This time last year, my older son and I were working though some Native history and literature. It’s beautiful and devastating. The books here are a small selection of what’s available. A beginning.
If these perspectives are unfamiliar to you, please take some time and read. It’s so worth it. These words are gifts.
Here’s what we read:
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. This is essential.
Life of Black Hawk, by Black Hawk. A Native view of the conflict resulting from the US push west in the 1800s , as well as what life was like.
The Journey of Crazy Horse, by Joseph M. Marshall III. The story of Crazy Horse’s life. It will haunt you.
American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings, by Zitkala-Sa. The ‘other writings’ are letters, articles, and speeches about Native issues of the day. She will open your eyes.
The Soul of the Indian, by Charles Alexander Eastman. For insight into a culture.
Two Old Women, by Velma Wallis. Written for a younger reader, it takes place in Alaska. A legend about two old women who are left by their people to die, and what happens next.
Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann. I did my best to use books written by Native people, but I ended up using this because the story sucked me in, it was written well, and if you want an idea of the suffocating injustice faced by Natives, this book will help.
I think the next two books are particularly compelling read one after the other. It doesn’t matter the order. They are not the same story, and the conflicts are not handled the same way, but, well, you’ll see. There are similarities, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two. My son preferred one, and I preferred the other.
Winter in the Blood, by James Welch. It’s a classic, and it’s beautiful. My son liked this one better.
Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. This. It’s lodged in my heart. If I had to choose one favorite book from the whole list, it would be Ceremony.
Blonde Indian, by Ernestine Hayes. Life as a Tlingit (I hope I have that right). This is more contemporary. I needed to take deep breaths and settle down for the storytelling aspect of the book, and, once I did, I found it to be a rich and captivating memoir.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Another one written for a younger audience, while remaining equally interesting to an adult. It will kick you right in the stomach, and you should read it.
There, There, by Tommy Orange. A relatively newly-released work of fiction. It’s got a hard edge but it’s the softness that hurts. If you read through the whole list, by the time you get to this one, you’ll recognize the themes. You will be sad, horrified, sick, and hopefully more aware. Compassionate. Just do it. Read the list, and read this book.