Fiction writer Helena Maria Viramontes, author of THEIR DOGS CAME WITH THEM and winner of the Luis Leal Award:

Allen-Yazzie’s novel THE ARC AND THE SEDIMENT is highly original and extremely complex and a wonderful read of a novel. Allen-Yazzie’s novel is extremely valuable on a number of different levels. The most obviously one is a ruthlessly honest depiction of a woman falling apart. The storyline and its seemingly chaotic structure organically reflect the contents of the novel. Here, I am reminded of Mary Robison’s highly successful novel WHY DID I EVER, structurally minimalist and non-conventional in its presentation… Both Robison and Allen-Yazzie deal with similar material, and both succeed in recreating a whirlwind of anxiety and drugs, and a never-ending search for love.[The novel] is extremely well written and effectively organized. The structure is challenging but organic given the contents. The novel works on various layers… Of interest to cultural studies, indigenous literature, and American literature classes would be Allen-Yazzie’s treatment of the cross cultural marriage…[she] does so without sentimental appropriation. Allen Yazzie does not romanticize the “Indian” nor does she ever forget her social positionality as a writer. As a result, Gretta’s critiques, misunderstandings, struggles, are revealed with real honesty. The conclusion of the novel is dynamitic; heart breaking, but truthful if not a little hopeful. As Flannery O’Conner said of endings: “Endings have to be surprising but inevitable.” [THE ARC AND THE SEDIMENT] truly is a work of serious and profound vision.

From fiction writer Francois Camoin, author of WHY MEN ARE AFRAID OF WOMEN, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award:

The Arc and the Sediment is a dark and lovely novel, the story of a woman lost in the territory mapped by Camus and Duras, in those colonies without a motherland who have forgotten that they were colonies. Gretta lives between cultures, trapped in moments without succession, defined by broken bits of time that litter the great sad wasteland of the American West like potsherds from a lost civilization. Out of these pieces Gretta tries over and over to invent herself through suffering, regret, defiance, sometimes laughter. Christine Allen-Yazzie has written the true story of a great new figure, a Burning Woman who for a few hours illuminates the outlands, the deserts where the forgotten of the earth walk in solitude.

Fiction writer Darrel Spencer, author of BRING YOUR LEGS WITH YOU, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize:

[THE ARC AND THE SEDIMENT] is a work of art; it is contemporary in its writing, and it is contemporary in its subject matter. It is not trying to be politically correct, but is instead providing an honest portrait of a difficult marriage... The exchange here is one that the Gordon Lish talks about: this is how the human heart works; listen, pay attention: "The writer must persuade you that if you don't listen he'll die, and if you listen he'll save your life, and if you don't listen you'll die a lot harder--there's the exchange." Its multiple texts, its mixture of narrative strategies, hinted at a kind of postmodern deconstruction of narrative, a certain kind of playfulness...but the story it tells, the characters it portrays, the plot it unfolds, and the jigsawing of time and place and circumstance all come together in remarkable ways, in ways that are pleasurable to deal with. The model is the labyrinth, the structure is intricate. This one's done its job, as Chekhov would have it: it doesn't provide answers; it states (depicts, portrays, announces, engages) the problem. What makes the novel remarkable is that language is foregrounded (not lavish or outlandish language, but precise and exacting and energized language) yet the plot...keeps us moving forward at what I feel is excellent, if not pitch-perfect pacing.

Poet, Writer, and Activist E. Ethelbert Miller, author of HOW WE SLEEP ON THE NIGHTS WE DON'T MAKE LOVE and winner of the O. B. Hardison Poetry Prize:

Christine Allen-Yazzie has given us a novel that is gutsy, sad and disturbing. Her book is a commentary (and improvisation) on race, love and commitment. Gretta's song echoes the last days of Billie Holiday. Where is Lance, her husband and loverman? The landscape of The Arc and the Sediment is a witness to what gin can't bury or destroy.


