9 Books by Indigenous Authors to Add to Your Reading List ASAP
August 9th is Book Lovers Day and World Indigenous Peoples Day.
While some books are used as a source of entertainment, most of them can teach us about the world around us, showing us things we would have never known before. For instance, to have more empathy and understanding for others that have different life experiences than us, a book can help us understand the nuances of their individual histories—no matter how grim it may seem. That's why it's imperative to add Indigenous stories by Indigenous authors to your reading list.
The Indigenous story within the United States has been one filled with unimaginable horrors leading to the near-erasement of a culture, but also, one that is filled with the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of a proud people—and it's important to become educated on all aspects of their lives, not just the bad.
The below Indigenous authors perfectly capture that message with novels and memoirs that shine a bright light on Indigenous in every aspect of their lives.
Cheyenne Madonna by Eddie Chuculate
With Cheyenne Madonna, Chuculate shares a collection of short stories that paint a vivid picture of Jordon Coolwater—a young boy who grows up to live a life that is filled with love, heartbreak, and a journey to true self-awareness. Readers will follow the protagonist's journey from his time as an innocent youth to the moment he becomes a wisened man.
Joy Harjo, the United States first indigenous Poet Laureate and member of the Muscogee Nation, applauds Chuculate for creating a novel that "relates a world that is exactly what it is, with no romantic savage junk, and no temporary spiritual life preservers" and notes him as "an important new talent in his generation of storytellers."
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford
Crooked Hallelujah focuses on the intricate, heartbreaking, and proud relationships between mothers and daughters. Ford details the story of Justine and her daughter Reney as they navigate what it means to be an Indigenous woman of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, while also balancing the world around them.
Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos
Following in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed memoir Whip Smart, Melissa Febos' Abandon Me plunges into the effect that love, identity, and the world around us can play in our lives. Febos traverses the landscape of her life from her Indigenous birth father who she never knew to the sea-faring father who raised her to the long-distance love connection she shared with a woman. The memoir is poignant, vulnerable, and an emotional journey that captures the bonds created through the connections we make throughout our lives.
The Tao of Raven: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes
In The Tao of Raven, Hayes seeks to shine a light on many of the frustrations, ire, and indignation that Indigenous people have encountered over the years and how in spite of all of it, the community continues to rise like a phoenix. She deep dives into what it was like for her to overcome intergenerational traumas, what it means to complete a college degree in her 50s, and about the generations of Indigenous men and women that will come after her.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
As a botanist and Indigenous scientist, Wall Kimmerer understands that nature always has a story to tell or a lesson to give regardless of where we may be. In this book, Kimmerer digs deep into the history of the land everyone walks on and shares its secrets in a passionate and moving way. She brings forth the importance of having the conversation of ecological and environmental awareness and how harmony is needed in order to ensure that we continue hearing the stories nature wants to tell us.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
The Only Good Indians is a psychological thriller that follows the haunting story of four Indigenous men who were trying to run away from a deadly mistake that occurred when they were young. Graham Jones intricately details all the ways that our past decisions can come back to haunt us and those we love. It also stands as a poignant novel depicting the delicate balance Indigenous people must tow between the duality of their cultural identity.
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Heart Berries is a gripping memoir about Mailhot's mental health journey as she began the process of decoding the experiences that made her the woman she is today. In it, she honors the memory of her mother, reconciles with the story of her father, and finds a way to navigate the often delicate waters of what it means to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder.
Trail of Lightning (Book 1) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Trail of Lightning follows the story of a courageous Dinétah monster hunter and heroine as she works alongside her sidekick to solve the mystery of a missing girl in a post-apocalyptic world. Named one of TIME 100's "Best Fantasy Books of All Time" and one of Bustle's "Top 20" sci-fi and fantasy novels of the decade, Rebecca Roanhorse creates a rich world that is masked in chilling perplexities, witchcraft, and horrors that only Maggie Hoskie can decode and solve.
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Indian Horse was written by famed First Nation Canadian author Richard Wagamese and follows the story of Saul Indian Horse. Written in the style of a memoir from Saul's point of view, readers will live through the same trials and tribulations of the book's protagonist from the horrors of Canada's residential school system where First Nation youth were forcefully registered in order to help them "assimilate" to the rise and fall of his talented ice hockey career.