Reading Indigenous Authors

Today happens to be the last day of Native American History Month here in the US, so it seems like a good time to mention some of the Indigenous authors I’ve been reading this year. I’m always trying to diversify my reading in various ways, and recently I’ve been enjoying some Native viewpoints across various genres.

Calling for a Blanket Dance

by Oscar Hokeah

I discovered Oscar Hokeah’s writing through his blog here on WordPress. When I saw that his debut novel was coming out, I immediately requested it at the library. Calling for a Blanket Dance is a contemporary generational family drama, with a similar feeling to Pachinko or Roots. It tells the life and struggles of Ever Geimausaddle through the myriad voices of his family members, finally ending with himself. It was such an engaging read, and I loved the writing and the voices of each of the narrators. I also loved the format of interconnected vignettes that fit together to tell and overarching story. Hokeah draws a lot from his own life and family, so it feels very authentic.

Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a biologist, this nonfiction exploration of Native ecological wisdom really appealed to me, but it is so well written that it is very accessible to nonscientists as well. We often have a stereotype of Native peoples being “noble savages,” living in perfect harmony with nature, and this book explores some of the Native myths and practices behind this, both from Kimmerer’s Potawatomi heritage as well as the peoples of upstate New York where she lives. It also backs up observations with clear, accurate scientific details, much of which I remembered from college botany, but I’ve been learning some new things, too.

Though there is some interconnectedness, each chapter mostly reads like its own distinct essay, which makes it easy to pick up and put down; it’s not really the kind of book to read straight through as fast as possible. I’ve been listening to it on audiobook (narrated by the author) while I drive, and each essay is conveniently about the length of my commute.

A Snake Falls to Earth

by Darcie Little Badger

I just started reading this one for the recent Big Library Read on the Libby app (which allows for unlimited copies for lending). The sophomore effort from the Elatsoe author (also a scientist!) has been nominated for numerous awards, including this year’s Newbery Medal. It is a bit of a slow tale, but it has really great elements of magic mixed with a coming-of-age story. It pulls from folklore of DLB’s Lipan Apache heritage. If you like YA fantasy like I do, I think you will enjoy this one.

Finding My Dance

by Ria Thundercloud

Ok, I’m going to throw a picture book in here, too. I read this to my kids, and while it was just a touch above their age (better for early elementary), as a former dancer myself I loved it. It tells the author’s journey into the dance world, starting with powwows with her family. The pictures were lovely, too. Here is the author performing the Eagle Dance mentioned in the book.

What’s next on my list? On my to-read list:

  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, a contemporary adult novel about a haunted bookstore set in 2020
  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, a contemporary YA mystery/thriller nominated for a lot of awards
  • anything by Joy Harjo, the former US Poet Laureate

If you are looking for further recommendations, here are some great infographics from the bookstory Room of One’s Own