From Publishers Weekly
Nasdijj (The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping) juggles sardonic anger and full-out hilarity in his lyrical memoir of two Native American boys fighting to survive the harsh, oppressive world of a Navajo reservation and countless migrant camps in the 1950s. The sons of an alcoholic Navajo mother and a brutal white father, Nasdijj and Tso used reading to while away the long hours between camps, but later became apprentice criminals, stealing books to satisfy their thirst for knowledge. After alcoholism killed the boys' mother, their father suffered an emotional collapse, leaving the boys homeless. Later, together again, the boys fell victim to their father's nightly sexual assaults, which Nasdijj poignantly recounts: "I kept the memories of his arrivals, his demented craving for that human touch and companionship he never had in the real world, only in the world of our warm beds, as secrets locked forever within a tomb, mine mainly, knowing in my heart that if the tomb were ever opened... not only would my universe implode, but my chances of ever being really loved by my father would be nonexistent." Through illness, poverty and racism, Nasdijj found strength in his people's culture, especially in the myth of the warrior Geronimo, until he and Tso finally escaped their father's tyranny and the cruelty of the crime-ridden camps for gritty adventures on the open road. Nasdijj's observations on his and Tso's arduous quest for redemption and independence are detailed, smart and clever. While Nasdijj's writing is frank and funny, he never fails to target the heart, even when writing about the most painful events.
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*Starred Review* Nasdijj's childhood was a far cry from the middle-class suburban picture we have of the 1950s and early 1960s. The child of a white man and a Navajo woman, Nasdijj and his brother, Tso (for The Smart One), moved from migrant camp to migrant camp. The boys' mother is caring, but her alcoholism chips away at her life until she is found dead one morning, frozen to death in a ditch, when Nasdijj is seven. Their sadistic, abusive father, who used to beat them and their mother, goes from horrible to far, far worse, beating and raping the boys repeatedly. It is the boys' deep bonds of brotherhood and love that allow them to survive a childhood that to most is unimaginable. Though Nasdijj admits the book is somewhat "disjointed and hard," it possesses the same range of emotions: anger, hurt, love, passion, as well as the beautiful, raw, emotional writing that characterized his previous memoirs, The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping (2003) and The Blood Runs Like a River through My Dreams (2000). The agony of his experiences is juxtaposed with the unbreakable bond he shares with his brother; many will find this pain-filled memoir hard to read, but those who do will see in it the depths of Nasdijj's strength and the love he has for his brother. Kristine Huntley
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