Southwest Children's Literature

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Kinaaldá: A Navajo Girl Grows Up

Author Interview with Monty Roessel:

I conducted the following interview with Monty Roessell via the Internet.

Q: What was your inspiration and purpose behind writing Kinaaldá?

A: I had written a couple of magazine articles on the subject but it wasn't enough space to provide the context for such a ceremony. I wanted to show and tell a story that answered why as much as how. I have two daughters and my oldest was about the same age as Celinda in the book. I have always felt that the Kinaaldá ceremony is one of the most insightful and telling ceremonies of the Navajo. It is about the power and beauty and poetry of being Navajo. It is also reflective of the enduring quality of being Navajo.

Q: When did you begin to write books?

A: I have done some photography for books for quite a while. This was my first book that I wrote. For me, writing is hard work. I have been asked to write larger books and even a novel about the Navajo Long Walk but I prefer these glimpse of life books because of the potential for teaching with them. I like to look at what I do as producing books. That is why even if I don't write the book but only take the photographs I feel I am "writing" a book. I think of photography as telling a story and writing as telling a story. The Navajo are a very visual people - I just happen to use a camera and pen.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I have been working on two books lately. The first is called Navajo Sacred and Historical Places. This will be a book of photographs depicting these sites with text from a Navajo's point of view to the site's importance. I have been interviewing elders and other histories to provide for the text. I am hoping to have an accompanying CD-ROM that will include songs and video of these sites. The other book is called Growing Up Navajo. This is about my daughter and everything she has encountered as she has grown up. This is a personal project that is far from being completed. The other book is slated for publication in Fall of 2000.

Q: Do you share your books with the students at Rough Rock Community School? What is your position there?

A: Yes, I do but not as much as I would like. My job presently is the Director of Community Services at Rough Rock Community School. But, on July 1, 2000 I will begin my new job as Executive Director. I am looking forward to the challenge.

(This interview was conducted in April, 2000.)

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