November is Native American Heritage Month. It’s a time to celebrate the history, legacy, and different cultures of all Native Americans across the country. Each of these books by Native American authors portrays the difficulties that Native Americans face navigating life in contemporary times, while continuing to honor tradition.
There, There, by Tommy Orange – This book follows twelve characters as they make their way to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jaquie Red Feather, a recovering alcoholic, is trying to reunite with the family she left behind years ago. Dene Oxendene is making a documentary about the urban American Indian experience. Orvil is 14 years old, and performing traditional dance for the first time. Each of these people, as well as the nine others, is trying to reconcile life in the city with their history and tradition. Gritty and haunting, this is a must read for understanding Native American life today.
The Only Good Indians, by Stephen Graham Jones – Lewis, a Blackfeet Indian, left the reservation ten years ago after a fateful hunting trip with his three best friends. Now their past is literally coming back to haunt them as a vengeful being seeks them out, one by one, for retribution. Lewis begins to see the female elk he killed on that trip, and slowly reveals what happened that day. He and his friends are all struggling to understand their heritage and tradition, to understand what it means to be “good” or “real” Indians, while confronting racial stereotypes. This suspenseful and creepy horror novel is a good look at what happens when the past meets the present, and when tradition meets a new way of life.
The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich – In 1953, the government tried to pass an “emancipation” bill that sought to negate treaties made with American Indian Nations. This bill threatened to take away the lands and rights of Native Americans across the country. Based on the author’s grandfather, Thomas Wazhashk is a Chippewa council member who works as a night watchman at the Turtle Mountain Jewel Bearing Plant. Thomas fights against the bill, doing whatever it takes to keep his peoples’ land and cultural identity. The Night Watchman is about how far we will go to keep what is ours, and to fight for what we believe in. It’s a fascinating look at a piece of American History that isn’t taught in school, or found in any text books.
Follow the link below to find these three books, and more like them in our online catalog.