As They Speak: Native Voices in Today’s Literature –
Virtual Book Club
Looking to expand your reading list and discuss a variety of issues and topics important to Native people? Please join our digital book club, As They Speak: Native Voices in Today’s Literature. Based on a variety of topics and featuring a range of genres, all of the books we will be reading have been written by contemporary Native authors.
Our book club is a free event, but donations are greatly appriciated. To sign up for a book club meeting, visit our events page!
2022 Reading List
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa)
Based on the extraordinary life of Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C. The Night Watchman is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.
Black Indian: A Memoir by Shonda Buchanan
In this inspiring memoir, Buchanan explores her family’s legacy of being African Americans with American Indian roots and how they dealt with not just society’s ostracization but the consequences of this dual inheritance. As the author puts it, Black Indian doesn’t have answers, nor does it aim to represent every American’s multi-ethnic experience. Instead, it digs as far down into this one family’s history as it can go—sometimes, with a bit of discomfort.
Please note: Due to the topics discussed in this memoir, such as historical trauma as well as emotional and physical abuse, the content of this book might trigger strong emotions for some readers.
Sister Nations: Native American Women Writers on Community edited by Heid E. Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) and Laura Tohe (Navajo)
This anthology features stories written by female Native authors from across the continent that celebrate, record, and explore Native American women’s roles in community. With writings ranging from personal to political, from notions of love to the realities of marriage, and from finding a place in modern society to incorporating tradition into daily life, each work explores both what it means to be a woman and how those realities are complicated and informed by the Native American experience.
The Radiant Lives of Animals by Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)
In this illuminating collection of essays and poems, Linda Hogan draws on her own intense relationships with animals, as well as many Native nations’ ancient stories and spiritual traditions, as examples that we can all follow to heal our souls and reconnect with the spirit of the world.
Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony by Sara Florence Davidson and Robert Davidson (Haida)
Banned for 67 years by the Canadian government, the foundational ceremony of the Haida people known as the potlatch determined social structure, transmitted cultural knowledge, and redistributed wealth. The ceremonies were revived in the late 1960s by Elders who collectively remembered the historical ways. Educator Sara Florence Davidson, daughter of renowned artist Robert Davidson, saw how these traditions could be integrated into contemporary practices. This book also presents a model for learning that is holistic, relational, practical, and continuous.
A Generous Spirit: Selected Works by Beth Brant (Mohawk)
This anthology, edited by Janice Gould, collects the writings of Brant, a Mohawk lesbian poet, essayist, and activist. During her life, Brant’s work gave voice to an often unacknowledged Two-Spirit identity and continues to represent strength, growth, and the celebration of human compassion.
The Creator’s Game by Allan Downey (Dakelh Nation)
Dr. Allan Downey (Dakelh Nation) is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University. ). In this book, Downey focuses on the history of lacrosse in Indigenous communities and explores Indigenous-Non-Indigenous relations as well as Indigenous identity formation.
Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future edited by Melissa K Nelson (Anishinaabe/Metis)
For millennia, the world’s indigenous peoples have acted as guardians of the web of life for the next seven generations. Awareness of indigenous knowledge is reemerging at the eleventh hour to help avert global ecological and social collapse. Original Instructions is a collection of presentations by Indigenous leaders – including John Trudell, Winona Laduke, and Oren Lyons – whose voices remind us where hope lies.
No Parole Today by Laura Tohe (Navajo)
This memoir is a collection of poetry and prose from a Navajo teacher and poet who describes attending a government school for Indigenous children and the challenges it presented to her socially, culturally, and expressively.
Please note: Due to the history of residential schools in indigenous communities, the content of this book might trigger strong emotions for some readers.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potowatomi)
As a botanist, Dr. Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer demonstrates how other living beings offer us gifts and lessons, even if we have forgotten how to hear their voices, and reminds us that awakening a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknoacknowledgmentcelebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty (Penobscot)
Night of the Living Rez: Stories by Morgan Talty (Penobscot) is set in a Native community in Maine. This collection of stories examines what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century, as we and what it means to live, survive, andere after tragedy.
