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.
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.
On the Rez by Ian Frazier
On the Rez is a sharp, unflinching account of the modern-day American Indian experience, especially that of the Oglala Sioux, who now live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the plains and badlands of the American West. Frazier fully explores the rez as he visits friends and relatives, goes to pow-wows and rodeos and package stores, and tinkers with a variety of falling-apart cars. He takes us inside the world of the Sioux as few writers ever have, writing with much wit, compassion, and imagination.
Brave Hearts: Indian Women of the Plains by Joseph Agonito
Some were hunters, some were warriors and, in a rare case, one was a chief; some lived extraordinary lives, while others lived more quietly in their lodges. Some were born into traditional families and knew their place in society while others were bi-racial who struggled to find their place in a world conflicted between Indian and white. Some never knew anything but the old, nomadic way of life, while others lived on to suffer through the reservation years. Others were born on the reservation but did their best in difficult times to keep to the old ways. Some never left the reservation while others ventured out into the larger world. All, in their own way, were Plains Indian women.