Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer


Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer

A Story of Survival

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

American Indian Lives Series

206 pages

eBook (EPUB)
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August 2021


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January 2014


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May 2004


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About the Book

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, Metis, 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.

Author Bio

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Oklahoma, is a Great Plains Fellow at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is the author of The Year of the Rat, Dog Road Woman (winner of the American Book Award), Off-Season City Pipe, and Blood Run, and she most recently edited Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas and Effigies.


"This is a harrowing book. Statistics about alcoholism and family violence among dispossessed American Indians fail to show the sheer human suffering it causes and the personal heroism of those who struggle through to an integrated life. Hedge Coke was endowed by her Cherokee father with insights into the Indian way of life, but the pressures of prejudice and her mother's insanity drove her into years of drug and alcohol abuse as well as into abusive relationships. She writes in a stately, unashamed manner of beatings and binges, always connecting her personal sufferings to the larger questions of how Indian people can reclaim their cultural and personal pride and authority."—Booklist

“Razor-sharp. . . . [Hedge Coke’s] award-winning skills as a poet bring another element of sharpness to her book—crisp sentences full of detail. Her carefully chosen words are like snapshots in their ability to capture her struggle just to remain alive and, later, her journey to a place of peace. . . . It’s a journey that slashes at reader’s emotions but also celebrates the ability of the human spirit to battle on and the power of the author to let us share the road with her.”—Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette