In honor of Arlington’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we’d like to share a few titles (ok, more than a few) by indigenous authors you should add to your TO READ pile.
Authors with multiple bestsellers:
Savage conversations / LeAnne Howe
May 1875: Mary Todd Lincoln is addicted to opiates and tried in a Chicago court on charges of insanity. Entered into evidence is Ms. Lincoln’s claim that every night a Savage Indian enters her bedroom and slashes her face and scalp. She is swiftly committed to Bellevue Place Sanitarium. Her hauntings may be a reminder that in 1862, President Lincoln ordered the hanging of thirty-eight Dakotas in the largest mass execution in United States history. No one has ever linked the two events–until now.Savage Conversations is a daring account of a former first lady and the ghosts that tormented her for the contradictions and crimes on which this nation is founded.
Bone black / Carol Rose GoldenEagle
There are too many stories about Indigenous women who go missing or are murdered, and it doesn’t seem as though official sources such as government, police or the courts respond in a way that works toward finding justice or even solutions. At least that is the way Wren StrongEagle sees it. Wren is devastated when her twin sister Raven mysteriously disappears after the two spend an evening visiting at a local pub. When Wren files a missing person’s report with the local police, she is dismissed and becomes convinced the case will not be properly investigated. As she follows media reports, Wren realizes that the same heartbreak she’s feeling is the same for too many families, indeed for whole Nations. Something within Wren snaps and she decides to take justice into her own hands. She soon disappears into a darkness, struggling to come to terms with the type of justice she delivers. Throughout her choices, and every step along the way, Wren feels as though she is being guided. But, by what?
There there / Tommy Orange
Twelve Native Americans came to the Big Oakland Powwow for different reasons. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxedrene is pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and has come to work the powwow and to honor his uncle’s memory. Edwin Frank has come to find his true father. Bobby Big Medicine has come to drum the Grand Entry. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather; Orvil has taught himself Indian dance through YouTube videos, and he has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. Tony Loneman is a young Native American boy whose future seems destined to be as bleak as his past, and he has come to the Powwow with darker intentions–intentions that will destroy the lives of everyone in his path. Tommy Orange delivers a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen. A multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power, dislocation and communion, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people.
Five little Indians / Michelle Good
Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention. Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission. Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can’t stop running and moves restlessly from job to job – through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps – trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew. With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.
Winter in the blood / James Welch ; introduction by Louise Erdrich
Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent sensitive, and self destructive he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once proud heritage. He sleepwalks through his days working on his stepfather’s cattle ranch and consoles himself with alcohol and women. An ironic epiphany provides a tie to the vast land of his ancestors and an alternative to despair.
Moon of the crusted snow : a novel / Waubgeshig Rice
With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the council and community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader, they endeavour to restore order while grappling with a grave decision.
Split tooth / Tanya Tagaq
A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents’ love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol, and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her, and the immense power that dwarfs all of us. When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all of this.
Sacred smokes / Theodore C. Van Alst Jr
Growing up in a gang in the city can be dark. Growing up Native American in a gang in Chicago is a whole different story. This book takes a trip through that unexplored part of Indian Country, an intense journey that is full of surprises, shining a light on the interior lives of people whose intellectual and emotional concerns are often overlooked. This dark, compelling, occasionally inappropriate, and often hilarious linked story collection introduces a character who defies all stereotypes about urban life and Indians. He will be in readers’ heads for a long time to come.
Chasing painted horses / a novel by Drew Hayden Taylor
When Ralph Thomas comes across graffiti of a horse in an alleyway in the early hours of the morning, he is stopped in his tracks. He recognizes this horse. A half-asleep Indigenous homeless man sees Ralph’s reaction to the horse and calls out to him. Over the course of a morning’s worth of hot coffee on a bitterly cold day, Ralph and the homeless man talk and Ralph remembers a troubling moment from his childhood when an odd little girl, Danielle, drew the most beautiful and intriguing horse on his mother’s Everything Wall, winning the competition set up for children on the Otter Lake Reserve. Ralph has lived with many questions that arose from his eleventh winter. What did the horse mean — to him, his sister, his best friend, and, most importantly, the girl who drew it? These questions have never left him. Drew Hayden Taylor has done many things, most of which he is proud. An Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario, he has worn many hats in his literary career, from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to being Artistic Director of Canada’s premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. He has been an award-winning playwright (with over 70 productions of his work), a journalist/columnist (appearing regularly in several Canadian newspapers and magazines), short-story writer, novelist, television scriptwriter, and has worked on over seventeen documentaries exploring the Native experience. Most notably, he wrote and directed Redskins, Tricksters and Puppy Stew, a documentary on Native humour for the National Film Board of Canada.
