Skip to main content

'Code Talker' author to visit ASU for ONEBOOKAZ

cover of Code Talkers book
March 01, 2011

ASU ONEBOOKAZ event schedule, March 11

Old Main, Carson Ballroom, ASU’s Tempe campus:
1 p.m. – Storytelling
2 p.m. – Introduction of Code Talkers
2:15 p.m. – Talk by Joseph Bruchac

Labriola Center in Hayden Library, 2nd floor, ASU’s Tempe campus:
3:15 p.m. – Reception
3:45 p.m. – Faculty Panel: "The Importance of Indigenous Literature and History in the U.S. Curriculum." Panelists include Simon Ortiz, professor of English and American Indian Studies, ASU; Laura Tohe, professor of English, ASU; alumnus Kyle Wilson (MFA 2005), Indigenous Rhetoric Coordinator, ASU; alumna Marlinda White Kaulaity (PhD 2007), Window Rock Schools (Arizona) Administrator; and David Martinez, assistant professor of American Indian Studies, ASU.


How might it feel to belong to a small group that changed the course of history? Or to have helped create the most successful and ingenious code in modern military history, a code that remains unbroken to this day?

A small number of Native Americans can say they were part of this select group – the World War II Code Talkers.

Best-selling author Joseph Bruchac will discuss his book “Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War II” at a ONEBOOKAZ for Kids event at Arizona State University the afternoon of March 11.

Written from the perspective of fictional narrator Ned Begay, a 16-year-old Navajo boy, “Code Talker” tells the true story of Navajos recruited by the U.S. military during the Second World War. These servicemen sent secret tactical messages using a “code” derived from the Navajo language.

“This deeply affecting novel honors all of those young men, like Ned, who dared to serve, and it honors the culture and language of the Navajo Indians,” says the book’s publisher, Penguin.

Also attending the March 11 event will be several World War II Code Talkers, who will be recognized in a small presentation during the day.

In 1942, the Code Talkers were formed as a special unit of the U.S. Marine Corps in response to Japanese forces’ repeated ability to decipher encrypted messages of the U.S. and Allied forces. Twenty-nine young Navajo men volunteered to form this special group. After years of top-secret silence, their story was declassified and is now being told in books like Bruchac’s.

According to James Blasingame, associate professor of English and organizer of the event, “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and hear the stories of these men.”

Blasingame, a specialist in adolescent literature, says Bruchac’s book is an important one for young readers. “Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) has long been among the most popular authors of young adult and children’s books featuring Native American protagonists, including ‘Jim Thorpe: The Original All-American, March to the Thunder,’ and now ‘Code Talker: The Navajo Marines of WWII.’”

Bruchac is the author of more than 70 books, including his bestselling series, “Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children,” which is used in classrooms all over the country. Bruchac infuses his work with experiences from his own Abenaki heritage as well as influences from many other Indigenous American traditions.

Each year Arizonans are encouraged by ONEBOOK to read one book at the same time and then engage in programs that involve discussions about the work. Beginning in 2007, the books have been by Arizona authors or on Arizona themes in celebration of the state’s centennial in 2012.

The event at ASU is sponsored by the English Education program in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, PDS Next Program, Labriola National American Indian Data Center, and Penguin Group USA.

The ONEBOOKAZ program is supported with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a Division of the Secretary of State, under the Library Services and Technology Act, which is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. More information about ONEBOOKAZ is available at

For more information about the ASU ONEBOOKAZ event, please contact James Blasingame in the Department of English at or 480-965-6074.

Written by Elizabeth Lujan.

Media contact:
Kristen LaRue,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences