Born Paula Marie Francis in Albuquerque, Allen grew up in Cubero, New Mexico, a Spanish-Mexican land grant village bordering the Laguna Pueblo reservation. Of mixed Laguna, Sioux, Scottish, and Lebanese-American descent, Allen always identified most closely with the people among whom she spent her childhood and upbringing.
Having obtained a BA and MFA from the University of Oregon, Allen gained her PhD at the University of New Mexico, where she taught and where she began her research into various tribal religions.
Allen's studies would eventually result in The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, a controversial text which argues that the accounts of Native beliefs and traditions were subverted by phallogocentric European explorers and colonizers, who downplayed or erased the central role that woman played in most Native societies. Allen argued that many Native tribes were "gynocratic", with women making the principal decisions, while others believed in absolute balance between male and female, with neither side gaining dominance.
Allen's arguments and research were much criticized in the years following publication of The Sacred Hoop. Gerald Vizenor and others have accused her of a simple reversal of essentialism, while historians and anthropologists have disproved or questioned some of her scholarship. However, her book and subsequent work also proved hugely influential, provoking an outpouring of feminist studies of Native cultures and literature. It remains a set text within many Native American Studies and Women's Studies programs.
Allen also wrote many essays of literary criticism. These often stress the sacredness of Native religions, attempting to ensure that these are treated as religions rather than being patronized as "folklore" or "myths".
Allen was well-known as a novelist, poet and short story writer. Her work, like that of fellow Laguna writer Leslie Marmon Silko, drew heavily on the Pueblo tales of Grandmother Spider and the Corn Maiden, and is noted for a strongly political streak.
Her novel, The Woman Who Owned The Shadows, was published in 1983. The story revolves around Ephanie, a mixed-blood like Allen herself, and her struggle to express herself creatively. As a poet, Allen's most successful collection so far is probably Life Is a Fatal Disease : Collected Poems 1962-1995. Allen has also been responsible for a number of collections of Native American writings, including Spider Womans Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women.
Allen's work has been categorized as belonging to the Native American Renaissance, though she herself rejected the label.
Allen was awarded an American Book Award by the Before Columbus Foundation, the Native American Prize for Literature, the Susan Koppelman Award, and in 2001 she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.
Paula Gunn Allen, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123898)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions by Paula Gunn Allen
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press (September 1, 1992)
Amazon: The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
This pioneering work, first published in 1986, documents the continuing vitality of American Indian traditions and the crucial role of women in those traditions.
The Woman Who Owned the Shadows by Paula Gunn Allen
Paperback: 225 pages
Publisher: Aunt Lute Books (January 1, 1995)
Amazon: The Woman Who Owned the Shadows
First novel by & about a Native woman in 50 years.
Life Is a Fatal Disease: Selected Poems, 1962-1995 by Paula Gunn Allen
Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: West End Press; 1st Edition edition (December 31, 1997)
Amazon: Life Is a Fatal Disease: Selected Poems, 1962-1995
This omnibus collection richly reflects the experience of its already legendary author, invoking myth and history, tragedy and comedy, narrative and lyric, nightmare and the clear light of day. Allen works in a great tradition of storytelling and education, delight-making and argument to bring a multitude of people, places, and situations before us. Particularly compelling is the variety of her poetic skills: her rich references, her lyrical flights, and, always, her earnest and compassionate voice.
Born in Cubero, New Mexico, a Spanish land grant village adjacent to Laguna Pueblo, Allen is of Laguna/Sioux/Lebanese/Scotch-American descent. Her mother's Laguna people are Keres speakers. Her father, Lee Francis, who grew up speaking Spanish and Arabic, went on to become lieutenant governor of New Mexico (1967-1970). Among the numerous books written and edited by Paula Gunn Allen are Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Woman and The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Tradition. She is professor of English at UCLA.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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