Empire of wild : a novel / Cherie Dimaline
A story inspired by the Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou finds a woman reconnecting with her heritage when her missing husband reappears in the form of a charismatic preacher who does not recognize her.Joan has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for nearly a year– ever since that terrible night they’d had their first serious argument. Still grieving and severely hungover, Joan hears Victor’s unmistakable voice coming from inside a revival tent in a gritty Walmart parking lot. He has the same face, the same eyes, the same hands. He doesn’t recognize Joan, insists his name is Eugene Wolff, and that he is a reverend whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus and grow His flock. Joan turns to Ajean, an elderly foul-mouthed card shark who is one of the few among Métis community steeped in the traditions of the Métis people and knowledgeable about their ancient enemies
Moccasin Square Gardens: Short Stories / Richard Van Camp
The characters of Moccasin Square Gardens inhabit Denendeh, the land of the people north of the sixtieth parallel. These stories are filled with in-laws, outlaws and common-laws. Get ready for illegal wrestling moves (“The Camel Clutch”), pinky promises, a doctored casino, extraterrestrials or “Sky People,” love, lust and prayers for peace.
While this is Van Camp’s most hilarious short story collection, it’s also haunted by the lurking presence of the Wheetago, human-devouring monsters of legend that have returned due to global warming and the greed of humanity. The stories in Moccasin Square Gardens show that medicine power always comes with a price.
To counteract this darkness, Van Camp weaves a funny and loving portrayal of the Tłı̨chǫ Dene and other communities of the North, drawing from oral history techniques to perfectly capture the character and texture of everyday small-town life. “Moccasin Square Gardens” is the nickname of a dance hall in the town of Fort Smith that serves as a meeting place for a small but diverse community. In the same way, the collection functions as a meeting place for an assortment of characters, from shamans and time-travelling goddess warriors to pop-culture-obsessed pencil pushers, to con artists, archivists and men who just need to grow up, all seeking some form of connection.
Winter counts : a novel / 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.
Black sun / 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.
Living on the borderlines : stories / Melissa Michal
For the loosely connected Seneca community members living in Upstate New York, intergenerational memory slips into everyday life: a teenager struggles to understand her grandmother’s silences, a family seeks to reconnect with a lost sibling, and a young woman searches for a cave that’s called to her family for generations. With these stories, debut writer Melissa Michal weaves together an understated and contemplative collection exploring what it means to be Native.
The beadworkers : stories / Beth Piatote
Told with humor, subtlety, and spareness, the mixed-genre works of Beth Piatote’s first collection find unifying themes in the strength of kinship, the pulse of longing, and the language of return.
A woman teaches her niece to make a pair of beaded earrings while ruminating on a fractured relationship. An eleven-year-old girl narrates the unfolding of the Fish Wars in the 1960s as her family is propelled to its front lines. In 1890, as tensions escalate at Wounded Knee, two young men at college–one French and the other Lakota–each contemplate a death in the family. In the final, haunting piece, a Nez Perce-Cayuse family is torn apart as they debate the fate of ancestral remains in a moving revision of the Greek tragedy Antigone.
Formally inventive and filled with vibrant characters, The Beadworkers draws on Indigenous aesthetics and forms to offer a powerful, sustaining vision of Native life.
Jonny Appleseed : a novel / Joshua Whitehead
Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Jonny’s world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages – and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home for his step-father’s funeral, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.
Betty / Tiffany McDaniel
A stunning, lyrical coming-of-age novel set in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians in which a young girl, with only the compass of her father’s imagination, must navigate racism, sexism, and the dark secrets that will haunt her for the rest of her life. “A girl comes of age against the knife.” So begins the story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in Arkansas in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty, racism, abuse, and violence–both from outside the family, and also, devastatingly, from within. After years on the road, searching in vain for a better life, the Carpenters return to their hometown of Breathed, Ohio, in northern Appalachia. There, they move into a sprawling wreck of a farmhouse that local legend says is cursed. The townsfolk decide the Carpenters are cursed, too: “My mother gave birth to eight of us,” Betty tells us in her frank, wry voice. “More than one would die for no good reason in the prizewinning years of their youth. Some blamed God for taking too few. Others accused the Devil of leaving too many.” But Betty is resilient. Her father’s inventive stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination and even in the face of tragedy and death, her creativity is irrepressible. Against overwhelming odds, she may be the first member of her family to break the cycle of abuse and trauma–and escape.
Land-water-sky = Ndè-ti-yat’a / Katłià
Land-Water-Sky follows the story of a vexatious shapeshifter (Nahga) that lives throughout the centuries from time immemorial. Witnessing his land being encroached before him, he is desperate to stop the world from evolving and so he breeds a band of offspring to help him take sovereignty over the land but in doing so he encounters many instances where characters serve to stand in the way of his domination forcing him to live in human form where he becomes desperate to once again reign over the northern terrain where he will do anything to gain power until he is faced with the only powers that can stop him, the love of a mother seeking retribution and the help of land, water, sky together as one crossing the boundaries of space and time.
