April 18th, 2020 Last Updated on: January 14th, 2022
Looking for a new book to read while at home?
There are tons of books written by Native American authors just waiting to be devoured. In these modern times, we can access countless titles right at our fingertips, and with the click of a mouse, we can order whatever our minds or hearts desire. Amazon sells various award-winning books and poetic anthologies by Native American authors that are inspiring, thrilling, educational, and shareable.
While some of the authors mentioned below have been around for quite some time, they continue to be uplifted and celebrated in the literary world. Other books on this list are written by younger, more emerging authors and definitely worth diving into.
Hopefully, you are able to find a new favorite among these incredible Native authors:
1. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
Navarre Scott Momaday, a Kiowan Indian writer, has been known as a jack of all trades in the literary world for quite some time. Not only is he a novelist, but he is also a poet, essayist, and short-story writer. Over the years, Momaday has received various prizes, awards, and achievements for his written work, and even in his eighties, he continues to write professionally. His first novel, House Made of Dawn, was written in 1969 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The story “is at once a tragic tale about the disabling effects of war and cultural separation, and a hopeful story of a stranger in his native land, finding his way back to all that is familiar and sacred.”
The Paris Review says:
Both a masterpiece about the universal human condition and a masterpiece of Native American literature. . . . A book everyone should read for the joy and emotion of the language it contains.
2. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Author of the profound literary work Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko is a Laguna Pueblo Indian who is known for being an important figure of the Native American Renaissance. She is widely known for taking Native American topics and adding passion, soul, and expression. Aside from the novels she has produced, Silko is a beloved poet as well. Penguin Random House describes Ceremony: “Initially conceived as a comic story about a mother’s attempts to keep her son, a war veteran, away from alcohol, Ceremony gradually transformed into an intricate meditation on mental disturbance, despair, and the power of stories and traditional culture as the keys to self-awareness and, eventually, emotional healing.”
The Boston Globe says:
The novel is very deliberately a ceremony in itself—demanding but confident and beautifully written.”
3. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry Edited by Joy Harjo
This special poetry anthology was co-edited by LeAnne Howe and Jennifer Elise Foerster, and Joy Harjo along with additional contributing editors. Upon opening the anthology, readers will notice a blessing written by N. Scott Momaday, mentioned earlier. The work includes over 160 poets representing almost 100 Native American nations; these comprise several emerging poets along with esteemed writers, which include, for example, Luci Tapahanso, Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Soldier, and Ray Young Bear.
Arthur Sze, National Book Award-winning author of “Sight Lines,” says:
This anthology is revelatory and stunning.… It shows the remarkable strength and diversity of Native poetry, which vitalizes all of American poetry. It is essential reading.
Follow the Editors: Joy Harjo; LeAnne Howe; Jennifer Elise Foerster
4. Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies by Bobby Lake-Thom
If you're looking for Native American books about spiritual healing, this one's for you. Bobby Lake-Thom, AKA the Medicine Grizzly Bear, was from the Karuk and Seneca tribes, yet was trained over the years as a medicine man and a great healer by leaders from several other tribes. Aside from his healing work, he was a well-respected spiritual leader and guide, as well as an author and professor. One of his most popular literary works, Spirits of the Earth, consists of knowledge and influence from his work as a spiritual healer and the collaboration he has had with other tribal leaders. Readers will learn how to connect their Native heritage with the wonders of nature.
Library Journal says:
Lake-Thom, a healer and a descendant of three Native American tribes, combine his own experience, work with tribal elders, and readings from folk tales to explain the significance of good and bad luck symbols to these tribes…Clear and straightforward.
The Inconvenient Indian, a national bestseller written by Cherokee author Thomas King, is an untraditional account of what it truly means to be Indian. The book allows readers to explore, starting from the fifteenth century, the ways in which the relationship between Natives and non-Natives has progressed and affected what being an Indigenous person means today. King is a Native activist in both Canada and the United States and has written novels, children’s books, and short stories since the 1980s, as well as has been an editor for multiple anthologies.
Vancouver Sun says:
The Inconvenient Indian may well be unsettling for many non-natives in this country to read. This is exactly why we all should read it. Especially now.
6. Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
Terese Marie Mailhot’s inspiring memoir, Heart Berries, is a captivating coming-of-age bestseller. Growing up on the Seabird Island Band, Mailhot, a Nlaka'pamux girl, survived an abusive and dysfunctional childhood and persevered what life threw at her, even while struggling with both health and mental health disorders and multiple hospitalizations. Readers will grow with her as she finds out what it means to be a survivor and a woman in this world. Heart Berries has won awards, nominations, and has been chosen as book of the year under various lists.
Huffington Post says:
Poetic is an oft-used descriptor of lovely writing, and this book seems to be something more striking than the word signifies: a memoir and a poem, a haunting and dazzlingly written narrative of Mailhot’s growing up on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest.
7. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Braiding Sweetgrass is written by botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer. She combines her distinguished science background with her personal and sacred view of nature and culture to educate her readers on the lessons that plants and animals can offer us. Kimmerer is the author of other Native American books, is an Environmental Biology professor at SUNY in Syracuse, NY, and is the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.
Sierra Magazine says:
Eloquently makes the case that by observing and celebrating our reciprocal relationship with the natural world, one can gain greater ecological consciousness.
8. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Sicangu Lakota author, David Heska Wanbli Weiden brings a noteworthy Indigenous thriller to his readers. Winter Counts “is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.” This Native American author has written many other works which include, short stories, nonfiction, and essays, as well as an award-winning children’s book called Spotted Tail.
David Treuer, author of “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee,” says:
A stone-cold thriller with a soul and a politics–compelling and complex. A gripping crime story perfectly married to bigger questions about race and place and American violence.
9. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
The author of Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angeline Boulley, is quite the educated and successful woman. Not only is she an award-winning author, but she has held a long career in Indian education at the tribal, state, and national levels. Boulley, who is of the Anishinaabe Kwewag tribe, was inspired to write her book due to growing up with a father who was a traditional firekeeper. On her website, she describes this job as someone “who strikes ceremonial fires at spiritual activities in the tribal community and ensures protocols are followed, while providing cultural teachings through stories told around the fire.” Firekeeper’s Daughter follows a girl who overcomes tragedy, hardship, and discrimination while she attempts to protect her family and community. Be on the lookout for the Netflix TV show based on the book.
Anthony Ceballos of Birchbark Books and Native Arts, says:
An outstanding riveting story rich with Ojibwe tradition, culture, and community…A stunning literary debut.
10. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Joshua Whitehead is a Two-Spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation and identifies as Indigiqueer (he/him). At the University of Calgary, you can find him teaching a course and studying himself as a Ph.D. candidate of Indigenous literatures and cultures with a focus on gender and sexuality. His knowledge in these areas comes out in Jonny Appleseed with the themes of sexual exploration, love, heartbreak, and discovery. As far as Native American books go, this one should be on your shortlist.
Arsenal Pulp Press says:
Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter and dreams.
These are but ten out of countless noteworthy and amazing Native American titles you can discover on Amazon. Investing in Indigenous literature is beneficial to Native and non-Native readers. It stokes curiosity, fosters education, tears down myths and misinformation, and encourages celebration and community.
Give one or more of these Native American books a chance!
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