Following up from my previous post Stories from Another Sky, Tomek asked me to share my own list and recommendations of native American authors and books I’ve read. My reply became quite long, so I turned it into another post.
My list contains mostly fiction. As a reader I’m more drawn towards the fantastical, historical or quirky, so that’s probably reflected here as well. I’m also interested in the exploration of identity and a focus on character.
So here’s what I’ve read:
Sherman Alexie’s book Flight does a lot of time jumping as the main character has an out of body experience, his consciousness entering different people from the past and seeing events from new perspectives. The book really explores identity and racial attitudes. I’ve also read his YA book called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, which I enjoyed more. The kid in that novel lives on the rez, but ends up going to an all-white school and has to figure out how to navigate between the two cultures. The cartoon illustrations add a lot of humor.
Black Elk Speaks is an interesting non-fiction account. John Niehardt spoke with Black Elk in the 1930’s when he was an old man, and wrote down his life story as he told it. For publication Niehardt paraphrased and edited to make it flow easier for readers. It was an interesting read from the perspective of someone who lived through the conflict and displacement that took place during westward expansion and the turn of the century.
Prudence by David Truer is more recent. It tells the story from multiple perspectives so that we do end up covering some of the events multiple times, but from different angles or different points of entrance. The main event is the accidental death of a runaway girl which takes place in the first half, while the second half of the novel explores how that event affected the characters. My sister and mom read one of Truer’s nonfiction books Rez Life, which they both recommend.
I tried to read The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich, but couldn’t get into the story. My sister highly recommends that I read The Round House instead.
Here’s my list of books I’d like to read (in no particular order)
- Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
- House Made of Dawn by M Scott Momaday
- There, There by Tommy Orange (I kept seeing this one on best new books of 2018 lists)
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich
- Sundown by John Joseph Matthews
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Truer (non-fiction)