Young Adults Books

NAVAJO: PORTRAIT OF A NATION, photography by Joe Grimes. Westcliffe Publishers, Inc., 2650 S. Zuni St., Englewood, CO 80110, (800) 523-3692, (303) 935-0903 FAX. Illustrated (150 color and black-and-white photographs). 192 pp., $45.00 cloth, $24.95 paper. 0-929969-70-7 cloth, 1-56579-005-7 paper.

The sparkling photographs and portraits of this remarkable volume depict the Navajo in many guises: craftspeople in their studios, ranchers herding sheep on an ATV, a bull rider on the rodeo circuit displaying a championship belt buckle, a retired medicine man contemplating the future, a mother and her young son posing below a wall decorated with patriotic emblems.

The differences between the young and old is very distinct.

Most of the elders are in traditional dress and are dignified, showing little outward feeling. The teens, especially the boys, are dressed in the clothing of the popular culture and appear rebellious and defiant. A high school drummer in a band wears a "Motley Crue" T-shirt, while Kerry Begay of Big Mountain wears his baseball hat backwards, arms crossed, and won't look at the camera.

Along with these intimate portraits are breathtaking landscape photographs: an ethereal sunset over Monument Valley, a dreamlike image of rain clouds over Marble Canyon, or hallucinatory sandstone formations in Antleope Canyon.

The spell of these photographs is intensified by the excerpts of Navajo songs, interviews by Navajo journalist Betty Reid, and a concise history of the people by ethnohistorians Garrick and Roberta Glenn Bailey.

Grimes chose not to photograph the most important part of life to the Navajo, their sacred dances (there are photographs of dances at a Fourth of July Fair, but these are more festive than reli- gious) and religious rites. What he does capture are a proud people who walk in beauty. Highly recommended. Reviewd by: Steve Brock

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Monday, March 11, 1996 - 11:37:17 AM