7 Books By Native & Indigenous Authors
Seeking Different Perspectives
Lately, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about the books I read, and I don’t necessarily mean the content or genre. Instead, I’ve been trying to be more selective when it comes to authors. I’m attempting to build a more well-rounded library, one that includes writers varying in race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.
I want to learn, to understand, and to become a better ally. I think we can all agree it’s crucial to educate ourselves by listening to stories told by others—especially when those stories challenge our current worldview and perspectives. Reading is powerful and transformative in that way.
So this year, I’m honing in on books written by Native and Indigenous authors. There are so many stories that have been silenced and forgotten for too long. These stories need to be read, mulled over, discussed with family and friends. To begin filling your bookcase too, consider signing up for a book club subscription box.
1. Braiding Sweetgrass
Author | Robin Wall Kimmerer
I first learned about “Braiding Sweetgrass” from a dear friend. She described the book as captivating, melodic, and overflowing with ancient wisdom—she couldn’t have been more spot-on. Written by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, this book draws on Kimmerer’s experiences as an indigenous woman and bestows readers with lessons about plants, animals, and the generosity of earth. Elizabeth Gilbert calls it “every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise,” and I found it to be a gentle reminder to celebrate my relationship with the earth and embrace environmentally-conscious living. This one is best consumed on audiobook—Kimmerer reads it herself, which is truly mesmerizing.
Review | “Robin Wall Kimmerer has written an extraordinary book, showing how the factual, objective approach of science can be enriched by the ancient knowledge of the indigenous people. It is the way she captures beauty that I love the most―the images of giant cedars and wild strawberries, a forest in the rain and a meadow of fragrant sweetgrass will stay with you long after you read the last page.” – Jane Goodall
Price | $18, or find secondhand
2. The Tao of Raven
Author | Ernestine Hayes
A follow-up to her debut memoir ”Blonde Indian” (which I also recommend), “The Tao of Raven” is Ernestine Hayes’s second book, and it’s equally fantastic. Dealing with hard-to-broach subjects, including intergenerational trauma, homecoming after exile, and the prejudices Alaska Natives still face today, Hayes articulates difficult but essential truths. The best part is, she does so while mixing memoir with fable and fiction. Buckle up for this one; it’s a wild and wonderful ride.
Review | “This book is about life and all of its pockets of being. It includes the spiritual, the otherworldly beings, as well as the terrible history that continues to take place in our country. It is about aging at the same time as it is about childhood. It is memoir placed within the context of a large and complex history of the people and of the earth. She makes a complicated world something easily read and also quite beautiful.” – Linda Hogan, Author
Price | $19, or find secondhand
3. The Round House
Author | Louise Erdrich
For a fiction read, “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich is sure to win you over this year. A fast-paced crime novel dripping with suspense, it’s a story about family, justice, and one boy’s transformative journey towards truth and understanding, all of which take place on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. Erdrich, a member of the Anishinaabe (also called Chippewa) nation, is no stranger to earning awards for her work, and this book is no different. The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2012.
Review | “Wise and suspenseful…Erdrich’s voice as well as her powers of insight and imagination fully infuse this novel…She writes so perceptively and brilliantly about the adolescent passion for justice that one is transported northward to her home territory.” – Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
Price | $17, or find secondhand
Author | Layli Long Soldier
Published in 2017, “Whereas” by Layli Long Soldier is celebrated as a book of poems that “confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes.” A timely literary undertaking, Long Soldier’s book addresses the ongoing prejudice and oppression Indigenous people continuously suffer in the United States. Chilling, revolutionary, and profoundly creative, this book is a must for your reading list.
Reviews | “Using elliptical prose, blank spaces, crossed-out text, and Lakota words, Long Soldier articulates both her identity and her literary undertaking.” – The New Yorker
Price | $16, or find secondhand
5. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask
Author | Anton Treuer
A short but necessary read, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask” is organized by questions and answers; subjects include terminology, tribal languages, economics, and history, among other things. Written by Anton Treuer—a scholar, cultural preservationist, and member of the Ojibwe tribe—this educational read is filled with practical answers to both common and not-so-common questions about Native Americans.
Review | “Straightforward, fascinating, funny, and often wise, Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is a wonderful resource for non-Indians and Indians too. (There are plenty of things we want to know about each other.) It is that rare thing―an informational and entertaining read.” – Louise Erdrich, Author
Price | $18, or find secondhand
6. Celia’s Song
Author | Lee Maracle
“Celia’s Song” has been described as a complex and beautiful tale from one of Canada’s most prolific aboriginal authors, Lee Maracle. Taking place in a village on the West coast of Vancouver Island, this fictional story transcends time and shifts between character perspectives and lenses. Lyrical prose, alluring characters (including a double-headed sea serpent), and a heart-wrenching narrative make this novel a worthwhile read. Start by listening to Maracle read a few pages here.
Maracle is also the author of “I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism”—a personal account and nonfiction work about racism, sexism, and nationalist oppression. Add that one to your reading list as well.
Review | “If you care about reconciliation and justice in Canada, ferociously beautiful prose and complex, compassionate character development, make time this year to listen to Celia’s Song.” – Vancouver Sun
Price | $20, or find secondhand
7. Heart Berries
Author | Terese Marie Mailhot
In a powerful and poetic collection of essays, First Nation Canadian author Terese Marie Mailhot writes about her turbulent childhood marked by intergenerational trauma, and her struggles with mental health as an adult. This coming-of-age memoir takes place on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest, where Mailhot grew up. “Heart Berries” is raw, layered, and unforgettable—it’s also a New York Time’s bestseller.
Reviews | “Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small… What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined.” – Roxane Gay
Price | $20, or find secondhand
Kayti Christian (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. Growing up beneath the evergreens in the Sierra Nevadas, she returns to California after a decade split between states—including three years lived abroad. With an MA in Nonfiction Writing, she’s passionate about storytelling and fantastic content, especially as it relates to mental health, feminism, and sexuality. When not in-studio, she’s camping, reading memoir, or advocating for the Oxford comma.