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Paula Gunn Allen Biography

(1939– ), Studies in American Indian Literature: Critical Essays and Course Designs

American writer of mixed Laguna/Sioux and Lebanese descent, born in New Mexico, educated at the Universities of Oregon and New Mexico. She is the cousin of Leslie Marmon Silko. Allen held a number of academic posts before joining the Native American Studies programme at the University of California at Berkeley. Her writing is inseparable from her political activism as a feminist, pacifist, and environmentalist. As editor of Studies in American Indian Literature: Critical Essays and Course Designs (1983) she has done much to popularize the teaching of Native American literature. Allen sees feminism as synonymous with tribal heritage, an identification explored in her study The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986) and given imaginative treatment in her novel The Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983) in which traditional legends, images, and motifs are used to describe the struggle for survival of a woman of mixed blood; Grandmothers of the Light (1992) presents Indian tribal myths. In her writing Allen explores the values of a woman-centred culture which were lost to Native American women with the white invasion of North America. In volumes of poetry such as Shadow Country (1982) and Skins and Bones: Poems 1979–87 (1988), she draws upon female traditions which celebrate continuance in contrast with male traditions of war and death. See also Native American Literature.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Agha Shahid Ali Biography to Ardoch Perth and Kinross