Double Doll: Turning Myself Upside Down

The title, Double Doll: Turning Myself Upside Down, comes from a pivotal experience in my life. I was only eight-years-old when I received a rag doll with a Navajo face and body on one end, an Anglo body on the other. The doll became a symbol for my journey into the world of the Navajo and the manifestation of a childhood prayer: Please God, turn me upside down and make me an Indian. My story is divided into three parts. The first two chronicle the early years that led to a life-changing event and the formation of a new business with a mission to promote American arts through the sale of Amish quilts and Navajo weavings. The last section tells of a learning time for me: lifelong customs and habits had to replaced with the mores of a new culture.

Book Reviews

“Sharleen Daugherty writes about her journey from corporate executive to a specialist in Navajo weaving with an honest voice and an open heart. She tells her own story with humor and humility. Daugherty is a fine writer and a worthy guide for anyone interested in learning more about the Diné from the perspective of an astute and non-judgmental observer.”

— Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman’s Daughter Director, Wordharvest Writers Workshops and Tony Hillerman Writers Conference

“Instead of asking her Navajo subjects to shape-shift to conform to preconceived Anglo ideas about them, Sharleen Daugherty shape-shifts herself like the double doll of her childhood … [She] immerses herself in Navajo culture, learns from them with humility, and feels through their dilemmas with compassion. She is trustworthy and respectful, a reliable guide to a world outside the American mainstream, and a fine story-catcher.”

— Diana Hume George, author of The Lonely Other: A Woman Watching America

“My relationship with Ms. Daugherty has gone on for over one hundred years. From writer’s coach to deep friend, we have traveled together … Her cross-culture journey, and her insistence on finding the core of that adventure, are recorded in this trilogy. Hers is the Beauty Way of a strong woman willing to dare.”

— Michael Thunder, writer’s coach

“Writing a memoir requires the ability to face the truth and to share it with a strong voice that tells the story with heart and dignity. Sharleen Daugherty has done this and more in the first book of her memoir trilogy, Double Doll. Her story brings both the beauty of the Southwest and the complexity of its people to life. Wonderfully written, this book should not be missed!”

— Marcia Rosen, author of My Memoir Workbook

“A breathtaking tale of risk, vision, and wisdom, Sharleen Daugherty’s Double Doll leads us from the pressure cooker of Wall Street to the big skies of the Navajo Nation. Like the Navajo weavings the book celebrates, Daugherty intertwines issues of race, class, and gender against a backdrop of heartbreaking beauty.”

— Robert Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink

“A double doll has two parts. There is a top half and a bottom half that flipped up or down and back and forth hides one side or the other. Topsy-turvy, flip-flop, upside-down are other names historically assigned to these very thought-provoking items we call dolls and tend to be the prized property of girl children. Opposites, differences, contrasts of behaviors, characters and social class are represented. Sharleen Daugherty owned a double doll – a Navajo child on one end, an Anglo child on the other.

a pivotal experience in my life. I was only eight years old when I received [the] rag doll. The doll became a symbol for my journey into the world of the Navajo and the manifestation of a childhood prayer, ‘Please God, turn me upside down and make me an Indian.

Daugherty brings us Double Doll, Turning Myself Upside Down, Book 1, A Memoir Trilogy and in the initial chapters we do feel that memoir cadence, recounting family memories, etched details of moments and events, navigating the Navajo reservation with her salesman father and his travel-weary map, navigating her own feelings about a complacent mother, influences, actions and reactions. Yah-te-hay her father shouts at a potential sewing machine customer, but a giggle from a brown-faced girl with eyes hidden by black bangs pulls eight-year-old Daugherty into a world so different from her own it takes years for her to remember her dream to turn upside down.

This deeply personal, no-holds-barred painting, layers of impasto brush work, really reveals the person Daugherty becomes; determined to be independent, principled, clear-speaking, focused and driven to accomplish her goals – most of us would not dare attempt to peel away so many layers to see how we got to be who we are.

Daugherty peels and peels. And then the word memoir gets peeled away to become something else – more like ‘Intrepid Expedition’ or ‘Fearless Exploration’, and definitely it is not about the author turning herself  “upside-down” but rather emphatically turning herself “inside out.”

Digging deep and analyzing came early to Daugherty and stays with her in the series of life leaps, marriage and children, business professional, and successful business owner. Daugherty seems to take her well-earned Wall Street success in her stride, proud of her independence and transiting risks and high-stakes deals – successfully. Then, her own decision to spurn a big-dollar business account takes her aback.

After I left the board room there was a pigeon with a broken wing. It was frantic… kept racing around in circles to avoid being stepped on.

Intrepid indeed. Cliff hanging decisions, turns and twists of forging new business plans, steadfastly following her convictions on personal independence, women in business, opening new relationships with Navajo artisans, re-molding ideas, facing new tests, and loosening her grip bit by bit to accept some ‘new’ self and new family of her choosing.

Somewhere on the Amtrak train between New York City and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a plan for the ‘new me’ began to emerge. “I’ll go back to the reservation… I’ll learn how to weave. No, I’ll start a new business that buys weavings from the Navajo women and sells them to the discriminating collector. I’ll travel the world displaying the rugs. I’ll create a global market for Navajo weavings.”

Uh oh. Would this be playing the same game? Wall Street or the Reservation, a new means of following the old patterns? Yes or no? Doesn’t matter. Another complex idea and a goal of her own, along with the double doll her father tossed onto the car seat for her, and his “scribbled-on” map of the reservation are the seeds of a mostly fearless exploration.”

— Teri Matelson, Silver City

Sharleen Daugherty


Sharleen grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She left the Land of Enchantment in 1959 to pursue her education and career as a computer applications consultant. She held a variety of jobs on the East Coast that ultimately led to owning and managing Business Systems Solution, Inc. She currently lives with her husband and two dogs in Silver City, New Mexico.

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