Nov. 16, 2023 – November is National Native American Heritage Month, so our librarians curated a list of adult fiction and nonfiction featuring Native voices. These books, many of which have been released over the last few years, include literary fiction, thrillers, and fantasy centering the lives of Indigenous people across the United States and Canada. There are also memoirs by Indigenous authors and nonfiction focused on Native history and Native American people. One book on this list, "The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History" by Ned Blackhawk, just won the National Book Award for nonfiction.
Browse the books below and click on covers to put them on hold in our catalog. Book descriptions are taken from the library catalog and from book publishers.
"A Grandmother Begins the Story" by Michelle Porter
The story of the unrivaled desire for healing and the power of familial bonds across five generations of Métis women and the land and bison that surround them.
"Woman of Light" by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
1890: When Desiderya Lopez, the Sleepy Prophet, finds an abandoned infant on the banks of an arroyo, she recognizes something in his spirit and brings him home. Pidre will go on to become a famous showman in the Anglo West whose main act, Simodecea, is Pidre's fearless, sharpshooting wife, who wrangles bears as part of his show. 1935: Luz "Little Light" Lopez and her brother Diego work the carnival circuit in downtown Denver. Luz is a tea leaf reader, and Diego is a snake charmer. One day, a pale-faced woman in white fur asks Luz for a reading, calling her by a name that only her brother knows. Later that night at a party downtown, Luz sees Diego dancing with this pale-faced woman, which results in a brawl with the local white supremacist group. Diego leaves town for cover, and Luz is left trying to get justice for her brother and family. Merging two multi-generational storylines in Colorado, this is a novel of family love, secrets, and survival. With Fajardo-Anstine's immense capacity to render characters and paint vivid life, set against the Sange de Cristo mountians, "Woman of Light" is full of the weight, richness, and complexities of mixed blood and mica clay. It delights like an Old Western, and inspires the hope embedded in histories yet-told.
"And Then She Fell" by Alicia Elliott
On the surface, Alice is exactly where she should be in life: she's just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Dawn; her ever-charming husband Steve – a white academic whose area of study is conveniently her own Mohawk culture – is nothing but supportive; and they've just moved into a new home in a wealthy neighborhood in Toronto, a generous gift from her in-laws. But Alice could not feel like more of an imposter. She isn't connecting with Dawn, ... and every waking moment is spent hiding her despair from Steve and their picture-perfect neighbors, amongst whom she's the sole Indigenous resident. Even when she does have a moment to herself, her perpetual self-doubt hinders the one vestige of her old life she has left: her goal of writing a modern retelling of the Haudenosaunee creation story. ... Then strange things start happening.
"Bad Cree" by Jessica Johns
A young Cree woman is tormented by vivid dreams from before her sister's untimely death and wakes up with a severed crow's head in her hands before returning to her rural hometown in Alberta seeking answers.
"Winter in the Blood" by James Welch
Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, "Winter in the Blood" is the story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once proud heritage. He sleepwalks through his days working on his stepfather's cattle ranch and consoles himself with alcohol and women. An ironic epiphany provides a tie to the vast land of his ancestors and an alternative to despair.
"The Berry Pickers" by Amanda Peters
A four-year-old girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a tragic mystery that will remain unsolved for nearly fifty years. A Mi'kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family's youngest child, vanishes mysteriously. She is last seen by her six-year-old brother, Joe, sitting on her favorite rock at the edge of a berry field. Joe will remain deeply affected by his sister's disappearance for years to come. In Boston, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent family. Her father is emotionally distant, her mother frustratingly overprotective. Norma is often troubled by recurring dreams and visions that seem more like memories than imagination. As she grows older, Norma slowly comes to realize there is something her parents aren't telling her. Unwilling to abandon her intuition, she will spend decades trying to uncover this family secret. A stunning debut by a vibrant new voice in fiction, "The Berry Pickers" is a riveting novel about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma and the persistence of love across time.
"There There" by Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange’s “There There" is the story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. As we learn the reasons each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow – some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent – momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. 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 will perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.
"Probably Ruby" by Lisa Bird-Wilson
When we first meet Ruby, a Métis woman in her 30s, she's a mess. She's angling to sleep with her therapist while also rekindling an old relationship with a man who was – let's just say – a mistake. As we will soon learn, however, Ruby's story is far broader and deeper than its rollicking, somewhat lighthearted first chapter. This is the story of a woman in search of herself, in every sense. Given up for adoption as an infant, Ruby was raised by a white couple who understand little of her Indigenous heritage. Growing up, Ruby longs to know where she comes from and who her people are. This is the great mystery that hovers over her life and the book. Through a non-chronological structure, we meet the people who have shaped her life: her adoptive parents; her birth parents and grandparents; the men and women Ruby has been romantically involved with. All these characters form a kaleidoscope of stories, giving Ruby's life dignity and meaning.
