November is Native American Heritage Month. In honor of this month, our Book Chat team has put together a list of books that celebrate the culture and heritage of Native Americans and the ways they deeply enrich the quality and character of our country.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, by David Treuer
David Treuer, who grew up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, melds history, reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes' distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how depredations of each era of Native American history spawned new modes of survival. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.
Winter Counts, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.
There There, by Tommy Orange
As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.
When the Light of the World was Subdued
This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize–winner N. Scott Momaday, the book is an extraordinary sweep of Native literature, without which no study of American poetry is complete.
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
Where the Dead Sit Talking, by Brandon Hobson
Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family. He keeps mostly to himself until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, another youth staying with the Troutts. Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American background, but as Sequoyah's feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives threaten to undo them both.
Yellow Bird, by Sierra Crane Murdoch
The gripping true story of a murder on an Indian reservation, Yellow Bird traces Lissa Yellow Bird’s steps as she obsessively hunts for clues in the disappearance of Kristopher “KC” Clarke, a young white oil worker that disappeared from his worksite on a reservation. Lissa navigates two worlds – that of her own, newly oil-rich tribe, and that of the non-Native oilmen who have come to work on the reservation.
The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dinaline
In this novel, global warming has nearly destroyed the world, but now a greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted for their bone marrow, which carries the key to something everyone else has lost: the ability to dream. For Frenchie and his friends, survival means staying hidden—but what they don't know is they hold the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.
Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac
Throughout World War II, Navajo code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort. Joseph Bruchac brings their stories to life through the riveting fictional tale of Ned Begay, a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy who becomes a code talker. His grueling journey is eye-opening and inspiring. This novel honors both the young men who dared to serve, and the culture and language of the Navajo people.
Give Me Some Truth, by Eric Gansworth
Carson Mastick is entering his senior year of high school and desperate to make his mark, on the reservation and off. Winning Battle of the Bands is his best shot. Maggi Bokoni is back on the reservation with her family. She's wants to make conceptional artwork, instead of the traditional art her family sells. Carson and Maggi navigate loud protests, even louder music, and first love in this stirring novel.
Hearts Unbroken, by Cynthia Smith
New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and first love.
Fry Bread, by Kevin Malliard
Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.
Race to the Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he's a threat, but her father won't believe her.
We Are Grateful, by Traci Sorell
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. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, by Joseph Marshall
Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy, though you wouldn’t guess it by his name. His mother is Lakota, and his father is half white and half Lakota. Over summer break, Jimmy embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle. While on the road, his grandfather tells him the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota, and American, history.
When We Were Alone, by David Robertson
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does she have long braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? As she asks her grandmother about this and more, she is told about life a long time ago. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.
I Can Make This Promise, by Christine Day
All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. She has no answers about her Native American heritage – until she discovers a box full of letters hidden in the attic, singed “Love, Edith.” Suddenly, Edie has questions, but doesn’t know if she can trust her parents. In I Can Make This Promise, Christine Day tells a lovely story of a girl who uncovers secrets and discovers her own identity.
Last Modified December 04, 2020