The language and form of this searing book are as powerful as the life experience that inspired them. In a series of essays that cohere into a spiritual autobiography, the author writes prose that's deceptively simple yet rich in metaphor. An wild horse living in the parking lot of a Navajo school becomes a symbol for living creatures' intrinsic wildness, tamed only at a terrible cost. "We are all runaway horses" is one constant refrain, as is the reminder "you are your history." The author's history is painful: born in 1950 the son of an alcoholic Native American woman and a white cowboy father who "would sell my mom to other migrant men for five dollars," Nasdijj grew up a "mongrel" and an outcast, contending with his violent father's demons while his mother beguiled them with Indian stories. Living on a reservation, never fully accepted because of his white skin, he adopted a baby boy with fetal alcohol syndrome who died at age 6. The book's most beautiful passages meditate on Tommy Nothing Fancy's short life and express his father's love. Nasdijj has been homeless, he has taught Indian children on a reservation, he has retraced with a historian friend the dreadful forced march to Bosque Redondo, where the Navajo and their culture were nearly exterminated. These and many other ordeals are related in the agonizingly lucid words of someone who has turned to writing as a lifeline. This remarkable memoir has its share of bitterness and anger, but Nasdijj transcends both in his acceptance of the world that made him and in the knowledge that "the reservation runs like blood through a river of my dreams." --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
The yearning to write, muses this irrepressible Native American author, "was the epitome of perversity, because reading and writing were such tortures for me." Born in 1950 on the Navajo Reservation to migrant workersDa Navajo mother and a white, cowboy fatherDNasdijj has always suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, which has made his 20 years as a journalist for Southwest smalltown newspapers, like everything else in his peripatetic, sometimes harrowing life, a terrible struggle. But for Nasdijj, writing was necessary to survival, a means of remembering and vindicating his personal and ancestral history. The symbols he molds out of the bleakness of the desert or his own emotional terrain, as well as the variations of the book's title, trail through 20 fragmented chapters like a plangent refrain. These elements cohere into a unique voice, whether Nasdijj is recounting his adventures on the periphery of white America, musing over the continued impoverishment of the Navajo, or lamenting the loss of his adopted son, Tommy Nothing Fancy, who died when he was six years old from fetal alcohol syndrome. Balancing a propensity to overanalyze his life in deliriously lyric passages with a gift for understatement that can yield more lucid revelations, Nasdijj reveals a great sensitivity to epiphanies wherever they may be found: in the wild stallions of the mesa, in the beautiful face of a troubled teen he mentors, in the bittersweet vandalism of a jingoistic statue of a Spanish conquistador. Agent, Heather Schroder, ICM. (Oct.) Forecast: Nasdijj first attracted attention when the title piece ran in Esquire in June 1999; he was subsequently named a finalist for a National Magazine Award. Already selected by several newspapers for fall preview roundups and early reviews, this haunting memoir is likely to garner widespread review coverage and, consequently, a solid audience that will be further enlarged by a six-city author tour.
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