November is Indigenous & Native American Heritage Month, a time in which we celebrate the culture and heritage of Indigenous & Native American people. Cultural exchange is something that everyone should strive to participate in and we at Bookstr are here to facilitate your efforts. We’ve got three NDN and Indigenous Bookstagrammers that you should follow to appreciate NDN culture all year round! Let’s talk with Gare of @gareindeedreads, Dani of @dh.trujillo, and Carolann of @ndnbooknerd!
Who are some of your favorite Indigenous or Native American authors?
Indigenous/Native American authors that I have read, and think are amazing storytellers are Stephen Graham Jones and David Heska Wanbli Weiden. It’s pretty clear that publishing still has a lot of work to do with diversity in authors, so as time goes on, I am hopeful and excited to add more names to my favorite Indigenous/Native American authors soon.
My absolute favorite has to be Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet). He’s so atmospheric and really wraps you up inside the story with him. I recently read Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling (Bitterroot Salish) and completely fell in love with her writing. Her words set up camp in my heart and I think of them often. When I read her book it felt so immersive that I thought, “I hope I can write this uniquely one day.” I’m currently reading Erika T. Wurth’s debut White Horse and I am really enjoying her novel. I’m from Colorado, and everytime I read her book I feel like I am there. Just incredible.
Debra Magpie Earling is one of my new favorite Indigenous authors, she is Salish and recently reprinted her novel Perma Red and I just got word of her next project as well. Her writing is so extremely vivid, intense, and fierce. It is narrative fiction, but it feels like you’re reading long paragraphs of poetry that are so extremely descriptive and make the nature she is describing come alive around you.
Louise Erdrich always deserves her flowers and recognition, my recent favorite of hers is The Sentence and I love how her writing is so contemporary and modern. I usually say the kind of fiction that I love is the most realistic, relatable, and close to real life as it can get. I love stepping into the shoes of another character and wondering what life is like through their eyes.
What do you hope to see more of one day within Indigenous literature?
I’d love to get to a point where Indigenous literature is as prominent as all literature in the sense of having Indigenous stories, but it would be nice to see more Indigenous authors and to see more of their stories across all genres, like romance, thrillers, and contemporary fiction.
Joy. A lot of published works have strong dark elements and themes – which is great, but I also want to see us in light, fluffy novels too. I want to read cute holiday romances, teens going on quests, people growing and finding themselves in the world and within their community. We deserve to be able to read about characters and scenarios we relate to other than our shared trauma. I can see the change coming swiftly, however.
I have an ARC right now for a Indigenous fantasy, and I myself am working on a contemporary romance. I’m so excited to see what new books and genre types hit the market in the coming years. The demand for Native-made media has become so visible thanks to social media so having shows like Rez Dogs and books like Firekeeper’s Daughter and White Horse are only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what worlds we can explore.
I hope to see even more variety of Native people’s niche, unique interests. I ended up exploring Stephen Graham Jones, a Blackfeet horror author just because I wanted to support Native horror fans and their love for a specific, interesting genre! I know that there are all kinds of Native nerds out there that enjoy a huge variety of interests like metal music, anime, fitness, skateboarding, jiu-jitsu, theater, etc. etc. etc. I always find it so incredible to continue pushing the needle against Native stereotypes and showcasing our relation to the contemporary world!
Which books would you recommend for their accurate or positive representation of Indigenous characters?
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden was a really accurate portrayal of not only how the opioid crisis affects the Indigenous/Native American community but featured the honest and unfortunate truth about health care, housing, and political issues that people deal with between the U.S. government and reservations.
If you’re more into Indigenous/Native American folklore and want something more eerie, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones was a really creepy tale that deals with social commentary and supernatural elements about a group of friends being haunted. The urban legends I had heard growing up scared me endlessly, so this story gave me such a sense of nostalgia when I read it.
Really the most important thing is to seek Indigenous authored stories. We are an incredibly vast people, numbering multi-millions and spread throughout continents and islands. No one knows us better than ourselves. No one can tell our stories the way we can. One of my favorite fiction reads that I’ve really resonated with is Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Ojibwe).
Daunis is a very complex character and Boulley explores so many contemporary NDN issues in the novel, such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, substance abuse, and poverty. Her novel is exciting perfect for those who want to learn a little about our culture, but aren’t interested in nonfiction.
The Seedkeeper by Diane Wilson is a super relevant insight right now into the lives of Native foster children/adoptees who are affected by the current Supreme Courts hearings of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Rosalie is separated from her Dakota family for most of her life after her father dies when she’s 12 years old and she’s taken on a complicated adult journey feeling lost and in the fight for survival building her new family.
I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Native adoptees! Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson tackles the exact same kind of narrative of a Native adoptee taken into a white family. Her story is even more complex and brutal as Ruby endures emotional turmoil being disconnected from her Métis roots her entire life. I give both those recommendations in a super timely response to the ICWA hearings that I hope to continue to pay attention to over the next several months.