Keeper of the Delaware Dolls

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9780803287594: Keeper of the Delaware Dolls

Rich in images and gently told, Keeper of the Delaware Dolls is the story of a Delaware Indian woman, Lynette Perry, and the remarkable life she has led in rural Oklahoma throughout the twentieth century. As Perry reflects, hers is a life "lived to old rhythms played by a country fiddle and an Indian drum," a fluid merging of square dances and Delaware stomp dances. Through her eyes, readers are afforded a rare glimpse of how the world of the Delawares has persisted and remained meaningful into the modern era. A recurring theme in Perry’s life has been the making and keeping of dolls, a practice joining her to her female Delaware ancestors. Her great-grandmother Wahoney (Ma Wah Taise) was a doll keeper who died at the age of 108 in 1909. Believing the Delawares’ old world to have slipped away, Wahoney asked that her dolls be buried with her. Unlike her great-grandmother, however, Perry feels that the abiding force of traditional Delaware culture has returned to her, time and again, throughout her long life. In an effort to connect to her Native past, she has revived the doll-making craft.

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About the Author:

Lynette Perry was born in 1914 near Dewey, Oklahoma. She has lived her long and productive life within fifty miles of her birthplace. Manny Skolnick, a freelance writer, is the coauthor of Where Courage Is Like a Wild Horse: The World of an Indian Orphanage (Nebraska 1997), a memoir by Sharon Skolnick, Perry’s daughter.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A notable memoir of Native American life. Working with Chicago-based freelance writer Skolnick, Delaware Indian artist Perry tells of her 82 years in rural Oklahoma. Her way of storytelling is self-effacing, humorous, and instantly appealing: she opens by remarking, ``I want to start off by saying that I'm not the kind of person who thinks my life is so important that it needs to be in a book,'' and then, throughout the narrative that follows, shows that she's in fact just the kind of person whose life deserves chronicling at book lengthas distinct from, say, the usual political operative/movie celebrity/sports star memoirists whose works now clog the shelves. The past lives in the present, Perry insists as she recounts the events that have shaped her life. In her instance, it lives quite literally through the medium of the storyteller dolls that she carves, an art she learned from her grandmother. Those dolls, in ribbon dresses and buckskin, help preserve the folk memory of the Delaware people, removed long ago from the East Coast, and Perry is an acknowledged master of the art. This book extends that memory onto the page, preserving shared narratives of the Delaware alongside Perry's own reminiscences of family and friends. (Of her mother, she writes, for instance, ``Mama was the daughter of a time and place that held Annie Oakley to be a model woman, and she could shoot a gun and ride a horse with the best of them.'') Perry writes knowingly and without rancor of the forces that have worked to destroy the Delaware and other Indian nations' cultural traditions, ``a wind,'' as she says, ``that I don't think I have to name.'' With luck, young American Indians who read her story will seek to recover their own families' pasts so that they live comfortably in the present. General readers will find much of value in Perry's pages as well. (17 photos, map, not seen) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Perry, Lynette, Skolnick, Manny
Published by Bison Books (1999)
ISBN 10: 0803287593 ISBN 13: 9780803287594
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Lynette Perry, Manny Skolnick
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