By Gwen Shrift
As soon as he started second grade, the Navajo kids began calling the blue-eyed, brown-haired Kristofic Bilagáana bilasáana, or “white apple,” among other less-printable nicknames. It was the beginning of years of taunting and sometimes physical abuse.
In a chronological series of essays, Kristofic spares no detail about the way he was treated, but also holds no grudges.
“I would hate this to fall into the ‘eagle feather’ school—‘Always talk with the Great Spirit.’ So hokey,” he says. “I had no idea how the book would turn out.”
The answer to that is, “very successfully.”
Kristofic vividly gives his readers the bright and dark magic of the reservation, his scarred and deprived classmates and their pride in Navajo heritage, and, poignantly, for emigrants anywhere, his own sense of loss when the family moved to Page.
“Navajos Wear Nikes,” Kristofic’s first book, was a finalist in 2011 for prizes awarded by the Western Writers of America and the New Mexico Book Co-op and was chosen by the Pima County Library in Tucson for its “Best Reading 2011” list.