America is an archipelago of tribes, a land where people form national families of kindred spirits.
I think of America not so much as a single country but as a constellation of groups out there competing for air time, energetically expressing themselves and luxuriating in their right to govern themselves. Freedom is that great vaunted word that’s always applied to our country – and rightly so.
When the Americans were trying to conquer the Navajos, they felt this need to capture Canyon de Chelly like it was the Navajo capital. It was a meeting place and a sanctuary of last refuge. To control Canyon de Chelly was to control the Navajo people.
The forties are the time when you begin to take notice of certain aches and pains. Your body and brain behave in inexplicable ways: Less hair on your head, more in your ears and nostrils. More memories in the bank, less synaptic firepower with which to access them. Gravity has started to show its inexorable pull.
I majored in Southern history in college, and much of my early work at my first job – as a staff writer at ‘Memphis’ magazine – focused on race relations.
By the age of nine or ten, I knew that I loved history and writing. It got hold of me and never turned loose.