George Joe: Navajo journalist does it the hard way

"Growing up in a small reservation border town in northeastern Arizona, I was a C-minus student. Mom used to tell people that I barely graduated from Winslow High School in Arizona, and that the family had to hold a ceremony to ensure that I would graduate at all. But I read a lot and somehow made it to the University of Arizona. There, I struggled, but I also founded Red Ink, the first national Native American publication for college students.

After my mother passed on three years ago, I decided to get a master’s degree in English. She would have wanted that. But four weeks into the fall 2006 semester, I also had to take on the job of publishing a monthly, 15,000-circulation publication with no startup money. I couldn’t let it flounder: The Associated Press had just published a story that ran in thousands of national newspapers about the debut of Rez Biz magazine. After my partner quit, it was either fold the magazine or continue alone.

So, while most of my fellow students stressed over assignments, I also had a magazine to run and bills to pay. It’s hurtful when you feel that other people hope that you will fail, and people you’ve trusted turn on you. It helped to recall what my mother used to say to me in Navajo, after I’d been beat up as a kid: ’’Tough it out. Harden yourself. They’re just making you stronger.’’

If running a business under trying circumstances was tough, my classes were another trial. One day, while I was sitting in my graduate research class after staying up and studying all night, I almost got up and walked out the door. ’’What am I doing here?’’ I thought. A class discussion whizzed over my head. My classmates were citing writers and books I’d never heard of in my life. That wasn’t surprising: My childhood was spent herding sheep during the weekends; summers watching ceremonies being performed under the stars, hauling water for drinking and reading under a kerosene lantern. In their suburban homes, my white counterparts might have been discovering writers like Kurt Vonnegut. Could I ever catch up? "

Get the Story:
George Joe: A Navajo journalist makes it the hard way (High Country News 7/2)

$rl Rez Biz Magazine - http://www.rez-biz.com

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