Brian Young’s Journey from Screenwriting to Navajo Author: A Healing Narrative Unveiled

Brian Young’s Journey from Screenwriting to Navajo Author: A Healing Narrative Unveiled

In this episode, our host Paul G sits down with Brian Young, an accomplished author and filmmaker of Navajo descent. Brian takes us on a journey through his creative process, discussing the inspiration behind his debut novel, “Healer of the Water Monster,” and sharing his unique perspective on storytelling.

From Film to Fiction: Brian Young's Background

Brian Young, a graduate of Yale and Columbia University, emerges as a dynamic storyteller with a diverse background in film studies and creative writing. As an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Brian's upbringing on the reservation deeply influences his work. He won a fellowship with the Sundance Ford Foundation during his undergraduate years, providing him the opportunity to develop a feature-length script.

Having worked on various short films and documentary series for the New York Times, Brian's creative journey took an intriguing turn when he participated in the 6th Annual Native American TV Writer's Lab. In the interview, he delves into the challenges of adapting his storytelling skills from the visual medium to the written word, shedding light on the differences between scriptwriting and novel writing.

“Healer of the Water Monster”: A Tale Rooted in Navajo Creation Story

Brian introduces us to his debut novel, “Healer of the Water Monster,” a captivating narrative inspired by his nation's creation story—the story of emergence. In Navajo belief, the third world was ruled by water monsters until First Man and First Woman kidnapped one, leading to the emergence into the fourth world.

Expanding on the fictional additions to the creation mythology, Brian explains how water monsters follow the first beings into the fourth world, bringing water to the Nebekaya—the traditional ancestral homelands of the Navajo. The story centers around Nathan, a contemporary Navajo boy tasked with healing a sick water monster, intertwining traditional beliefs with modern-day challenges.

Sale
Healer of the Water Monster
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Brian Young (Author) - Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 05/11/2021 (Publication Date) - HarperAudio (Publisher)

From Frustration to Freedom: Transitioning from Script to Book

Brian reflects on his frustration as a native screenwriter, facing restrictive attitudes toward native stories in the film industry. He shares the pivotal moment when he decided to turn “Healer of the Water Monster” from a feature-length script into a book. The shift allowed him the freedom to explore the narrative without the constraints imposed by the film industry, leading to a more expansive and culturally authentic storytelling experience.

Reception and Impact: A Renaissance of Native Storytelling

As the interview progresses, Brian discusses the positive reception of his book, emphasizing the growing appetite for diverse voices in the publishing industry. He acknowledges the renaissance of native storytelling in TV and movies, highlighting the engagement of non-indigenous readers with Nathan's story in “Healer of the Water Monster.”

Universal Lessons and Future Plans

Brian emphasizes the universal morals embedded in his storytelling, showcasing the relatability of Nathan's journey to a broad audience. He touches on the importance of kindness as a powerful force and shares insights into the sequel and companion novel to his debut work, addressing timely themes such as Navajo Nation water rights.

Looking Forward: A Quadrilogy and Cinematic Adaptation

In a forward-looking discussion, Brian reveals his aspirations for a quadrilogy, with two more books to complete the series. He and his agent are strategizing the transition of his works into cinematic interpretations, aiming to showcase the value and potential of indigenous storytelling in the film industry.

Sale
Heroes of the Water Monster
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Brian Young (Author) - Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 05/23/2023 (Publication Date) - HarperAudio (Publisher)

Advice for Aspiring Storytellers

Brian concludes the interview by offering advice to aspiring storytellers, emphasizing the importance of reading extensively and analyzing both preferred and disliked stories. He encourages engagement with traditional storytelling from elders and urges the preservation of indigenous forms of storytelling to prevent their loss.

Brian Young's journey from screenwriting to Navajo author exemplifies the power of storytelling to bridge cultures and transcend mediums. “Healer of the Water Monster” stands as a testament to the richness of indigenous narratives, inviting readers to explore the intersection of tradition and contemporary challenges. As Brian continues his literary journey, we eagerly anticipate the unfolding chapters of his quadrilogy and the potential cinematic adaptations that may follow.

Brian Young - Navajo Author - Pow Wow Nation Live


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