“Beautiful and powerful words from wise, knowledgeable and resilient Diné women.”~Josie Begay-James
In Voices of Navajo Mothers and Daughters: Portraits of Beauty from Soulstice Publishing, Navajo grandmothers, mothers, and daughters in 21 families tell their life stories. Through a series of intimate, revelatory personal histories, they open up about how they have been shaped by powerful cultural and historical forces—and by their love for each other. As they do, their faces are captured in defining portraits by an award-winning photographer.
Voices of Navajo Mothers and Daughters: Portraits of Beauty carries a feminine perspective on Navajo culture both to those immersed in it and those who want to know more. Already available for preorder from Soulstice and at Bright Side Bookshop, the book goes on sale nationally on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2022. Foreword Clarion reviewer Eileen Gonzalez called it “a valuable look at how Navajo women band together to celebrate life’s joys, push through adversity, and guide the next generation.” Read the review.
Josie Begay-James is one of the more than 60 women in the book. She describes it as “Beautiful and powerful words from wise, knowledgeable and resilient Diné women whose time-tested, intergenerational values teach about endurance, strength, respect and harmony. This book is an excellent guide to preserving the Diné Way of Life in changing times.”
The book’s 21 central chapters each focus on the women of one particular family. “I collected these oral histories out of a desire to let the women speak for themselves,” says author Kathy Eckles Hooker, who taught on the Navajo Reservation and in Flagstaff and holds profound admiration for Navajo culture.
Along with the women’s stories are informative chapters about Navajo history and culture, including the coming-of-age ceremony (kinaaldá), the tale of Changing Woman, the Long Walk and Fort Sumner, boarding schools and education, the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, and sheep and wool-weaving.
The book’s Portraits of Beauty are thanks to David Young-Wolff, whose evocative images demonstrate the insights gleaned from his 44-year career as one of America’s top producers of stock and portrait photography. “I want the audience to see how the mothers and daughters relate to each other,” he says. “My approach to photography has always been to treat people with the utmost respect. If you honor people, they will eventually feel comfortable letting you enter their private lives.”
About the book, Soulstice co-founder Julie Hammonds said, “We founded the company to create ‘books with soul’ that inspire readers with stories of human potential realized and celebrate our unique position in the Southwest. With Voices of Navajo Mothers and Daughters: Portraits of Beauty, we feel like Soulstice is fulfilling that mission.”