Web: Some #100indigenousbooks Lists

As I introduced earlier, this year I began a new project – to read 100 books by indigenous authors.  You can check out my progress on this page.

My main source of appropriate new-to-me books have been these lists from AICL.

I also am hoping to read many of the AIYLA winners.

Beyond that, I am also looking at authors.  Cynthia Leitich-Smith is now on auto-buy for me, and Louise Erdrich‘s historical fiction is a must read.  Anything illustrated by Julie Flett is probably wonderful, and Sherman Alexie is a solid author, as is Joseph Bruchac.  I definitely want to read more Richard Van Camp, even though it’s difficult to get some of his books in the US.

Here’s a great list I recently found: 7 Female American Indian Novelists which goes beyond the well-known and prolific to highlight some lesser-known novelists, including some #ownvoices genre fiction!

If you like graphic novels, this article has links to many Native comic books (plus a lot of cool nerdy pictures).  Another option is the Moonshot anthology which I’m hoping will give me more leads on new-to-me Native graphic novels.

For YA reading, there’s a list over at the School Library Journal: Teen Books by Native Writers to Trumpet Year-Round.

I’ve also been looking at this List of 2016 Releases by Native Authors.  Specific information is not provided on all of the authors, so it will require some more research, but is a good place to start.  I’ve already ordered a copy of The Right to be Cold based on the mostly positive reviews I’ve seen so far.

Although I probably won’t be reading most of these (because I think the majority of the adult #100indigenousbooks I read will be non-fiction), this TBR list also had a lot of new-to-me names.

What other booklists should I be looking at to diversify my reading with more Native authors?

Can anyone recommend some indigenous authors from other parts of the world?  I have a few native Australian authors on my TBR but would love to read some more and don’t have any leads on South American indigenous books.

 

Review: The Birchbark House

“She was named Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop.” page 5

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.
Disney Hyperion, New York, 1999, my edition 2002.
Historical fiction, 244 pages including glossary.
National Book Award Finalist
Lexile:  970L  .
AR Level:  6.1 (worth 7.0 points)  .
NOTES: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
While the main character is seven, I would recommend this book for older children.

This is one year in the life of seven-year-old Omakayas (Oh-MAH-kay-ahs), an Ojibwa (Anishinabe) girl, in 1847.

The Birchbark House Cover

Wow.  From the suspenseful prologue to the last word, I was fully immersed in this book.  The best historical fiction I’ve read in a long time, I might even like it better than Abby Takes a Stand.  To think I didn’t really want to read it that much!

I’d seen this book recommended so many times, but was avoiding it because I was required to read one of Silko’s books in college and did not like it.  That book was The Antelope Wife.  I found it unreadable – one of very few required novels I didn’t read cover to cover.  My professor was trying to be modern and avant-garde but the book was incomprehensible and had no plot, just intricate emotionally-laden descriptions that initially intrigued and later bored me.  I’m so glad to see that Erdrich has rewritten that book and the new edition is supposed to be much more readable, because in this book, I absolutely loved her take on historical fiction.

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Review: Absolutely True Diary Part-Time Indian

“Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger. // I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” page 118

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Novel by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2007, my edition 2009.
YA realistic fiction, 230 pages not including extras.
Winner of many awards including a National Book Award.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 6.0 points)  .
NOTE: Due to content, this is not generally recommended for middle school students.

Junior is a Spokane Indian with a life from a Greek tragedy – medical woes, funerals, poverty, and picked on, he still tries to find the humor in life and look for the hope in his future in this semi-autobiographical novel.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian resized

Despite all the accolades, and my recent positive experiences of Alexie’s work, I did not expect to love this book the way I did.  Alexie seems mostly known for his literary fiction.  Diary is a YA book still interesting to the general adult fiction reader.  Unlike The Sun is Also a Star, which I might recommend to certain adults, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is a teen coming-of-age story that I would recommend to almost any adult reader.  Arnold Spirit, Junior, is a Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, a stutter, and a few other challenges, like dire poverty and 30-year-old textbooks.

Despite a life where the cards seem stacked against him, Junior perseveres, chasing his hope through tragic deaths and ridiculous logistics (how do you get to school 22 miles away when you’re incredibly poor and there’s no bus?  Answer: sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you walk.)

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Review: The Outside Circle

This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.

The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Not leveled.

Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life.  But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care.  What will happen to their family?  Can Pete’s gang become their new family?

