In Bone Light, Orlando White’s debut volume, he explores the English language from a Diné (Navajo) perspective. He invites us to imagine that we, as a people all people in this imaginary country called the United States–are speaking an Indigenous language and that the English language exists merely as a remnant of the colonial past.
Despite its tenuous existence in this re-imagined present, English remains a danger to Indigenous thought, as it threatens to impose an alien worldview through its vocabulary and syntactical maneuvers. Historically, English was used by non-Natives to document Indigenous cultures; against this historical backdrop, White also writes to document, but he works to create something more beautiful than harmful. He does not attempt a critique of the English language; he works with it and against it to gain a better understanding of its peculiarities and limits, creating a relationship through these sometimes humorous, sometimes irreverent acts of exploration.
Throughout Bone Light, Orlando White approaches the English language as if he has just encountered it, as if it were a mysterious set of symbols. Focusing on the particles of the language, the punctuation marks, the letters, the spaces between word, he turns them a while in his hand like strange inexplicable artifacts from a lost world, then sets to work, refashioning them into something he can use.