The removed : a novel / Brandon Hobson
In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer’s in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation. With the family’s annual bonfire approaching– marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death– each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world.
Love after the end : an anthology of two-spirit & indigiqueer speculative fiction / edited by Joshua Whitehead
A bold and breathtaking anthology of queer Indigenous speculative fiction, edited by the author of Jonny Appleseed. This exciting and groundbreaking fiction anthology showcases a number of new and emerging 2SQ (Two-Spirit and queer) Indigenous writers from across Turtle Island. These visionary authors show how queer Indigenous communities can bloom and thrive through utopian narratives that detail the vivacity and strength of 2SQness throughout its plight in the maw of settler colonialism’s histories. Here, readers will discover bioengineered AI rats, transplanted trees in space, the rise of a 2SQ resistance camp, a primer on how to survive Indigiqueerly, virtual reality applications, mother ships at sea, and the very bending of space-time continuums queered through NDN time. Love after the End demonstrates the imaginatively queer Two-Spirit futurisms we have all been dreaming of since 1492. Contributors include Nathan Adler, Darcie Little Badger, Gabriel Castilloux Calderón, Adam Garnet Jones, Mari Kurisato, Kai Minosh Pyle, David Alexander Robertson, jaye simpson, and Nazbah Tom.
Indian horse : a novel / Richard Wagamese
Saul Indian Horse is a child when his family retreats into the woods. Among the lakes and the cedars, they attempt to reconnect with half-forgotten traditions and hide from the authorities who have been kidnapping Ojibway youth. But when winter approaches, Saul loses everything: his brother, his parents, his beloved grandmother–and then his home itself. Alone in the world and placed in a horrific boarding school, Saul is surrounded by violence and cruelty. At the urging of a priest, he finds a tentative salvation in hockey. Rising at dawn to practice alone, Saul proves determined and undeniably gifted. His intuition and vision are unmatched. His speed is remarkable. Together they open doors for him: away from the school, into an all-Ojibway amateur circuit, and finally within grasp of a professional career. Yet as Saul’s victories mount, so do the indignities and the taunts, the racism and the hatred–the harshness of a world that will never welcome him.
House made of dawn / N. Scott Momaday
A young Native American, Abel has come home from war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father’s, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world–modern, industrial America–pulls at Abel, demanding his loyalty, trying to claim his soul, and goading him into a destructive, compulsive cycle of depravity and disgust.
An American classic, House Made of Dawn is at once a tragic tale about the disabling effects of war and cultural separation, and a hopeful story of a stranger in his native land, finding his way back to all that is familiar and sacred.
Robopocalypse : a novel / Daniel H. Wilson
In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.
When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.
This town sleeps : a novel / Dennis E. Staples
Set on an Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota, This Town Sleeps is the story of Marion Lafournier, a gay Ojibwe man, and his search for meaning in a town he cannot seem to leave. When he begins a romance with a closeted former high school classmate Shannon, Marion finds himself struggling to connect with the volcanic and unstable man. One night, while roaming the dark streets of Geshig, Marion unknowingly brings to life a dog from underneath 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.
When two feathers fell from the sky / Margaret Verble
Two Feathers, a young Cherokee horse-diver on loan to Glendale Park Zoo from a Wild West show, is determined to find her own way in the world. Two’s closest friend at Glendale is Hank Crawford, who loves horses almost as much as she does. He is part of a high-achieving, land-owning Black family. Neither Two nor Hank fit easily into the highly segregated society of 1920s Nashville.
When disaster strikes during one of Two’s shows, strange things start to happen at the park. Vestiges of the ancient past begin to surface, apparitions appear, and then the hippo falls mysteriously ill. At the same time, Two dodges her unsettling, lurking admirer and bonds with Clive, Glendale’s zookeeper and a World War I veteran, who is haunted–literally–by horrific memories of war. To get to the bottom of it, an eclectic cast of park performers, employees, and even the wealthy stakeholders must come together, making When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky an unforgettable and irresistible tale of exotic animals, lingering spirits, and unexpected friendship.
The Sentence / Louise Erdrich
In this powerful and timely novel, National Book Award winning author Louise Erdrich explores how the burdens of history, and especially identity, appropriation, exploitation, and violence done to human beings in the name of justice, manifest in ordinary lives today.
Revolving around a small independent bookstore in contemporary Minneapolis, The Sentence follows a turbulent year in the life of a strong though vulnerable Ojibwe woman named Tookie.
After serving part of an outrageously long sentence, Tookie, who “learned to read with murderous attention” while in prison, naturally gravitates toward working at a bookstore. There she joins a dedicated community of artists and book lovers and begins to build a new life for herself.
