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November 01, 2022

Native American Heritage Month Book Recommendations

 

November is National Native American Heritage Month.

To celebrate the beautiful Native American culture (and the differences from Nation to Nation and tribe to tribe), as well as Native American (Indigenous) characters and authors, I have created a short list of book recommendations for you. This is not an exhaustive list but rather a starting point.

While you're on my blog, hop on over to this important and informative article I posted last year: How To Respect and Support Indigenous Peoples

Enjoy!


*** NON-FICTION ***


White Magic

by Elissa Washuta

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BLURB: Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, "starter witch kits" of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning.

In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life--Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham--to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.


Crazy Brave

by Joy Harjo

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BLURB: In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a haunting, visionary memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice.


*** YOUNG ADULT/ADULT ****


The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

by Zoraida Córdova 

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BLURB: The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won't ever leave their home in Four Rivers--not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea's line. Determined to save what's left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador--to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.


Firekeeper's Daughter

by Angeline Boulley

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BLURB: Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi's hockey team.

Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, drawing on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the source. But the search for truth is more complicated than Daunis imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. At the same time, she grows concerned with an investigation that seems more focused on punishing the offenders than protecting the victims.

Now, as the deceptions--and deaths--keep growing, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she'll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she's ever known.


Hearts Unbroken

by Cynthia Leitich Smith


BLURB: When Louise Wolfe's first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It's her senior year, anyway, and she'd rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper's staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director's inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students -- especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou's little brother, who's playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey -- but as she's learned, "dating while Native" can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey's?


A Snake Falls to Earth

by Darcie Little Badger 

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BLURB: Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She's always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he's been cast from home. He's found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli's best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven't been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.


The Morrow Thieves

by Cherie Dimaline

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BLURB: Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams.

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden - but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.


*** MIDDLE GRADE ***


Healer of the Water Monster

by Brian Young


BLURB: When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he's in for a pretty uneventful summer, with no electricity or cell service. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and with his uncle Jet, though it's clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds someone extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story--a Water Monster--in need of help.

Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to support Uncle Jet in healing from his own pain.


Apple In The Middle

by Dawn Quigley 

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BLURB: Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur for someone of white and Indian descent, not that she really even knew how to be an Indian in the first place. Too bad the white world doesnt accept her either. And so begins her quirky habits to gain acceptance.

Apple's name, chosen by her Indian mother on her deathbed, has a double meaning: treasured apple of my eye, but also the negative connotation a person who is red, or Indian, on the outside, but white on the inside.

After her wealthy father gives her the boot one summer, Apple reluctantly agrees to visit her Native American relatives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota for the first time. Apple learns to deal with the culture shock of Indian customs and the Native Michif language, while she tries to find a connection to her dead mother. She also has to deal with a vengeful Indian man who loved her mother in high school but now hates Apple because her mom married a white man.

Bouncing in the middle of two cultures, Apple meets her Indian relatives, shatters Indian stereotypes, and learns what it means to find her place in a world divided by color.


Indian No More

by Charlene Willing McManis, Traci Sorell

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BLURB: When Regina's Umpqua tribe is legally terminated and her family must relocate from Oregon to Los Angeles, she goes on a quest to understand her identity as an Indian despite being so far from home.

Regina Petit's family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde Tribe's reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government enacts a law that says Regina's tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes Indian no more overnight--even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.


*** CHILDREN'S ***


Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun's Thanksgiving Story

by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, & Alexis Bunten

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BLURB: The Thanksgiving story that most Americans know celebrates the Pilgrims. But without members of the Wampanoag tribe who already lived on the land where the Pilgrims settled, the Pilgrims would never have made it through their first winter. And without Weeâchumun (corn), the Native people wouldn't have helped.

An important picture book honoring both the history and tradition that surrounds the story of the first Thanksgiving.


Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

by Cynthia L. Smith

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BLURB: Edited by award-winning and bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith, this collection of intersecting stories by both new and veteran Native writers bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).

They are the heroes of their own stories.


We Are Water Protectors

by Carole Lindstrom

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BLURB: Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth's water from harm and corruption.

Water is the first medicine.

It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth

And poison her people's water, one young water protector

Takes a stand to defend Earth's most sacred resource.


Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

by Kevin Noble Maillard

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BLURB: Fry bread is food. It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate. Fry bread is time. It brings families together for meals and new memories. Fry bread is nation .It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond. Fry bread is us. It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference. Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family.


Be A Good Ancestor

by Leona Prince, Gabrielle Prince

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BLURB: Rooted in Indigenous teachings, this stunning picture book encourages readers of all ages to consider the ways in which they live in connection to the world around them and to think deeply about their behaviors.

Addressing environmental issues, animal welfare, self-esteem and self-respect, and the importance of community, the authors deliver a poignant and universal message in an accessible way: Be a good ancestor to the world around you.


We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know

by Traci Sorell

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BLURB: Twelve Native American kids present historical and contemporary laws, policies, struggles, and victories in Native life, each with a powerful refrain: We are still here!

Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of relevant and ongoing. Precise, lyrical writing presents topics including: forced assimilation (such as boarding schools), land allotment and Native tribal reorganization, termination (the US government not recognizing tribes as nations), Native urban relocation (from reservations), self-determination (tribal self-empowerment), Native civil rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), religious freedom, economic development (including casino development), Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood.


We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

by Traci Sorell

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BLURB: The Cherokee community is grateful for blessings and challenges that each season brings. This is modern Native American life as told by an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. The complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah, is included.


*** GRAPHIC NOVELS ***


Pemmican Wars: Volume 1

by Katherena Vermette

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BLURB: Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl adjusting to a new home and school, is struggling with loneliness while separated from her mother. Then an ordinary day in Mr. Bee's history class turns extraordinary, and Echo's life will never be the same. During Mr. Bee's lecture, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place--a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie--and back again to the present. In the following weeks, Echo slips back and forth in time. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.


CHECK OUT MORE IN THE A GIRL CALLED ECHO SERIES:

Red River Resistance

Northwest Resistance

Road Allowance Era


This Place: 150 Years Retold

by Brandon Mitchell,  David A. Robertson,

Chelsea Vowel, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley

BUY @ BOOKSHOP

BLURB: Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Each story includes a timeline of related historical events and a personal note from the author. Find cited sources and a select bibliography for further reading in the back of the book. The accompanying teacher guide includes curriculum charts and 12 lesson plans to help educators use the book with their students.


*** FOR WRITERS ***


Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters

by J. Lenni Dorner

GOODREADS

BLURB: This reference guide is a tool to help you organize your thoughts and ideas to obtain the goal of making a setting that feels like a character. This valuable reference guide is useful in revealing a simplified way to create settings that feel like characters by using an organized sketch sheet. This practical approach will help focus your writing. The challenge of making a setting into a character is easily conquered with this informative guide. Make your story more interesting in today's competitive fiction market by giving your writing this edge.


QUESTIONS: Do any of those titles look/sound interesting to you? Are you adding any to your TBR list? Have you read any of these titles?



16 comments:

  1. Hi Chrys - I'd love to read the children's ones ... while I imagine J Lenni's will be a useful reference guide. Thank you ... I enjoy learning about new books etc - all the best - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  2. These reviews are fabulous! Some of the covers of these books are extremely beautiful!

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  3. @Hilary, I’ve read a few of the children’s books. We Are Water Protectors is a great picture book.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Damyanti, thank you so much!

    I am in awe of several of these covers.

    Thank you 🙏 for visiting and commenting. ❤️

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the recommendations. I have a copy of one of Joy Harjo's collections of poetry and I think I reviewed it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Jeff, that’s neat. After I read her memoir, I’ll be interested in her poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This looks like a great collection! I'm adding a few to my wishlist.
    Congratulations to J Lenni!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so happy that you're adding a few to your wishlist. <3

      Delete
  8. I have a love/hate relationship with these posts. Love them because they're about books, and you always highlight such awesome looking/sounding titles. Hate them because I don't know when I'll ever be able to read them all. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for including me on your awesome list!

    I'll add "The Rainbow Crow"
    https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/97513
    The author isn't a Native American, but did at least get permission to publish this story, which is something. It's lore from my fellow Lenni-Lenape people.

    "I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of." —Joss Whedon

    J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Reference& Speculative Fiction Author, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, and Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, J! And thank you for the additional recommendation.

      Delete
  10. Wonderful list of recommendations.

    ReplyDelete

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