ere is a book written in the language of hurt, learned from childhood and refined through years of intensive education, both by the world he lives in and the person he is.

Nasdijj, whose pen name in the Athabascan tongue means "to become again," was born on the Navajo Reservation, the son of a "white cowboy daddy," and a mother "whose people were with the Navajo." Migrant workers, they were "always going somewhere else," but their nomadic existence was the least of his teachers. Far more pivotal in his life were the unaccountable contradictions of his father's physical and emotional abuse, his mother's alcoholism, their story-telling, their song-singing, and his own mixed heritage.

Nasdijj admits he "cannot account for the demons of adults," and wants "the good things to blot out the bad things," but they don't always. The mineral traces of his experiences show up time and time again in the "blood that runs like a river" through his imagination. The chapters of this memoir can be read alone with a certain amount of emotional constraint, but taken together they carry the pain from a hundred tributaries and spill into an ocean of barely dammed despair.

In his modified, stream-of-consciousness bravado, Nasdijj never just treads water. He dives into it, and spits it out.

Homelessness, horses, the San Francisco Tenderloin, the Navajo Long Walk Home, fishing all these and more figure one way or another in his own trail of tears, but most unforgettable is the death of his six-year-old adopted son, Tommy Nothing Fancy, from fetal alcohol syndrome. "I was so damn determined I would do good by Tom. Tommy was my sweet revenge. That he could experience joy and all the good things that make life worth living was my salvation. Now he is gone. Writing is my new revenge." It's an uneven trade, but in the end, Nasdijj gives us a sad, wild, vital world, beholden to history and nature, that will never surrender either its better spirits, or its devils.

Maude McDaniel writes from Cumberland, Maryland.

comments powered by Disqus