When Flora, the store’s most persistent customer, suddenly dies, her ghost refuses to leave. Flora returns on All Soul’s Day to haunt the bookstore and in particular, Tookie. Why? The mystery of this revenant’s appearance leads Asema, a fellow Ojibwe bookseller, and Tookie to a shocking personal discovery with historical reverberations. Tookie finds that this year of disease, violence, and political upheaval is, on a worldwide scale, a year of ghosts and hauntings.
A complicated love finds Tookie as well when Pollux, who has been in love with her for years, proposes, and they marry. Pollux was the tribal police officer who arrested Tookie all those years ago for a crime which turned out to be more serious than Tookie knew. How Pollux and Tookie overcome past betrayal and learn to trust each other is a challenge that will either deepen or destroy their love.
The Sentence begins on All Soul’s Day 2019 and ends on All Soul’s Day 2020. Its mystery and proliferating ghost stories during this one year propel a narrative as rich, emotional, and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.
The Ghost Dancers / Adrian C. Louis
It’s 1988, and Lyman “Bean” Wilson, a Nevada Indian and middle-aged professor of journalism at Lakota University in South Dakota, is reassessing his life. Although Bean is the great-grandson of Wovoka, the Paiute leader who initiated the Ghost Dance religion, he is not a full-blood Indian and he endures the scorn of the Pine Ridge Sioux, whose definition of Indian identity is much narrower. A man with many flaws, Bean wrestles with his own worst urges, his usually ineffectual efforts to help his family, and his determination to establish his identity as an Indian. The result is a string of family reconnections, sexual adventures, crises at work, pipe and sweat-lodge ceremonies, and–through his membership in the secret Ghost Dancers Society–political activism, culminating in a successful plot to blow the nose off George Washington’s face on Mount Rushmore.
My heart is a chainsaw / Stephen Graham Jones
Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.
Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.
The seed keeper : a novel / Diane Wilson
Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn’t return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato – where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they’ve inherited. On a winter’s day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband’s farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron – women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools.
Crooked hallelujah / Kelli Jo Ford
It’s 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women, presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine’s father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church-a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But she does her best as a devoted daughter, until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever. Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine-a mixed-blood Cherokee woman-and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn’t easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces like wildfires and tornadoes, intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home. In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn women sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel-in-stories of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.
Even as we breathe : a novel / Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah yearns to escape his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. When a summer job at Asheville’s luxurious Grove Park Inn and Resort brings him one step closer to escaping the hills that both cradle and suffocate him, he sees it as an opportunity. With World War II raging in Europe, the inn is the temporary home of Axis diplomats and their families, who are being held as prisoners of war. Soon, Cowney’s refuge becomes a cage when the daughter of one of the residents goes missing and he finds himself accused of abduction and murder.
Even As We Breathe invokes the elements of bone, blood, and flesh as Cowney navigates difficult social, cultural, and ethnic divides. After leaving the seclusion of the Cherokee reservation, he is able to explore a future free from the consequences of his family’s choices and to construct a new worldview, for a time. However, prejudice and persecution in the white world of the resort eventually compel Cowney to free himself from larger forces that hold him back as he struggles to unearth evidence of his innocence and clear his name.
Murder on the Red River / by Marcie R. Rendon
Cash and Sheriff Wheaton make for a strange partnership. He pulled her from her mother’s wrecked car when she was three and has kept an eye out for her ever since. Cash navigated through a succession of white foster homes, and at thirteen was working on farms. She’s tough as nails and makes her living driving trucks. It’s a rough place to live — Fargo-Moorhead in the early 1970s. Wheaton wants her to take hold of her life, stop fooling around with married men and the American Indian Movement, and attend junior college. So there they are, staring at the dead Indian lying in the field. Soon Cash was dreaming about the dead man’s cheap house on the Red Lake Reservation, mother and kids waiting. She has that kind of power.
Cherokee America / Margaret Verble
A baby, a black hired hand, a bay horse, a gun, and a neighbor have all gone missing in the same corner of the Cherokee Nation West. Cherokee America Singer, known as Check, is none too pleased with these developments. As a wealthy farmer, the mother of five boys, and the matriarch of her family, she’s accustomed to wielding authority. And she’s determined to find out what’s going on.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, complex alliances and simmering race and culture clashes unite and divide the people living on Cherokee lands. Tensions mount and violence escalates, and the long arm of white law encroaches further into Indian Territory. Determined to survive and thrive on their own terms after decades of betrayal and hardship, Check’s family, friends, and neighbors must come together to avenge a crime, outwit federal authorities, and protect their sovereignty.
Inspired by Margaret Verble’s family history and written with dry humor and a lot of heart, Cherokee America is a different kind of Western, one told from a Native American point of view and with a mixed-race woman at its center. Check–member of a distinguished Cherokee family, daughter of a famous soldier and a slaveholder, wife of an abolitionist–is a necessary, revelatory addition to the literature of the American frontier.