The 20 Best Native American Authors’ Books to Add to Your Bookcase

The 20 Best Native American Authors’ Books to Add to Your Bookcase

Erika T. Wurth’s novel White Horse

Prepare for Halloween with this new story about the value of family, what it means to be haunted, and how our past shapes our future. Oh, and there are a lot of heavy metal, dive bars, and gritty moments that you can feel between your back teeth. Open a cold one, put on a well-worn band T-shirt, and prepare for spine tingles.

Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead

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Most histories of our country are told from the perspective of white colonists, just as practically all historical records are written from the perspective of the winners. Instead, we learn about the lives, fates, hopes, and dreams of Native Americans in this lovely book. or tingles down your spine.

Morgan Talty’s Night of the Living Rez

20 Best Books by Native American Authors to Read in 2022

These harrowing, heartbreaking, and often darkly humorous stories expose us to a community of Native Americans who live on a Penobscot reservation in Maine. There is familial sorrow, drug addiction, and poverty, but there are also brave youngsters, and adults who endure all obstacles, and an enduring, moving love.

Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries: A Memoir

Look no further for a wonderful elegy for the author’s late parents, which addresses pain, family, and a new perspective on memory and how much of it we can truly trust. It’s not a light read, but it’s critical.

Kali Fajardo-novel Anstine’s Woman of Light

Luz is left to navigate 1930s Denver on her own after her brother is chased out of town by a violent white mob. But, before long, she begins to experience glimpses of her ancestors and their lives in the surrounding Lost Territory, bearing witness to their suffering and perseverance, and realizing how vital it is to ensure that those stories do not die with her.

David Treuer’s The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

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History buffs will not want to miss this. It’s a memoir/reportage hybrid that traces the history of Native Americans’ rich and diverse cultures from initial contact with white settlers through how degradations like land grabs, massacres, forced assimilation, and other atrocities gave rise to uniquely potent means of resistance.

TOMMY PICO

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Take out your highlighter, since you’ll want to remember almost every line of Pico’s amazing poetry. Pico grew up on the Viejas Reservation near San Diego and writes passionate lines about his intersecting identities as an LGBT, American Indian, urban-dwelling poet.

Tommy Orange’s novel There There

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In this remarkable novel, 12 characters congregate during the Big Oakland Powwow as the plot accelerates to a dramatic finish. There’s the newly sober Jacquie Red Feather, Dene Oxendene, who works at the powwow to commemorate his uncle’s memory, Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, who will witness her nephew perform a traditional Indian dance for the first time, and so many more.

Elissa Washuta’s White Magic

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You’ve probably seen that the witchy aesthetic is having a moment, with tarot readings, sage burning, and crystals all over social media. But these old occult instruments are much more than that. Washuta investigates her cultural setting in this series of intertwined pieces Washuta investigates her cultural context as she battles addiction and mental health issues to become a strong witch in her own right.

Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones

20 Best Books by Native American Authors to Read in 2022

As Hurricane Katrina looms over the Gulf of Mexico, so do the tensions in a poor households. As the story nears its dramatic end, try to remember to breathe. While every book Jesmyn Ward writes is a triumph, if you’re unfamiliar with her work, this searing National Book Award winner is a fantastic place to start.

Brandon Hobson’s novel The Removed

20 Best Books by Native American Authors to Read in 2022

This narrative of family members struggling to live through the agony of losing one of their own to a police shot is steeped in Cherokee myths and traditions, and it will stick with you like a tenacious ghost. It’s a touch creepy, highly captivating, and firmly rooted in the genuine threats that individuals confront daily.

Diane Wilson’s novel The Seed Keeper

Spend time with Rosalie Iron Wing, who grew up immersed in the stories of her Dakh├│ta people until her father died and she was transferred to live with a foster family. Rosalie is a widow and mother who returns to her childhood home to mourn what she’s lost and rediscover her ancestors’ qualities.

Stephen Graham Jones’s My Heart Is a Chainsaw

20 Best Books by Native American Authors to Read in 2022

Fans of horror flicks will enjoy following Jade, a half-Native American outcast who relies on her encyclopedic knowledge of slasher films to make sense of the world. When individuals start disappearing in the gentrifying town of Proofrock, where she lives, her skills may come in handy. 

Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave: A Memoir

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Joy Harjo’s beautiful memoir chronicles her coming-of-age as the daughter of an abusive father, a creative child who finds refuge in poetry, nature, and the arts. As she ages and becomes a single mother, she discovers her voice and her position in the world.

Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of WWII

Even though it’s written for young adults, this World War II tale will appeal to older readers as well. It’s all about the Navajo Code Talkers, who transmitted communications for US troops in their native language. It’s a significant historical period represented in engrossing words.

Theodore C. Van Alst Jr.’s Sacred Smokes

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This passionate, sometimes amusing, sometimes shocking book dives into what it means to grow up in Chicago as a Native American gang member. While it may not be acceptable reading for children, it is an important look at an under-recognized portion of our country’s Native population.

MELISSA FEBOS

This book investigates what we’re all taught about what it means to be a girl and how we might break free of those expectations through investigative reporting, scholarly inquiry, and intimate human accounts. It’s a rallying cry, a deconstruction of stereotypes, and a lyrical journey all rolled into one.

Louise Erdrich’s Sentence

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What do you do when the spirit of your most vexing customer becomes trapped in the bookstore where you work? Tookie, a recently jailed man, must figure this out while surviving the COVID-19 outbreak and the reckoning that occurs in Minneapolis in the aftermath of police aggression. It’s an engrossing, slightly eerie, and darkly humorous book.

Eddie Chuculate’s Cheyenne Madonna

Among a series of linked vignettes, we follow Jordan Coolwater as he navigates life, dealing with his family’s alcoholism, racism, and internal and cultural issues in Oklahoma’s Cherokee and Muscogee communities. It’s a harsh, sometimes painful look at what people go through and must do to survive.

Linda LeGarde Grover’s novel The Road Back to Sweetgrass

From the 1970s to the present, follow the intertwined experiences of Dale Ann, Theresa, and Margie as they navigate love, loss, and family in a changing world. Sweetgrass is both a land allotment and a plant used in the Ojibwe ceremonial odissimaa bag, which includes a newborn’s umbilical cord in this book that shuffles between past and present, as well as all of the history and legend contained inside.

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