performance; and the melding of language and experience that brought order to her life. Hedge Coke shares insights gathered along the way, insights touching on broader Native issues such as modern life in the diaspora; lack of a national eco-ethos; the threat of alcohol, drug abuse, and violence; and the ongoing onslaught on self amid a complex, mixed heritage.