Horror & Thrillers
"Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology" by various authors
A bold, clever, and sublimely sinister collection of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and gritty crime by both new and established Indigenous authors that dares to ask the question: "Are you ready to be un-settled?" Many Indigenous people believe that one should never whistle at night. This belief ranges far and wide and takes many forms; for instance, Native Hawaiians believe it summons the Hukai'po, the spirits of ancient warriors, and Native Mexicans say it calls a Lechuza, a witch that can transform into an owl and snatch the foolish whistlers in the dark. But what all these legends hold in common is the certainty that whistling at night can cause evil spirits to appear – and even follow you home. In twenty-five wholly original and shiver-inducing tales, bestselling and award-winning authors including Tommy Orange, Rebecca Roanhorse, Cherie Dimaline, Waubgeshig Rice, and Mona Susan Power introduce readers to ghosts, curses, hauntings, monstrous creatures, complex family legacies, desperate deeds, and chilling acts of revenge. Introduced and contextualized by bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones, these stories are a celebration of Indigenous peoples' survival and imagination, and a glorious reveling in all the things an ill-advised whistle might summon.
"Sisters of the Lost Nation" by Nick Medina
A young girl hunts for answers about a string of disappearances, all while being haunted herself in this heart-pounding thriller with a mythological twist, from debut author Nick Medina. Anna Horn is always looking over her shoulder. For the bullies who torment her, for the entitled visitors at the reservation's casino ... and for the nameless, disembodied entity that stalks her every step – an ancient tribal myth come to life, one that's intent on devouring her whole. With strange and sinister happenings occurring around the casino, Anna starts to suspect that not all the horrors on the reservation are old. As girls begin to go missing and the tribe scrambles to find answers, Anna struggles with her place on the rez, desperately searching for the key she's sure lies in the legends of her tribe's past. When Anna's own little sister also disappears, she'll do anything to bring Grace home. But the demons plaguing the reservation – both old and new – are strong, and sometimes, it's the stories that never get told that are the most important.
"Blood Sisters" by Vanessa Lillie
A powerful mystery about a Native American archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs who must reckon with her past when she is called back to Oklahoma to investigate both the disappearance of her sister and a new case of a missing Native girl that turns up evidence with her name on it. Syd Walker fled her rural Oklahoma hometown – scarred by abandoned mines and a mounting opioid crisis – and never looked back. Now she lives in Rhode Island as an archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It's Syd's job to make sure the Indigenous past isn't erased so that their future is preserved. When a woman's skull is found by local Indian Affairs authorities and Syd's sister is reported missing, she knows she must return home. She doesn't want her sister, Emma Lou, to become another statistic in the rising number of missing Native women cases that go un-investigated. But not everyone is glad to have Syd home. After all, she still works for the BIA. Class tensions, land disputes, and the aftermath of a traumatizing act of violence from her youth come roaring back. Syd must battle her own demons and those set on destroying her town and her people if she's ever going to find Emma Lou.
"Shutter" by Ramona Emerson
Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases – she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook. As a lone portal back to the living for traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by nagging ghosts who won't let her sleep and who sabotage her personal life. Her taboo and psychologically harrowing ability was what drove her away from her hometown on the Navajo reservation, where she was raised by her grandmother. It has isolated her from friends and gotten her in trouble with the law. And now it might be what gets her killed. When Rita is sent to photograph the scene of a supposed suicide on a highway overpass, the furious, discombobulated ghost of the victim – who insists she was murdered – latches onto Rita, forcing her on a quest for revenge against her killers, and Rita finds herself in the crosshairs of one of Albuquerque's most dangerous cartels. Written in sparkling, gruesome prose, Shutter is a blood-chilling debut from one of crime fiction's most powerful new voices.
"To Shape a Dragon's Breath" by Moniquill Blackgoose
A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy after bonding with a hatchling – and quickly finds herself at odds with the "approved" way of doing things – in the first book of a brilliant new fantasy series. The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations – until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon's egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered: a Person Who Belongs to a Dragon. Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have a quite different opinion. They have a very specific idea on how a dragon should be raised – and who should be doing the raising – and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, then her dragon will be destroyed. For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound – both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart and determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects. For the world needs changing – and Anequs and her dragon are less coming-of-age in this bold new world than coming to power.