Earth Keeper by N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)
N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa) was born in Oklahoma and grew up on the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo reservations. As such, the Southwest is a part of the earth that he knows well and loves deeply. In this wise and wondrous work, Momaday shares stories and memories throughout his life, stories that have been passed down through generations, stories that reveal a profound spiritual connection to the American landscape and reverence for the natural world. He also eloquently and simply reminds us that we must all be keepers of the earth.
2021 Reading List
One Native Life by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe)
One Native Life is a look back down the road Richard Wagamese has traveled — from childhood abuse to adult alcoholism — in reclaiming his identity. It’s about what he has learned as a human being, a man, and an Ojibway in his 52 years on Earth. Whether he’s writing about playing baseball, running away with the circus, making bannock, or attending a sacred bundle ceremony, these are stories told in a healing spirit. Through them, Wagamese shows readers how to appreciate life for the journey it is.
Savage Kin by Margaret Bruchac (Abenaki)
In this provocative book, written by Indigenous anthropologist Margaret M. Bruchac, turns the word savage on its head. Savage Kin explores the nature of the relationships between Indigenous informants, such as Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan), Jesse Cornplanter (Seneca), and George Hunt (Tlingit), and early twentieth-century anthropological collectors, such as Frank Speck, Arthur C. Parker, William N. Fenton, and Franz Boas.
The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo)
Paula Gunn Allen’s celebrated study of women’s roles in Native American culture, history, and traditions continues to influence writers and scholars in Native American studies, women’s studies, queer studies, religion and spirituality, and beyond. This groundbreaking collection of seventeen essays investigates and celebrates Native American traditions with special focus on the position of the American Indian woman within those customs.
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation)
Joy Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where the Mvskoke people, including her own ancestors, were forcibly displaced. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the Native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. A nationally best-selling volume of wise, powerful poetry from the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States.
There, There by Tommy Orange (Cheyenne/Arapaho)
Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American–grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism. This book is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
An Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King (Cherokee Descent)
In The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada–U.S. border, King debunks fabricated stories of Indian savagery and White heroism, takes an oblique look at Indians (and cowboys) in film and popular culture, wrestles with the history of Native American resistance and his own experiences as a Native rights activist, and articulates a profound, revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
Native: Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin Curtice (Potowatami)
Native is about identity, soul-searching, and the never-ending journey of finding ourselves and finding God. As both a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation and a Christian, Kaitlin Curtice offers a unique perspective on these topics. In this book, she shows how reconnecting with her Potawatomi identity both informs and challenges her faith. Curtice draws on her personal journey, poetry, imagery, and stories of the Potawatomi people to address themes at the forefront of today’s discussions of faith and culture in a positive and constructive way. She encourages us to embrace our own origins and to share and listen to each other’s stories so we can build a more inclusive and diverse future. Each of our stories matters for the church to be truly whole. As Curtice shares what it means to experience her faith through the lens of her Indigenous heritage, she reveals that a vibrant spirituality has its origins in identity, belonging, and a sense of place.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s by Tiffany Midge (Lakota)
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s is a powerful and compelling collection of Tiffany Midge’s musings on life, politics, and identity as a Native woman in America. Artfully blending sly humor, social commentary, and meditations on love and loss, Midge weaves short, stand-alone musings into a memoir that stares down colonialism while chastising hipsters for abusing pumpkin spice. She explains why she does not like pussy hats, mercilessly dismantles pretendians, and confesses her own struggles with white-bread privilege. Note: uses political humor/satire.
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe)
With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a
spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man. Note: References to sexual assault appear in this work.
Savage Conversations by LeAnne Howe (Choctaw)
May 1875: Mary Todd Lincoln is addicted to opiates and tried in a Chicago court on charges of insanity. Entered into evidence is Ms. Lincoln’s claim that every night a Savage Indian enters her bedroom and slashes her face and scalp. She is swiftly committed to Bellevue Place Sanitarium. Her hauntings may be a reminder that in 1862, President Lincoln ordered the hanging of thirty-eight Dakotas in the largest mass execution in United States history. No one has ever linked the two events—until now. Savage Conversations is a daring account of a former first lady and the ghosts that tormented her for the contradictions and crimes on which this nation is founded.
Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)
In Apple (Skin to the Core), Eric Gansworth tells his story, the story of his family—of Onondaga among Tuscaroras—of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.