Rachel’s Reads – November 2023
With the resurgence of interest in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, I felt that this list of First Nations and Native American authors is quite timely. There are a few authors who have entered into the national canon. Louise Erdrich is well known and well respected in literary fiction, Stephen Graham Jones is one of the best in horror, Sherman Alexie is an award winner in young adult literature, and Joy Harjo is the first Native American United States Poet Laureate. The five of them are fantastic authors, but there are many more Indigenous writers to read and enjoy. To help with that, here is a list of authors that I think more people should know.
Eden is a Canadian author and a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations. Her Trickster trilogy has been optioned by CBC in Canada, but my favorite of her books is Monkey Beach. It is a coming-of-age novel about family, ancestral traditions, and healing. Eden has a wonderful talent for really bringing places to life.
Marcie R. Rendon
Marcie is an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and her crime novels should definitely be on your radar. Start with Murder on the Red River, which is set in 1970’s Minnesota. Between the atmosphere and the action, it is hard to put down. I would have the follow up, Girl Gone Missing, nearby once you finish.
Joshua is an Obji-Cree member of the Peguis First Nation and has incredible range. He first came to my attention through his debut work, Jonny Appleseed, but it’s his essay collection, Making Love with the Land, that I absolutely loved. In this collection, he explores relationships between the body, language, and the land in moving prose.
Linda LeGarde Grover
Linda is an Anishinaabe novelist and short story writer from Minnesota. Her novel, In the Night of Memory, is one that will stick with you. The prose is absolutely beautiful. Alternating between different perspectives, it tells the story of two sisters who are lost and find family and themselves on an Ojibwa reservation.
Cherie is a Métis writer who has written award-winning fiction. Her back catalog is deep, but I recommend this year’s release, VenCo, which is a fantastically entertaining romp about witches on a scavenger hunt across America that is leading to a magical showdown.
Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie is an American writer of Laguna Pueblo descent. She was a debut recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Grant in 1981 and won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. Her catalog is extensive and includes short stories, poetry, and novels. Her debut novel, Ceremony, is arguably her most famous, however my favorite has always been Almanac of the Dead. Not for the faint of heart, it is built on the writings of the Maya and puts Western culture on trial. It’s a complicated puzzle but an amazing journey.
Billy-Ray is a poet, scholar, and author from the Driftpile Cree Nation in Canada and the youngest winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize for This Wound is a World. His recent novel, A Minor Chorus, is outstanding. His unnamed narrator chronicles a series of encounters which help him wrestle with the cycles of violence, drugs, and survival.
N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Dance Society and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his 1969 book, House Made of Dawn. His 2020 poetry collection, Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land, is dazzling. He writes an impassioned defense of the earth as a place of wonder and abundance.
Although I chose to focus on authors with more extensive catalogs that have been writing for a while, there are a few more recent releases and authors that I would love people to discover. Tommy Orange’s There There, Oscar Hokeah’s Calling for a Blanket Dance, Morgan Talty’s Night of the Living Rez, Angeline Boulley’s Warrior Girl Unearthed, Brandon Hobson’s The Removed, and David Treuer’s The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee (which was on my best-of list in 2019). Hopefully among this list, you will find something to spark your interest.
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