Gretta Bitsilly, gin-steeped mother of two and self-proclaimed expert at standing outside the margins of ethnicity and peering in, has been all but eclipsed by the world that eludes her--as a wife, a writer, a skeptic in "the other land of Zion," Utah. Gretta has set off to Fort Defiance, Arizona, where she hopes to convince her Navajo husband, who has escaped not from his family but from alcoholism, to come home.

Over a sputtering two-steps-forward, one-step-back desert journey, Gretta is diverted by chance, seizures, an inconstant memory, and the disjointed character of her irresolute quest.

She is fueled by a volatile mix of rage and curiosity and is rendered careless by ambivalence toward her marriage—she knows a welcome mat will not be waiting for her, "that white girl" who can't seem to get anything right. On route Gretta finds herself lost in the landscape, in strange company, or in her own convolution of language and inner space. With a dictionary and a laptop she attempts to write herself into a better existence--a hopeful existence—and to connect points of intellectual, physical, even spiritual reference.

This tale, though dark and difficult, is infused with tart, twisted humor. Confused, disheveled, self-deprecating, and self-destructive, Gretta is also sharp and funny. Here, first-time novelist Christine Allen-Yazzie breaks apart her own narrative arc but with gritty reality seals it near-shut again, if in rearrangement, drawing us into Gretta's wrestling match with herself, her husband, her addiction, and the road.

Biographical Information

Christine Allen-Yazzie lives in Utah with her husband and two daughters. Her first novel, THE ARC AND THE SEDIMENT, was published in 2007 by Utah State University Press. The novel won the Utah Book Award, second place among the Independent Publisher's IPPY Awards, best novel and best book-length work awards from the Utah Arts Council, and finalist for the James Jones First Novel Competition. Her collection of short fiction has been recognized with a Utah Arts Council grant and a Lorian Hemingway honorable mention, and by the Drue Heinz competition as a runner-up. Her stories and poems have been published in a number of literary journals, most recently DOS PASSOS REVIEW. She has an MFA in creative writing.

A short excerpt of THE ARC AND THE SEDIMENT is available at

Press and Publicist Information

Please contact Kathleen Kingsbury, publicist for Utah State University Press, for a review copy or with questions, at, 435-797-1202.

ISBN 13: 978-0-87421-654-7

$24.95 (cloth), 200 pages

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gretta's Alternative Twelve Steps

(my ambitagonist's stab at sobriety)

1. I conceded that I had long entertained the power of alcohol to console myself of the fact that life is by nature unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that this power of alcohol was not enough to restore me to sanity, or, alternatively, to suspend my concern about my sanity, or my doubt in that rhetorical category, sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn my will into adventure as I felt compelled to pursue it, since I understood that I understand little and have an insatiable need to understand all.

4. Made a searching (if fearful and incomplete) inventory of questions about who and what the fuck my “self” might be.

5. Admitted in a drunken stupor at the company Christmas party the inexact nature of my many shortfallings, including a short holiday fall off the wagon. Hopped back on the next day; apologized for telling a coworker his tie was too short.

6. Was entirely unconvinced that a deity—if one existed—could or would be interested in removing any of my defects of character. Decided I didn’t need convincing.

7. Humbly admitted I would have to remedy some or all of my defects my own damned self, and quick.

8. Made a list of all of the times I had put myself and my kids at risk and admitted to my shrink that I could have opted not to.

9. Amends: to put right; especially: to make emendations in (as a text); to change or modify for the better: IMPROVE ; to alter, especially: to alter formally by modification, deletion, or addition ; intransitive verb: to reform oneself.

10. Continued to warehouse an inventory of mostly irrelevant questions about the self, and when I deluded myself into answers, promptly admitted I was, in fact, delusional.

11. Sought through pottery classes and family picnics and even dreaded “play dates” (which were often not so dreadful after all—who knew?) to remain willfully conscious despite an urge to step in front of a truck. Sold sixteen pots so far.

12. Having posted these steps on my bedroom mirror, I was able to get through the day. And I will get through the day after that. And the day after that. And so on. And I will—until I don’t.

Do you think will be irritated with me?

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