Sunday, June 1, 2014

Short Stories: Naming Ceremony by Chip Livingston

In the sixteen short stories and profound essays that comprise Naming Ceremony, Chip Livingston examines the worlds we create for ourselves by exploring the names we are called and those we call ourselves. Livingston’s characters express in word and deed the names that confirm their individuality as well as validating their roles in family, culture, politics, and sexuality.
My previous acquaintance with Chip Livingston's works was limited to one short story and his poetry volume Crow-Blue, Crow-Black. In this collection of short stories the quality of Chip Livington's writing cannot be questioned. He is a fine poet and writer. However, for me, the power of some pieces stand out with unqualified force.

First we have a selection of connected short pieces that collectively complete one story -- "Naming Ceremony," "What Calls You Home," "Owls don't have to mean death," "One Hundred Kisses," and "Ghost Dance." These stories depict moments in the life of Peter Strongbow, his HIV positive lover Elan, with Native American culture and family playing key roles in Peter's lifestyle and relationships. Livingston captures moments filled with love, hope and laughter, dreams and fear, loss and grief with a deep sense of truth and powerful honesty.

That same sense of honesty is found in Livingston's "Anthology of Spoon River AIDS Walk" which is composed of small, verse-like snippets that convey thoughts of lovers, friends, family, and acquaintances participating in an AIDS Walk for Tim Kelley who died of AIDS. This powerful piece hits the reader with raw reality and a myriad of emotions.

Susan

I picked Mason in Charleston.
It happened that I was there for a meeting.
Good timing. Right.
Thank you Universal Forces of Love and Light.
I met Mason through Tim.
I'll walk with Mason in memory of Tim.
    And for my Father.


Tom Girl

I used to live with Tim in Columbia
I wanted to come up but I just couldn't
I wanted to see Mason and the Kelley's
It's too hard
I can't deal with it
I wonder how many people
will wear shirts and walk for me
I still feel great but Tim went so quick

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About the Author: Chip Livingston has received awards in fiction from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, the University of Colorado, and the AABB Foundation. As a faculty member of the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and at Gotham Writers Workshops, Chip teaches nonfiction, fiction and poetry writing.

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