Monday, November 25, 2019

Ten Books About the Native American Experience

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week is a Thanksgiving freebie. This time of year means grappling with the complicated history of Thanksgiving as a holiday, and it seemed like a good time to highlight some books that center on the experience of Native Americans. I've included six that I've read and four that I have on my to-read list.

Books I've Read

1. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
As a popular YA novel, this provides an age-appropriate introduction to the challenges and contradictions of living on a reservation while attending a white school, based on Alexie's personal experiences. On the other hand, since I read this there have been multiple allegations made about sexual harassment by Alexie, so you may want to seek out alternatives.

2. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Brown is not himself part of any indigenous people in the United States, but due to his careful and thorough research, this is considered one of the definitive histories on the United States government's betrayal and destruction of Native Americans during the 19th century. It's a brutal but important read for all Americans.

3. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
I read this in school and wasn't a huge fan of it as a novel, but it did introduce me to concepts like assimilation vs. tradition and helped me understand the way that the United States has exploited its indigenous peoples and then turned its back on them.

4. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
This is one of the best histories I've read — it's both incisive and humorous, keeping a conversational tone while absolutely destroying misconceptions about the state of Native American rights in the modern era. If you thought that the government's betrayals were far in the past, you'll think again after King's focus on just the past few decades.

5. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
This book transformed my understanding of the residential schools that indigenous children were forced to attend, from misguided attempts at Westernization to abusive hellholes of modern-day slavery. This is a tough book to read, but I'm glad to have read it.

6. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
This is one I read in college and wasn't a huge fan of (I didn't like my professor very much) but I'd like to reread it someday, and I definitely want to read some other Erdrich. I'm pretty sure the protagonist of this book is white, but the majority of the story takes place on an Ojibwe reservation. (Erdrich's mother is half Ojibwe.)

Book I Want to Read

1. In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton

2. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

3. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

4. There There by Tommy Orange

What other books would you recommend?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and Crazy Rich Asians
Five years ago I was reading: The Fire Horse Girl, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, and Walking the Bridgeless Canyon
Ten years ago I was reading: Telling Lies

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