[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Water Lady’s Commitment to the Navajo Nation

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading theme throughout the year, when we can.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps A Thirsty Navajo Nation (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Alice B. McGinty Illustrated by Shonto Begay
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books (2021) ISBN: 0525645012 (ISBN13: 9780525645016) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

There are two parallel stories being told in this nonfiction picturebook title. On the one hand, there is the young thirsty boy Cody who is expectedly alarmed by the lack of water in his home, as he goes to school with his throat parched, alongside their chicken, dogs, and horses with nothing to drink.

Then there is the story of Darlene Arviso, grandmother who attends to her grandchildren’s needs before dropping them off and other children to school. This is only a small part of her day as she proceeds to deliver 3500 gallons of water to around 10 to 12 homes in the Navajo reservation in one day, with the details and numbers found in the Author’s Note at the end of the story.

What struck me the most is this statement from the book:

While almost every other American will use around a hundred gallons of water today, many on the Navajo reservation will use only seven.

There is such a terrible injustice and imbalance here that is being actively redressed by people like Darlene Arviso who tirelessly provide life-saving support for their community. It is comforting to read in the Author’s Note that Darlene is not alone in this task:

Many people are working to get water to the Navajo. The St. Bonaventure Indian Mission has a water pump and tower and provides the tanker truck for Darlene’s route. In 2017, the mission added a second water delivery truck and driver. Another organization, Dig Deep, is working to dig wells in the area. Wells have to go far into the ground to tap clean water. This is a difficult and expensive project, but Dig Deep is devoted to making it happen.

I suppose what I would also like addressed in picturebooks such as this is why there had been a scarcity of water in the first place in the area – that may go beyond just natural causes. It is time to hold big corporations or institutions or even governments accountable for such deprivation that should not have happened to begin with. This story moved me like no other, and I do wish more young people would learn of largely-unrecognized real-life heroes such as Darlene Arviso.


#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 57 out of target 100

June 8, 2022 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal