"We are alive": (Mis)Reading Joy Harjo's Noni Daylight as a Yellow Woman



This essay explores author Leslie Marmon Silko’s literary influence on poet Joy Harjo in order to rejuvenate the criticism surrounding Harjo’s poetic figure Noni Daylight. Featured in What Moon Drove Me To This? (1979) and She Had Some Horses (1983), existing scholarship defines Noni Daylight as Harjo’s alter ego. Prominent Harjo scholars cast Noni Daylight as a consistent figure whose trajectory can be linearly mapped between Harjo’s early books of poetry. However, the variations in time, space, age, and personality between each iteration of Noni Daylight suggest that she functions less as Harjo’s alter ego and more as a figure of survivance that celebrates womanhood's pluralities in the vein of Silko’s Yellow Woman, a character inspired by the Laguna Pueblo oral tradition. The Yellow Woman both commends female sexual autonomy and emphasizes the necessity for women to conscientiously navigate language. With each appearance, the Yellow Woman lends a new perspective to narratives that women of native descent face in the wake of second wave feminism; similarly, each poem in which Noni Daylight features comments upon another facet of discovering female indigenous subjectivities within and beyond imposed national metanarratives of race, gender, and sexuality. Like the Yellow Women in Silko’s oeuvre, the Noni Daylights of Harjo’s poetry function as separate entities united under a common name to propose non-normative stories of womanhood.

Keywords: Poetry, Women Authors, Feminism, Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman, Noni Daylight

How to Cite: Burk, C. D. (2014) “"We are alive": (Mis)Reading Joy Harjo's Noni Daylight as a Yellow Woman”, Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies. 16(1). doi: