Gardens in the Dunes

A Novel

Gardens in the Dunes

A sweeping, multifaceted tale of a young Native American pulled between the cherished traditions of a heritage on the brink of extinction and an encroaching white culture, Gardens in the Dunes is the powerful story of one woman’s quest to reconcile two worlds that are diametrically opposed.

At the center of this struggle is Indigo, who is ripped from her tribe, the Sand Lizard people, by white soldiers who destroy her home and family. Placed in a government school to learn the ways of a white child, Indigo is rescued by the kind-hearted Hattie and her worldly husband, Edward, who undertake to transform this complex, spirited girl into a “proper” young lady. Bit by bit, and through a wondrous journey that spans the European continent, traipses through the jungles of Brazil, and returns to the rich desert of Southwest America, Indigo bridges the gap between the two forces in her life and teaches her adoptive parents as much as, if not more than, she learns from them.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 480 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684863320 | 
  • April 2000
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Reading Group Guide

Gardens in the Dunes
Discussion Points

1. Do you consider this a feminist novel, or simply a novel that features strong female characters? Is there a difference between the two?
2. Motherhood is a strong theme throughout the novel. What does this book suggest about the importance of mothers and mothering? Could the book be viewed as an argument for a matriarchal society?
3. Many of the male characters in the book disappoint or deceive their mates. Both Edward and Candy eventually drop out of the narrative, and even the Messiah himself fails to reappear. The novel's final pages depict the women characters taking care of themselves and one another. What is the significance of this? How do you feel about Silko's portrayal of men? Are men expendable in the world she creates?
4. What is Edward's ultimate failing? Is he naive? Is he a poor businessman? Does he simply encounter bad luck? Could one argue that he is punished because he sullies his passions for botany and archaeology with dubious financial schemes? What does the book say about the dangers of materialism and the consequences of putting a price on natural treasures?
5. Compare Indigo's spiritual, survivalist relationship to nature with Edward's scientific, capitalist approach. Does the book suggest that one is more ethical than the other? Do the events of the book support the idea that we have a moral responsibility toward the natu see more

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About the Author

Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko, a former professor of English and fiction writing, is the author of novels, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, and screenplays. She has won numerous awards and fellowships for her work. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.