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and life along the winding road

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Wailing Wind - Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 1963 until his death in 2008 and his knowledge of the landscape and life of an Indian shows in his writing. The Wailing Wind is part of a series following Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee who are both Navajo police officers.

From the cover:
The man in the truck is dead, a bullet in his back. When his map points to lost gold and a forgotten murder, retired Navajo police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn steps in to solve the crimes.

In his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, Tony Hillerman shares that he spent eight grades in an American Indian school and had Indian playmates which is where he amassed his knowledge of the Indian ways. Asked where he gets his ideas and plots from, he likens himself to a bag lady pushing a stolen shopping cart through life, collecting thrown stuff that might be usable someday - not unlike scavenging for journalism.

He makes a point of saying he has been cured of using the term Native Americans. After attending a meeting to discuss the new division of tribal artifacts at the Smithsonian, the Indian Director asked for a show of hands if members of the audience had not been born in the United States. Only two people raised their hands. He stated that unless we came from another country, we are all Native Americans - the offspring of immigrants. The Director stated that they would prefer to be referred to by tribe, but if unknown, then simply as Indians.


Anonymous said...

Read Tony Hillerman's books a number of years ago and I so enjoyed them. When my husband and I travelled to NM or AZ or the Four Corners region, I kept saying, I've read about that, I've read about that. Drove him nuts I think. LOL

Lesa said...

I've read all his books as well, so it was a pleasure to read your post about him. Even though I haven't traveled, he wrote so vividly I feel as if I've visited there. Thanks!