The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
The received idea of Native American history–as promulgated by books like Dee Brown’s mega-bestselling 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee–has been that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes’ distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. It’s the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.
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Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson
With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care. Literally and figuratively scarred by his mother’s years of substance abuse, Sequoyah keeps mostly to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, a troubled artist who also lives with the family. Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American background and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah’s feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.
Cherokee America by Margaret Verble
It’s the early spring of 1875 in the Cherokee Nation West. A baby, a black hired hand, a bay horse, a gun, a gold stash, and a preacher have all gone missing. Cherokee America Singer, known as “Check,” a wealthy farmer, mother of five boys, and soon-to-be widow, is not amused. In this epic of the American frontier, several plots intertwine around the heroic and resolute Check: her son is caught in a compromising position that results in murder; a neighbor disappears; another man is killed. The tension mounts and the violence escalates as Check’s mixed race family, friends, and neighbors come together to protect their community–and painfully expel one of their own.
This Tender Land by William Kent Kreuger
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, the Lincoln Indian Training School is a pitiless place where Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to Odie O’Banion, a lively orphan boy whose exploits constantly earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Odie and his brother, Albert, are the only white faces among the hundreds of Native American children at the school. After committing a terrible crime, Odie and Albert are forced to flee for their lives along with their best friend, Mose, a mute young man of Sioux heritage. Out of pity, they also take with them a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy. Together, they steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi in search for a place to call home.
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.
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence–both from outside the family, and also, devastatingly, from within. The lush landscape, rich with birdsong, wild fruit, and blazing stars, becomes a kind of refuge for Betty, but when her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, she has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.
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The Round House by Louise Erdrich
The Round House is an exquisitely told story by National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Louise Erdrich. On the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, a boy on the cusp of manhood seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. It is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction – at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Based on the author’s own experiences, this book chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
There There by Tommy Orange
Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. At the Big Oakland Powwow, there will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.
I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice by Joe Starita
In 1877, Chief Standing Bear’s Ponca Indian tribe was forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in what became the tribe’s own Trail of Tears. “I Am a Man” chronicles what happened when Standing Bear set off on a six-hundred-mile walk to return the body of his only son to their traditional burial ground. Along the way, it examines the complex relationship between the United States government and the small, peaceful tribe and the legal consequences of land swaps and broken treaties, while never losing sight of the heartbreaking journey the Ponca endured.
An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States
In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings.
The Bones of Paradise by Jonis Agee
Ten years after the 7th Calvary massacred more than 200 Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, J. B. Bennett, a white rancher, and Star, a young Native American woman, are murdered in a remote meadow on J. B.’s land. The deaths bring together the scattered members of the Bennett family: his cunning and hard father, Drum; his estranged wife, Dulcinea; and his young sons, Cullen and Hayward. As the mystery of these twin deaths unfolds, the history of the dysfunctional Bennett’s and their damning secrets are revealed exposing the conflicted heart of a nation caught between past and future.
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid
For decades, Indigenous women have gone missing, or been found murdered, along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The highway is known as the ‘Highway of Tears’, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis. Journalist, Jessica McDiarmid, investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate where Indigenous women are over-policed, yet under-protected.
Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.