The Outside Circle

This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals.  Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family.  So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.

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100 Indigenous Books

Back in 2015, I started reading diverse.

In 2016, I got educated about #ownvoices (and started this blog).

What will 2017 bring?

I have some specific goals in mind.  Although the main focus here will continue to be children’s books featuring African Americans, I want to branch out into some other areas.

While my actual reviewing of said books is uneven, I read children’s books from most other groups even if they never make it onto my blog.  But even though I’ve been following Debbie Reese on and off for the past decade, I don’t do a good job reading indigenous books.  How can I expect my students to read the American Indian Youth Literature Award winners when I have not?

american-indian-youth-literature-award

Part of this is availability.  None of the libraries I work at have what I would consider a good Native collection, and the local public library is sparse as well, although they have been open to suggestions.  Mostly my power here has been negative, that is, removing outdated books with stereotypes or those that relegate Native culture to the past.

This is ridiculous given that I live in Wisconsin, where Act31 requires the teaching of treaty rights, three periods of Native American studies, and the inclusion of diverse reading materials.

WI tribalgovernmentmap600

This year, I want to be more positive.  We made a start as a family by watching a few videos about modern natives and attending a powwow.

Now I am going to make a promise here: to read 100 books by indigenous authors.

I also have a goal of buying 50 of those 100 books.  We probably won’t keep all of them, so my thought is to donate some to libraries that don’t have them.  I would love to review all 100, but might just read some without reviewing them.

This is a massive undertaking, so I am not going to set a time limit.  Also, many thanks to my amazingly supportive partner, who’s willing to devote a large portion of our family resources towards this and other reading projects, and who selflessly gives up his weekend whenever I decide we need to educate the kids about something.

While I’m guessing most of the books I select will be Native American (and I’m hoping for a lot of Great Lakes area #ownvoices), I’m also going to include indigenous authors from elsewhere in this challenge, mostly Canadian, and likely some indigenous Australians as well.  I’ve already purchased a number of books.

For this challenge, I will be relying heavily on these lists, but I’m open to other sources.  Most of the books will probably be children’s or YA, but I’ll fit in some adult reads as well.

Anyone else want to give this a try?  (You don’t have to do 100 books!)

Update: You can find my booklist here, with notes on the books I’ve purchased, read, and reviewed.

Review: We Can!

The earliest readers need diverse books too! Here’s one appropriate for the beginning reader.

We Can! (also titled If You Can, I Can) by Gay Su Pinnell, illustrated by Barbara Duke.
Scholastic, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 9 pages.
Lexile: BR  (What does BR mean in Lexile?)
AR: not leveled
NOTE: Intended for the earliest beginning readers, a later edition is titled If You Can, I Can.

We Can is the sweet story of two non-white brothers, told in extremely simple words with pictures carrying most of the story, for the earliest of pre-readers and beginning readers.

we-can-cover-cropped-resized
We Can! by Gay Su Pinnell, Illustrated by Barbara Duke.

I was delighted to find a nice selection of early readers at a local thrift store.  It is incredibly difficult to find a good batch of books at this level in general, let alone culturally appropriate and diverse books, so I quickly sorted through the stack to find any that had diverse characters.  At a dollar each, this particular store was a little expensive for pre-readers (most places sell used ones for 50 cents down even as low as 10 cents, especially for used books which have writing and highlighting in them as some of these did), so I wanted to only select those that I might not find elsewhere.

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Review: State of Wonder

“Her skin was all cream and light in comparison to her father’s and very dark when she held her wrist against her mother’s.” p. 35

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
Harper Perennial, HaperCollins, 2012.
Adult fiction, 353 pages plus extras.
New York Times Bestseller
Best book of the year 2011 from ten different news sources
Lexile: 990L
AR Level: 6.7 (worth 21.0 points)

Dr. Marina Singh has no interest in going to Brazil.  She’s quite happy sitting in her small windowless lab running pharmacological tests, and her lab partner Anders Eckman was happy to go into the Amazon as long as he could take some side trips to photograph rare and unusual birds.  But Marina’s plain, comfortable world shatters when a letter arrives relating his death.  The company wants to know what happened, and so does his widow.

state-of-wonder
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

This was a free book from the library that I grabbed after forgetting my bag so I couldn’t read Hidden Figures on my break.  It was surprisingly gripping!  There are so many points to discuss which are major spoilers, but I’m going to limit the spoilers here as much as possible.

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