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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 19, 2002 - Issue 72


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Teen Author Finds New Life in Books

by Becky Pallack Arizona Daily Sun
credits: Christopher Bighorse, 18, has taken on the challenge of being the librarian for the Excel Education Center. Photo by Eben Waggoner/Arizona Daily Sun

Christopher Bighorse, 18, has taken on the challenge of being the librarian for the Excel Education Center. Photo by Eben Waggoner/Arizona Daily Sun TUBA CITY, AZ - You might say books saved his life.

This year, at age 18, Christopher Bighorse found a love for reading and has read about 60 novels, he thinks. He lost count.

After growing up in Tuba City, his family made the move to Flagstaff to be closer to his mother's job at the Motor Vehicles Division. During his time at Flagstaff High School, he watched his grades fall from As to Fs as he ditched more and more classes. Finally, he flunked out.

"English happened to be one of my worst subjects in high school," he said. "So to make up for that I wrote stories for extra credit and I found out I really liked writing these stories. Writing is something I want to do for the rest of my life."

He was about 14 when he started writing.

Now at Excel Education Center, Bighorse earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Arizona next fall, had two of his poems published, has written half of a novel, plans to walk around the world, volunteers as school librarian and dreams of owning his own bookstore after college.

"Now I'm working as hard as I can doing all the things I want to do," he said. He showed a genuine smile through his shaggy brown hair, which is bleached orange on the sides.

He starts at UA in August, studying business management and English, and maybe creative writing.

He writes about "all things," many set in short stories about the modern world.

Bighorse starts each day by walking to school all the way across town.

"I try to walk everywhere I go. I don't agree with cars and I enjoy walking," he said.

He attends school at Excel from 8 a.m. to noon. From there, he goes straight to a closet-sized room at the back of the school where he is organizing a new school library -- six shelves of paperbacks, alphabetized by author, and lockers for textbooks.

He volunteers as the librarian at Excel and expects "his" library to open in about two weeks.

Bighorse said he is enjoying school at Excel, where he knows all of his teachers and the principal by first name.

"They don't treat me like a student," he said. "They treat me like a person."

He estimated that half of the students at Excel will use the new library.

Everywhere he goes, he asks people what they are reading now. At school, he hears a lot of "nothing," or comic book titles.

He's happy to get a response like "I'm reading this book and here it is and this is the story behind it."

"I find that there's a certain magic inside books," he said.

It's a lesson he has only learned in the past year and now he said he can't choose a favorite book -- although he is certain who his favorite author is.

He knew when he first read "It," by Stephen King, because he couldn't read it alone, in the dark or without some noise in the house. As long as there was someone else home, he couldn't stop reading.

Today he's reading King's "Desperation," and "Shape Shifters," and he just finished "Watership Down" and "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH."

He admires King's writing style, "his ability to show you the things he wants you to see."

"And also the feeling I always have when I finish one of his novels," he added. "He always ends in a place where you want him to continue and yet you're satisfied with where he ended. It lets the story continue in your head."

Bighorse is halfway through writing a fantasy novel from a short story he wrote. Although not his first attempt at completing a novel, he said he definitely intends to publish this one.

When he gets home from his day's walk, he writes until he sleeps.

He's looking forward to college and getting out of Flagstaff.

"I just need to get out and see more people and do more things," he said. "I just need to fulfill my need to explore."

"I want to walk around the world, I do. It just doesn't sound that hard."

He noted that most people walk enough steps to equal the circumference of the planet three and a half times.

He'll finish college first, though. Using lessons learned in business management classes, he'll open a bookstore, already named "A Box in the Attic."

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