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Native American and Indigenous books we should celebrate all year long

By December 9, 2022No Comments6 min read

When we honor and recognize Native American Heritage Month, we should also uplift and support Native and Indigenous creators and influencers, authors and poets. This list, made up of books to celebrate not just during National Native American Month here in the US in November but all year round was recommended by Native American and Indigenous writers, influencers in the book community. We’ve also included recommendations from First Nations in Canada creators, writers and influencers, because their recommendations also deserve to be showcased all year round. If you want to buy any of the books, please consider supporting a Native owned bookstore either in person or online (a list can be found here).

Charley Flyte, audiobook narrator, @SeeCharleyRead recommends:

Here are some of the books that I have had the great pleasure to collaborate on as an audiobook narrator:

SHUTTER, by Ramona Emerson (Navajo/Dine)

In this gritty supernatural crime thriller, forensic crime photographer Rita Todacheene has a gift that has plagued her for her entire life — she sees dead people.  When the subject of a murder investigation comes to her from the other side and refuses to leave until she helps her, she has no choice but to investigate a conspiracy that puts her own life in danger.

Oooh-whee!  This book!  This book gave me chills! I love mysteries and crime fiction, and this was a wonderful book to collaborate on.  I love supporting other Native artists in the work, and I’m always so inspired by their imagination and creativity.  I loved the back and forth between the present-day mystery and the flashbacks to childhood and time with grandma on the rez.  

I also want to give a shout-out to Blossom Johnson (Navajo/Dine) for her assistance with the Navajo language in this book — I’m so grateful for her assistance, and honestly everyone should hire her as a language and cultural consultant!

THE BACKBONE OF THE WORLD, by Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet)

In this eerie sci-fi horror story set on a Blackfoot rez in rural Montana, Minnie Two Bears lives alone, pining for her husband. An odd woman comes to stay on her property, and with her comes a series of strange phenomena. Curious gets the better of Minnie and she investigates,discovering in the process something stranger than she ever could have imagined.

This story was so creepy and unsettling, I absolutely loved it. I’ve loved sci-fi and weird tales since I was a kid, and this was just an exciting book to sink my teeth into.  Never at any time could I predict what was going to happen next, and the end was as shocking and incredible as anything from Stephen King.

BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, by Tiffany Midge (Lakota)

In this collection of comedic essays, Lakota comedienne Tiffany Midge makes us laugh with her dark humor and wry observations of life.

This book was hilarious and delightful to record, and I could see my engineer kept cracking up outside the booth. He kept asking me how I managed to keep from laughing, and honestly, I have no idea — sheer force of will to power through and make him laugh, I guess!

POWWOW DAY, by Traci Sorrell (Cherokee Nation citizen), illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw)

In this adorable children’s book, a young Native girl, River, is recovering from an illness.  While excited to attend a powwow again, she is saddened that she has not yet recovered enough to dance. With the help of her friends and family, she finds joy at the powwow, and looks forward to dancing again.

This book is so precious and so sweet, and the illustrations by Madelyn Goodnight are delightful.  Lakota musician Frank Waln also collaborated with us on the audiobook version, which you should check out!  I gave this book to my Lakota nephew for this year, as he loves receiving books of his very own, and I recommend it as a gift for the children in your life!

Mallory Whiteduck, @nativegirlsreading recommends:

I’m sharing This Is Paradise, an exquisite collection of short stories by Kanaka Maoli writer Kristina Kahakauwila. Years ago I tuned into a Harvard Natives panel and heard Kahakauwila discussing her work and I finally got to read it. Like the sweltering heat she describes of Hawai’i, these stories settle into your bones. Her stories are character-driven, my favourite, and I am still thinking about the group of girlfriends in the title story ‘This Is Paradise’ and the two siblings (one who stayed at home and the other who went away) who come together to care for their dying father in ‘The Old Paniolo Way.’

Read More | The Best New Book Releases Of December 2022

Feather, @firestorm_of_books recommends:

For people who love dystopian type books, I definitely recommend Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson. For those who are more partial to fantasy/supernatural Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun and Darcie Littlebadger’s Elatsoe. The two previously mentioned books are also LGBTQIA+ friendly. Thriller lovers will die over any of Stephen Graham Jones. I highly recommend James Bird’s middle grade book, The Brave. Not only for younger generation but any age.

Colby Wilkens, @colbywilkens recommends:

I’ll be recommending The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon. Edgmon’s prose is magical, and delightfully edgy with dark and humorous undertones. This book is fun, heartwarming, heart-wrenching, and a joy. With important Trans and Indigenous rep, this book has it all.

Alexis, @littlelionslibrary recommends:

I always always always recommend Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since it published in 2020 and it has absolutely earned it’s spot as my all-time favorite book. It’s a story that’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. Masterful prose and unparalleled storytelling weave together to tell an unforgettable tale of finding yourself through violence, both internal and external, and finding strength in the traditions that raised you. It is painful and will leave your soul bare and vulnerable but, it is an important reflection on what life was like for our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers that came before us. Can never recommend it enough.

Dani, @dh.trujillo recommends:

There are a plethora of incredible Indigenous authored books. I’m so lucky to be a member of the NDN community on bookstagram where I can constantly talk about them. One of my recent favorites is Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling (Bitterroot Salish). The storytelling is deeply engaging and creates a sense of comfort in the familiarity. Time is not linear and some things remain shrouded in shadow but that is precisely what makes me love it so much. It truly is a story we would’ve heard from our grandmother.

Melitta, @the.midnight.librarian recommends:

Would definitely recommend The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson. The book goes into quite a few important discussions on identity, community, the importance of seeds, ICWA, and the importance of cultural knowledge. And the folks have time. I would also definitely recommend watching “Seed: the Untold Story” as a follow up.

Hillary, bookseller at Black Walnut Books recommends:

I would love to recommend Carry by Toni Jensen. It’s a gorgeously written memoir as essay collection. It deals with gun violence, colonialism, racism, capitalism and sexism and how those impact Native communities in the US.

Featured Image Courtesy of Milkweed Editions, Orion, Harlequin, BlueHen Books, Random House Publishing Group, Feiwel & Friends, Soho Press

Brianna Robinson

Brianna Robinson is a book publicist and Sarah Lawrence College alum. She lives in New York with too many books and two enthusiastic dachshunds. You can find her on twitter @blrobins2.

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