Of Laguna Pueblo and Sioux descent, Allen is one of the best-known Native American writers and critics and cousin to another, Leslie Marmon Silko. She was born in Cubero, New Mexico, in 1939. She has published numerous volumes of her own poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She has edited two important collections of Native American writing. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the University of California at Los Angeles, where she was a postdoctoral fellow in American Indian Studies. As a woman, a lesbian, and a Native American in a culture that is often sexist, homophobic, and racist, Allen knows what it is to be oppressed. She has devoted much of her work to combating that oppression by critiquing the ideas that have sanctioned it and by affirming her identities. The Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983), is about a woman who comes to realize that she is a lesbian. Allen explores and affirms for women and lesbians the ideas of Spider Grandmother who, in many Native American traditions, is the creator of the heavens, the earth, and all the spirit beings, and therefore an icon of female power. The Sacred Hoop (1986), is a collection of essays written over a number of years that explicitly argue that Native American literature, traditions, mythology, and spirituality can be powerful antidotes to white racism, sexism, and homophobia. Allen is currently a professor of Native American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, at Berkeley.