Reading In Kinship: A Framework 

I find reading and learning about myself from the ethnographic record is…an experience, good and bad, and requires a lot of reading beyond the words and taking a lot of it with a good heap of skepticism.  Looking for scraps and slivers of nádleeh and dilbaa is wonderfully affirming, but also frustrating, sad, addictive, immersive in the best ways, and ultimately makes me want to make family with those who were/are nádleeh before and with me.  I have so many questions and I want to engage in community and in kinship with my nádleeh/dilbaa relatives, past and present.  I want us to answer these questions together.    

Reading in kinship is simple (and fun!), it’s how I process I use to make sense of  what I’m reading: it mainly involves digging through footnotes, my memory, wikipedia pages, archival scraps/notes for back stories, (the cryptic marginalia makes me swoon) in books, articles, on one of these excavations I found out via footnotes that Paula Gunn Allen (another 2SLGBTQ+ teacher) had a close relationship with Audre Lorde and worked with the Kitchen Table Press, and I learned this after reading Beth Brant’s A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of North American Women[1].  It can go on and on (squeal!).  For some reason digging (I always envision my favorite rodent the squirrel here) for the scribbles and clues satisfies some deep seated compulsion to learn, collect, curate and disseminate what I learn.  And no, there’s not a wall of my house plastered with tacks and red yarn, but it does show me that everything IS indeed connected!  

In terms of my work on gender and sexuality in Diné cultural contexts, reading this way means sorting through oral histories, biographies, ethnographic material, archival documents, memes, blogs, zines, any visual media, and going down some strange rabbit holes.  For my mind, this is the best process or way I can start to see and make connections between seemingly disconnected or dissimilar ideas.  It’s also a way for me to contextualize myself and/or my story.  It’s citational in obvious ways like how we read the historical (chronological) narrative, but in ways that are not as obvious but I promise to always make the connection(s).  Or at least to point us in that direction!  *I reserve the right to be corrected.  This process is generative, too.  It helps me think in new ways, it gives me confidence to write against the erasure of nádleeh and dilbaa.  Octavia Butler reminds me to write our experience into the story.[2]

Making kin with books is a little different but just as fun. I feel a lot for books and in many ways I treat books like elders.  And books have been my “chosen” family.   And I don’t know,  I want all my books to be friends/family, too.  So utilizing books to put myself into context (socially, culturally, etcetera) makes sense to me, and of course I want to “read” and engage with those who came before me in critically generative waysI celebrate and lean on these works and build networks of supportive texts as I go (giant post-its are good for visualizing the networks, here’s my h/t to tacks and red yard).  All jokes, aside, I do this while holding in mind that we can and should learn from the past to go forward.  

I am contextually connected and accountable to a tradition of third and fourth-gendered Diné people who I’d like to give a citational h/t, this space shines the light brightly on our teachers, because you’re the reason why and how I see myself and other nadleeh in the future.  Moving forward I’ll use this format or frame of thinking and finally dreaming/building community, I hope you enjoy it! 

Ahé’héé for reading and hágoónee’!   

[1] A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection by North American Women. Editor. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1988.  

[2] Butler also said “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”  Skoden. 

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