IT’S READY PLAYER TWO DAY!!! I stayed up pretty late last night in the hopes that my audiobook would be delivered sometime after midnight, but it must have been delivered after I fell asleep. No matter, it’s here now and I am so excited for it! I’ll be buying a hard copy too, but given that the first book’s narration by Wil Wheation is what got me into audiobooks there was no way I wasn’t going to immediately dive into the sequel that’s also narrated by him.
Today is also Top Ten Tuesday! Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, this week’s topic is a freebie linked to American Thanksgiving. While I’m thankful for a lot, Thanksgiving is not a holiday I celebrate mainly because of its problematic history. I’m not here to guilt anyone who does celebrate it because I know for most it’s about being with loved ones. I just think it’s important to be aware of why this is a holiday fraught with mixed emotions for some people. Although given the risk of large family gatherings this year, I feel there are more reasons than usual to not adhere to all of the normal activities associated with Thanksgiving.
Last year I opted to cover Indigenous authors instead of doing the Thanksgiving-themed topic and I’m going to do something similar again this year. Below are ten books published this year by indigenous authors from around the world. All blurbs are from Goodreads.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.
Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?
In the Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, The Night Watchman is a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
A tale of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
(Side note: This book scared the ever-living crap out of me. I actually had to hide it for a while. Review to come soon!)
This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples
On an Ojibwe reservation called Languille Lake, within the small town of Geshig at the hub of the rez, two men enter into a secret romance. Marion Lafournier, a midtwenties gay Ojibwe man, begins a relationship with his former classmate Shannon, a heavily closeted white man obsessed with his image as a northern Minnesotan. While Marion is far more open about his sexuality, neither is immune to the realities of the lives of gay men in small towns and closed societies.
One night, while roaming the dark streets of Geshig, Marion unknowingly brings to life a dog from beneath the elementary school playground. The mysterious revenant leads him to the grave of Kayden Kelliher, an Ojibwe basketball star who was murdered at the young age of seventeen and whose presence still lingers in the memories of the townsfolk. While investigating the fallen hero’s death, Marion discovers family connections and an old Ojibwe legend that may be the secret to unraveling the mystery he has found himself in.
Set on a reservation in far northern Minnesota, This Town Sleeps explores the many ways history, culture, landscape, and lineage shape our lives, our understanding of the world we inhabit, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of it all.
Medicine Wheel: Environmental Decision-Making Process of Indigenous Peoples by Michael E. Marchand et. al.
The Medicine Wheel built by Indigenous people acknowledges that ecosystems experience unpredictable recurring cycles and that people and the environment are interconnected. The Western science knowledge framework is incomplete unless localized intergenerational knowledge is respected and becomes part of the problem-definition and solution process.
The goal of this book is to lay the context for how to connect Western science and Indigenous knowledge frameworks to form a holistic and ethical decision process for the environment. What is different about this book is that it not only describes the problems inherent to each knowledge framework but also offers new insights for how to connect culture and art to science knowledge frameworks. Read this book and learn how you can move beyond stereotypes to connect with nature.
Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta
This remarkable book is about everything from echidnas to evolution, cosmology to cooking, sex and science and spirits to Schrödinger’s cat.
Tyson Yunkaporta looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective. He asks how contemporary life diverges from the pattern of creation. How does this affect us? How can we do things differently?
Sand Talk provides a template for living. It’s about how lines and symbols and shapes can help us make sense of the world. It’s about how we learn and how we remember. It’s about talking to everybody and listening carefully. It’s about finding different ways to look at things.
Most of all it’s about Indigenous thinking, and how it can save the world.
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz’s highly anticipated follow-up to When My Brother Was an Aztec, winner of an American Book Award
Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds.
Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
From the author of the YA-crossover hit The Marrow Thieves, a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou – a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities. A messed-up, grown-up, Little Red Riding Hood.
Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year–ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One terrible, hungover morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, she is drawn to a revival tent where the local Métis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher named Eugene Wolff. By the time she staggers into the tent, the service is over. But as she is about to leave, she hears an unmistakable voice.
She turns, and there Victor is. The same face, the same eyes, the same hands. But his hair is short and he’s wearing a suit and he doesn’t recognize her at all. No, he insists, she’s the one suffering a delusion: he’s the Reverend Wolff and his only mission is to bring his people to Jesus. Except that, as Joan soon discovers, that’s not all the enigmatic Wolff is doing.
With only the help of Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with a knowledge of the old ways, and her odd, Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan has to find a way to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. If he really is Victor. Her life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon it.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.
They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.
The Audacity of his Enterprise: Louis Riel and the Métis Nation That Canada Never Was, 1840–1875 by Max Hamon
Louis Riel (1844-1885) was an iconic figure in Canadian history best known for his roles in the Red River Resistance of 1869 and the Northwest Resistance of 1885. A political leader of the Métis people of the Canadian Prairies, Riel is often portrayed as a rebel. Reconstructing his experiences in the Northwest, Quebec, and the worlds in between, Max Hamon revisits Riel’s life through his own eyes, illuminating how he and the Métis were much more involved in state-making than historians have previously acknowledged.
Questioning the drama of resistance, The Audacity of His Enterprise highlights Riel’s part in the negotiations, petition claims, and legal battles that led to the formation of the state from the bottom up. Hamon examines Riel’s early successes and his participation in the crafting of a new political environment in the Northwest and Canada. Arguing that Riel viewed the Métis as a distinct people, not caught between worlds, the book demonstrates Riel’s attempts to integrate multiple perspectives – Indigenous, French-Canadian, American, and British – into a new political environment. Choosing to end the book in 1875, at the pinnacle of Riel’s successful career as a political leader, rather than at his death in 1885, Hamon sets out to recover Riel’s agency, intentions, and imagination, all of which have until now been displaced by colonial narratives and the shadow of his execution.
I’m currently in the middle of Black Sun and earlier this year I read The Night Watchman and The Only Good Indians. Both were impressive pieces of literature with the latter being an utterly terrifying masterpiece of horror.
Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments!
9 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Releases by Indigenous Authors”
Great list! I’m so excited to read Black Sun and I LOVE the sound of This Town Sleeps.
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I hadn’t heard of This Town Sleeps before researching for this topic but I’m definitely going to be getting a copy!
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I hope you love Ready Player Two.
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It’s been fun so far!
What an excellent choice of books to share. Thank you!
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You’re welcome 😊
Great twist on the topic! I just finished a novel by a Native American man about Navajo code talkers. It was fascinating. I’ll have to check out the ones on your list.
I definitely get why some people have issues with Thanksgiving. For me, though, it’s about gratitude above all else. There’s always something to be grateful for and I love that we have a day that’s all about giving thanks.
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Oh, absolutely, I just think that you can do it any day of the year rather than on one that has so much ugly history behind it. But this year we need a day of thanks more than ever! Hope you had a nice holiday 😊
Ooh I have added many of these to my TBR! Good list. I just finished Winter Counts and have you heard of Elatsoe?? That’s next on my list. AFTER Ready Player Two which I just got today! : P