5 Must-Read Books by Indigenous Authors

November is Native American Heritage Month, but we are interested in highlighting and sharing the narratives of Amerindians every day of the year. Part of learning about these aboriginal cultures is to read their truths. But, not surprisingly, Indigenous authors (like all POC authors) are severely underrepresented in publishing. According to the 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey by Lee & Low Books, less than one percent of the industry overall is American Indian/Alaskan Native/First Nations/Native American. 

This needs to change. We need more Indigenous authors supported by more Indigenous publishers, agents, book reviewers, and more. And we need to celebrate those who have already written great books, which is why we are sharing five must-read books penned by Indigenous authors. 

There, There, by Tommy Orange

 

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Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There, There, takes us to Oakland, where 12 different characters from various Indigenous communities are headed to the Big Oakland Powwow. They all pen essays about life as “urban Native Americans,” giving readers a glimpse into the narratives of Natives who are honoring their past, living in the present, and looking towards the future. There, There is a bestseller, chosen as one of the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2018, and winning the 2019 PEN/HemingwayAward, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) John Leonard Prize.

Available at powells.com, $10.95

 

My Heart is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones

Image: Horror Book Reviews

Horror fans are included in our picks! It’s important to read Indigenous stories from all genres and topics penned by Native authors. My Heart is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones, is a horror novel following Jade Daniels, a half-Indigenous girl who escapes her troubled life through her obsession with slasher films. People start dying in real life in her town of Proofrock, and her knowledge of horror is there to guide her through it. 

Available at Amazon, $26.99

 

Notable Native People, by Adrienne Keene

 

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How many notable Indigenous people can you name? Don’t feel bad if you can’t name many–it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s just that we weren’t taught (or taught enough) about them. Notable Native People, by Adrienne Keene, seeks out to fix this problem. The colorfully illustrated book features 50 “Indigenous artists, activists, scientists, athletes, and other changemakers.”

Available at barnesandnoble.com, $16.99

How many notable Indigenous people can you name? Don’t feel bad if you can’t name many–it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s just that we weren’t taught (or taught enough) about them. Notable Native People, by Adrienne Keene, seeks out to fix this problem. The colorfully illustrated book features 50 “Indigenous artists, activists, scientists, athletes, and other changemakers.”

Available at Amazon, $16.46

 

Sabrina & Corina, by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

 

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Of course, we had to include a book that tells the narrative of Indigenous peoples from what is now Latin America. Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s debut story collection Sabrina & Corina contains several stories centered around Amerindian Latinas from the American West (specifically Colorado). Iconic Latina writer Julia Alvarez had this to say about the book:

Sabrina & Corina isn’t just good, it’s masterful storytelling. Fajardo-Anstine is a fearless writer: her women are strong and scarred witnesses of the violations of their homelands, their culture, their bodies; her plots turn and surprise, unerring and organic in their comprehensiveness; her characters break your heart, but you keep on going because you know you are in the hands of a master. Her stories move through the heart of darkness and illuminate it with the soul of truth.”

Available at Amazon, $17.00

 

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The history we are taught about the Indigenous peoples of what is present-day America is false. That’s why we have to decolonize our minds and learn the truth, especially from those who have been erased from the U.S. history books. In 2015, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz wrote An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, “the first history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples,” and part of the ReVisioning History series. It was awarded the American Book Award that same year. 

Available at Amazon, $13.22


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V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi is a writer at BoldLatina, Refinery29, LatinaMedia.co, and Mission Local. Her work focuses primarily on fashion, beauty, and Latinx culture. She has also written on San Francisco for a number of publications including the San Francisco Examiner, Bob Cut Mag, 7x7, and The Bold Italic. Alex recently co-founded the Latina Writers community.