November is Native American Heritage Month so take the opportunity to learn more about North America’s first inhabitants. With over 2.9 million indigenous peoples and 566 federally recognized tribes thriving in the United States, Native Americans make significant contributions to the social fabric of our country. Here are some select titles featuring Native American authors worth reading:
Get a taste of contemporary American Indian life both on and off the reservation with thirty of Sherman Alexie’s best short stories. Featuring fifteen classic tales and fifteen new anecdotes, Alexie captures both the tragic and comedic aspects of marriage, basketball, poverty, alcoholism, racism, and death. For example, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” highlights the frustration of living off the reservation while newly published “Green World” examines the guilt and shame associated with humankind’s destruction of the world. Writing from a variety of viewpoints, Alexie is truly a master of the short story, counterbalancing trauma and pain with uplifting humor.
Thirteen year-old Joe Coutt's life is turned upside down when his mother is brutally attacked and raped near the ceremonial round house on a North Dakota Indian reservation. Set in the present, Erdrich's The Round House is narrated by Joe as he looks back at this troublesome time and the trauma that deeply affected his family. With a lack of support from local authorities due to jurisdiction disputes, Joe starts his own investigation into the matter in a coming of age tale that weaves tragedy, humor, morality, and spirituality together. Erdrich beautifully incorporates the intricate challenges of reservation life with the rich history and culture of her characters.
"And what one finds on reservations is more than scars, tears, blood, and noble sentiment. There is beauty in Indian life, as well as meaning and a long history of interaction. We love our reservations..." Following a series familial tragedies, Leech Lake Ojibwe band member David Treuer begins to seriously contemplate reservation life and what it means to be "Indian." In his full-length, non-fiction book, Rez Life, Treuer explores the ins and outs of Indian country using a combination of journalistic approaches, autobiographical accounts, and stories of the past and present. Eye-opening and well-written, Rez Life focuses primarily on Ojibwe tribes, but can resonate with tribes across the United States.
Lewis Blake is off to junior high, and like most kids his age, he just wants to fit in. But, while Lewis is smart and outgoing, he is also Native American and poor which makes him an outsider in a class full of white students. That is, until he meets George Haddonfield, a new classmate who lives on the nearby Air Force base. Lewis and George bond over the music of Queen, the Wings, and the Beatles, but is that all they have in common? Set in 1975 on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in upstate New York, Gansworth’s first young adult novel exemplifies the importance of friendship despite adversity.