American Indians •  Southwest and Memoir

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Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life

Jim Kristofic

2012 Spur Award Finalist

Just before starting second grade, Jim Kristofic moved from Pittsburgh across the country to Ganado, Arizona, when his mother took a job at a hospital on the Navajo Reservation. Navajos Wear Nikes reveals the complexity of modern life on the Navajo Reservation, a world where Anglo and Navajo coexisted in a tenuous truce. After the births of his Navajo half-siblings, Jim and his family moved off the Reservation to an Arizona border town where they struggled to readapt to an Anglo world that no longer felt like home.

With tales of gangs and skinwalkers, an Indian Boy Scout troop, a fanatical Sunday school teacher, and the author's own experience of sincere friendships that lead to hoézhoé (beautiful harmony), Kristofic's memoir is an honest portrait of growing up on-and growing to love-the Reservation.


Jim Kristofic has worked on and off the "Rez" for more than ten years as a river guide, journalist, and oral historian. He has written for The Navajo Times, Arizona Highways, and High Country News. He and his wife currently live in eastern Pennsylvania.


"The story of how a minority overcame prejudice and made lifelong friends in the process will resonate with many teens."



"This boy's life on the rez shares characteristics with other contemporary American boys' lives elsewhere. However, the smell of sheep roasting at a festival, the generous helping of Diné language spread throughout the text, and the constant acknowledgement of Navajo pride set Kristofic's story apart. When asked if they are Indian, his friends on the rez say 'No, we're Diné.' Similarly, Kristofic can claim this particular heritage as his own."


High Country News

"...(a) funny, poignant, no-holds-barred memoir of growing up as a white boy on the Navajo Reservation. . . .In lively, conversational style, Kristofic tackles issues that will resonate with both Native and non-Native readers: violence as adolescent ritual, cultural assimilation, friendship, family, coming of age and the pull of 'home.'"


Indian Country Today

"(Kristofic) is a consummate storyteller who, with honesty and astute observation, guides readers along his journey of discovery, and by extension our own."


New Mexico Magazine

"Few regionally tied autobiographies have shown as much wit and keen observation as Navajos Wear Nikes by Jim Kristofic."


Arizona Daily Sun

"Jim Kristofic combines the spirits of Joseph Campbell and J. D. Salinger to give readers an intimate look at the complexity of life in Navajo country."


Martha Blue, author of Indian Trader: The Life and Times of J. L. Hubbell

"This is a story told on many levels. It can be brutally frank, irreverent in places, and funny in others. But it is so serious that it will hold the reader's attention from beginning to end. It brings to Native life a strongly personal and emotional aspect seldom seen, and it will persist in memory long after a first reading."


David Brugge, author of The Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute: An American Tragedy

6 x 9 in. 232 pages 4 drawings, 2 halftones, 1 map