16 Must Read Books by Indigenous Authors
Reading books by Indigenous authors should be something we strive to do all year long, but November (National Native American Heritage Month) is a great time to add some titles to your bookshelves.
This list is meant to serve as a jumping-off point to help broaden your perspective, as well as your reading list. There is a lot of variety here — some of these books are a few decades old and others were recently published. Either way, I hope you will find and enjoy a new to you book from this list!
If you’re interested in taking direct action to support Indigenous rights and culture, we recommend checking out the Indigenous Peoples Movement.
The Beadworkers by Beth Piatote
Beth Piatote’s luminous debut collection opens with a feast, grounding its stories in the landscapes and lifeworlds of the Native Northwest, exploring the inventive and unforgettable pattern of Native American life in the contemporary world.
Future Home of a Living God by Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich, the New York Times bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of LaRose and The Round House, paints a startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx.
There There by Tommy Orange
A 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. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary, and truly unforgettable.
Feed by Tommy Pico
Feed is an ode of reconciliation to the wild inconsistencies of a northeast spring, a frustrating season of back-and-forth, of thaw and blizzard, but with a faith that even amidst the mess, it knows where it’s going.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
More than thirty-five years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profound and moving works of Native American literature, a novel that is itself a ceremony of healing as a battered veteran returns home to heal his mind and spirit.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
Savage Conversations by LeAnne Howe
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.
Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog
Originally published in 1990, Lakota Woman was a national best seller and winner of the American Book Award. It is a unique document, unparalleled in American Indian literature, a story of death, of determination against all odds, of the cruelties perpetuated against American Indians, and of the Native American struggle for rights.
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Saul Indian Horse is a child when his family retreats into the woods. Among the lakes and the cedars, they attempt to reconnect with half-forgotten traditions and hide from the authorities who have been kidnapping Ojibway youth. But when winter approaches, Saul loses everything: his brother, his parents, his beloved grandmother–and then his home itself. Spare and compact yet undeniably rich, Indian Horse is at once a heartbreaking account of a dark chapter in our history and a moving coming-of-age story.
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott
Elliott’s deeply personal writing details a life spent between Indigenous and white communities, a divide reflected in her own family, and engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, art, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, and representation. Throughout, she makes thrilling connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political.
The Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Blending elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction, contemporary realism, and the lyric voice, This Accident of Being Lost burns with a quiet intensity, like a campfire in your backyard, challenging you to reconsider the world you thought you knew.
Winter in the Blood by James Welch
The narrator of this beautiful, often disquieting novel is a young Native American man living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. Sensitive and self-destructive, he searches for something that will bind him to the lands of his ancestors but is haunted by personal tragedy, the dissolution of his once proud heritage, and Montana’s vast emptiness.
What do you think about the books on this list?
Have you read any books from this list? What is your favorite book by an Indigenous author? What books would you add to the list?