A large portion of my youth and high school years were spent in southern Arizona. Half of my father’s side of the family were immigrants from Montenegro who settled near Bisbee and worked the large copper mines. I was fortunate to have family members and eventually teachers who would introduce me to the history and literature of the area, focusing on Native Americans and the quiet, divided majesty of the Sonoran Desert.
At age nine, my grandfather gave me a copy of Anton Mazzanovich’s Trailing Geronimo, and soon after I wanted to absorb any other books or stories about the legendary Chiricahua warrior and the local history too. I even read his autobiography as told to S.M. Barrett. I still wonder if his story lost any details within the transcription. My mother would also take me to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson on many occasions, where I discovered a unique mix of an open-area zoo, geological caves, and a botanical garden. The center has changed much since that time, adding an art gallery and hosting events, but if you are ever in the area I highly recommend the experience.
In a recent booklist, I highlighted some diverse and important Native American authors. All introduced me to fresh voices and had an important influence on my writing. College helped invariably, but you can educate yourself down at the local library! While those titles were fiction, written by talented and respected representatives of many indigenous nations, here I decided to illuminate some other books that magnify history, nature, and travel.
I do miss the endless red-orange canvas skies and voluminous, crisp air of a freshly-emptied Arizona monsoon, as I do not see them on a regular basis anymore. The literature and memories, on the other hand, I can carry forever: No arid zones in these pages.