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Painted Turtle: Woman with Guitar

Clarence Major

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

This novel, narrated by Baldy, a Navajo/Hopi guitar player, tells the story of Zuni folk singer Painted Turtle, from her childhood experiences on the reservation to her performances in cantinas in the Southwest. First published in 1988 and long out of print, this work from Clarence Major follows Painted Turtle as she seeks to assuage the spiritual sicknesses that have shaped her uneasy relationships with family, friends, and her tribe.


An award-winning painter and author of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, Clarence Major is a distinguished professor emeritus of twentieth-century American literature at the University of California, Davis. His novel My Amputations, winner of a Western States Book Award, was reissued in 2008.


“Major brings his characters to life with the accretion of specific details. Even so, his novel is distinctly spiritual, emphasizing the significance of traditional beliefs in the lives of Painted Turtle and her family.”


Publishers Weekly

“Haunting, evocative. . . . A lyrical story of two Indian artists searching for their roots in modern-day America.”


Kirkus Reviews

“Major has written a novel in which American Indian life is not violated by outsiders; his achievement in this novel suggests that he is one of the important contemporary writers of the American Indian tradition.”



5 x 7.5 in. 160 pages