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Celebrating Indigenous Authors During Native American Heritage Month

In November, the country recognizes Native American Heritage Month, which “celebrates Indigenous people past and present.” November 25th marks the observance of Native American Heritage Day. (Source: White House Proclamation for 2022).

To recognize and celebrate Indigenous authors and creators, the staff at the Topsfield Town Library have put together this reading list of new works by Indigenous authors from across the world. Check these books out on the shelves of the library the next time you visit! Check out nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov for events and exhibits celebrating Native American Heritage Month.

Spotlight: Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy. In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty-with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight-breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs. A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.

Night of the Living Rez was awarded the 2022 New England Book Award in Fiction, awarded to adult fiction materials either about New England, set in New England, or written by an author residing in New England. View other award winners here.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Protected by horror movies — especially the ones where the masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them, Jade Daniels, an angry, half-Native American outcast, pulls us into her dark mind when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian lake.

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson
The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family’s struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most.

Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford
A first collection by an award-winning Cherokee writer traces four generations of Native American women as they navigate cultural dynamics, religious beliefs, the 1980s oil bust, devastating storms and unreliable men to connect with their ideas about home.

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 with the Troutt family, where he keeps mostly to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, another youth staying with the Troutts.

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples
Engaging in a secret affair with a closeted white man, an Ojibwe from a northern Minnesota reservation navigates small-town discrimination before a ghost leads him to the grave of a basketball star whose murder becomes linked to a local legend.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson
Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago.

Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon
Set in 1970s along Red River Valley, Marcie R. Rendon’s gripping new mystery follows the life of a young Ojibwe woman as she struggles to come to terms with the callous murder of a Native American stranger, bringing to life the gritty, dark reality of a flawed foster care system and the oppression of indigenous people.

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.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
When a small town needs her help in finding a missing girl, Maggie Hoskie, a Dinetah monster hunter, reluctantly enlists the help of an unconventional medicine man to uncover the terrifying truth behind the disappearance and her own past.

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets
Winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, Skeets’s searing debut is set in Gallup, N.Mex., the so-called “Indian Capital of the World,” plagued by alcoholism and violence, where the poet came of age as a young queer man. Skeets’s imagery is luminous and dark in turns, his short, heavily punctuated phrases generating a staccato rhythm (“Drunktown. Drunk is the punch. Town a gasp”).

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Off the rez and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Jonny’s world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages – and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home for his step-father’s funeral, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.

Buffalo is the New Buffalo by Chelsea Vowel
Powerful stories of “Metis futurism” that envision a world without violence, capitalism, or colonization. “Education is the new buffalo” is a metaphor widely used among Indigenous peoples in Canada to signify the importance of education to their survival and ability to support themselves, as once Plains nations supported themselves as buffalo peoples. The assumption is that many of the pre-Contact ways of living are forever gone, so adaptation is necessary. But Chelsea Vowel asks, “Instead of accepting that the buffalo, and our ancestral ways, will never come back, what if we simply ensure that they do?”

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.

Maud’s Line by Margaret Verble
Eastern Oklahoma, 1928. Eighteen-year-old Maud Nail lives with her rogue father and sensitive brother on one of the allotments parceled out by the U.S. government to the Cherokees when their land was confiscated for Oklahoma’s statehood. Maud’s days are filled with hard work and simple pleasures, but often marked by violence and tragedy, a fact that she accepts with determined practicality. Her prospects for a better life are slim, but when a newcomer with good looks and books rides down her section line, she takes notice.

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
A daring post-apocalyptic novel from a powerful rising literary voice. With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow.

Aue by Becky Manawatu
Taukiri was born into sorrow. Aue can be heard in the sound of the sea he loves and hates, and in the music he draws out of the guitar that was his father’s. It spills out of the gang violence that killed his father and sent his mother into hiding, and the shame he feels about abandoning his eight-year-old brother to a violent home. But Taukiri’s brother, Arama, is braver than he looks, and he has a friend, and his friend has a dog, and the three of them together might just be strong enough to turn back the tide of sadness

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