Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Originally created to combat the erasure of Native peoples on Columbus Day, this holiday elevates and celebrates the histories, cultures, and accomplishments of Indigenous people. It’s a good time to think about decolonization, both out in the real world and in your point of view. So, here is a short list of some absolutely fantastic works of Indigenous fiction that centralize Native characters and challenge Western concepts of storytelling.
- People of the Whale by Linda Hogan
Starting off strong with my personal favorite is Linda Hogan’s breathtaking novel People of the Whale, which chronicles the life of Thomas Witka Just as he leaves his small seaside village off the Pacific and is drawn into the Vietnam War. When he finally comes home, he must reconcile with his wife, Ruth, and the son he left behind. Meanwhile, Thomas is also caught in the villagers’ struggle about whether or not to hunt a whale, wrestling with what it would mean for their people ecologically and spiritually. Linda Hogan herself is a masterful writer from the Chickasaw Nation with a rich lyrical style that is sure to captivate you.
- House of Many Gods by Kiana Davenport
Kiana Davenport’s 2006 novel House of Many Gods follows Ana, a physician raised by her extended family in O’ahu. While helping the victims of a hurricane, she meets Nikolai, a Russian filmmaker with a terrible past who is committed to documenting the environmental disasters in his homeland and around the Pacific through film. Ana and Nikolai’s love story spans across the backdrops of both Russia and Hawaii, told through gorgeous prose and tackling the issues of poverty, military occupation, and more.
- Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
If you spend any time on #BookTok like me, you’ve probably seen Angeline Boulley’s 2021 YA release, Firekeeper’s Daughter, drawing some much-deserved hype. The book follows Daunis Fontaine, a teenaged outsider of her hometown and the nearby Ojibwe reservation. A murder suddenly thrusts her into an FBI investigation of a deadly drug. As she falls for a charming hockey prodigy and puts her knowledge of both traditional medicine and chemistry to the test, Daunis must discover what it means for her to be a woman of the Ojibwe people. This book has won a slew of awards, including Time magazine’s One Hundred Best YA Book of All Time award, and is set to receive a Netflix TV adaptation that you won’t want to miss.
- Trickster: Native American Tales, a Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki
This book is a delightful and gorgeous collection of various tales from different tribes centered around the iconic figure of the trickster and all of its different forms. In this book, twenty-four different Native storytellers are paired with twenty-four different comic artists, giving a variety of stories and unique art styles to match. The tales range from humorous to melancholy, and the collection was the winner of the Maverick Award in 2010 and the Aesop Prize in 2011.