"The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History" by Ned Blackhawk
The most enduring feature of U.S. history is the presence of Native Americans, yet most histories focus on Europeans and their descendants. This long practice of ignoring Indigenous history is changing, however, with a new generation of scholars insisting that any full American history address the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations. Indigenous history is essential to understanding the evolution of modern America. Ned Blackhawk interweaves five centuries of Native and non-Native histories, from Spanish colonial exploration to the rise of Native American self-determination in the late twentieth century. Blackhawk's retelling of U.S. history acknowledges the enduring power, agency, and survival of Indigenous peoples, yielding a truer account of the United States and revealing anew the varied meanings of America.
"Paying the Land" by Joe Sacco
The Dene have lived in the vast Mackenzie River Valley since time immemorial, by their account. To the Dene, the land owns them, not the other way around, and it is central to their livelihood and very way of being. But the subarctic Canadian Northwest Territories are home to valuable resources, including oil, gas, and diamonds. With mining came jobs and investment, but also road-building, pipelines, and toxic waste, which scarred the landscape, and alcohol, drugs, and debt, which deformed a way of life. In "Paying the Land," Joe Sacco travels the frozen North to reveal a people in conflict over the costs and benefits of development. The mining boom is only the latest assault on Indigenous culture: Sacco recounts the shattering impact of a residential school system that aimed to "remove the Indian from the child"; the destructive process that drove the Dene from the bush into settlements and turned them into wage laborers; the government land claims stacked against the Dene Nation; and their uphill efforts to revive a wounded culture. Against a vast and gorgeous landscape that dwarfs all human scale, "Paying the Land" lends an ear to trappers and chiefs, activists and priests, to tell a sweeping story about money, dependency, loss, and culture – recounted in stunning visual detail by one of the greatest cartoonists alive
"Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present" by Adrienne Keene
An accessible and educational illustrated book profiling 50 notable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, from NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Standing Rock Lakota to Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation
"The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present" by David Treuer
The received idea of Native American history has been that it essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee: Not only did more than 150 Sioux die at the hands of the U.S. Cavalry, but Native civilization did as well. Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life for his nonfiction and his novels, David Treuer began to uncover a different narrative. Not despite but rather because of American Indians' intense struggles to preserve their tribes, their cultures, and their very existence, the true story has been one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention. In this book, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir to explore how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering. The forced assimilation of children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and at the same time steered the emerging shape of self-rule and inspired a new generation of resistance. This is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative epoch.
"Project 562: Changing the Way we See Native America" by Matika Wilbur
A photographic celebration of contemporary Native American life and an examination of important issues the community faces today by the creator of Project 562, Matika Wilbur.
"Dog Flowers: A Memoir" by Danielle Geller
After Danielle Geller's mother dies of alcohol withdrawal while homeless, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother's documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins a journey of confronting her family, her harrowing past, and the decisions she's been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother's home – the Navajo reservation. Geller masterfully intertwines wrenching prose with archival documents to create a deeply moving narrative of loss and inheritance that pays homage to our pasts, traditions, heritage, and the family we are given, and the ones we choose.
"Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land" by Toni Jensen
"A powerful, poetic memoir about what it means to exist as an indigenous woman in America, told in snapshots of the author's encounters with gun violence – for readers of Jesmyn Ward and Terese Marie Mailhot. Toni Jensen grew up in the Midwest around guns: As a girl, she learned how to shoot birds with her father, a card-carrying member of the NRA. As an adult, she's had guns waved in her face in the fracklands around Standing Rock, and felt their silent threat on the concealed-carry campus where she teaches. And she has always known she is not alone. As a Métis woman, she is no stranger to the violence enacted on the bodies of Indigenous women, on Indigenous land, and the ways it is hidden, ignored, forgotten. In "Carry," Jensen maps her personal experience onto the historical, exploring how history is lived in the body and redefining the language we use to speak about violence in America. In the title chapter, Jensen recalls the discrimination she faced in college as a Native American student from her roommate to her faculty adviser. "The Worry Line" explores the gun and gang violence in her neighborhood the year her daughter was born. "At the Workshop" focuses on her graduate school years, during which a classmate repeatedly wrote stories in which he killed thinly veiled versions of her. In "Women in the Fracklands," Jensen takes the reader inside Standing Rock during the Dakota Access pipeline protests, as well as the peril faced by women in regions overcome by the fracking boom. In prose at once forensic and deeply emotional, Toni Jensen shows herself to be a brave new voice and a fearless witness to her own difficult history – as well as to the violent cultural landscape in which she finds her coordinates as a Native American woman. With each chapter, Carry reminds us that surviving in one's country is not the same as surviving one's country.