Here are 7 powerful books written by Indigenous women

Louise Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is the author of numerous novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books and a memoir on early motherhood. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Indigenous Peoples Day is a celebration that recognizes the past, present and future of Indigenous groups across the country. It is meant to be a day of celebration of Indigenous culture and heritage, but also a day of reflection on the impact that colonialism has had on these communities.

On this day, it’s important to listen to the voices of Indigenous peoples in order to better understand their experiences — and that’s why we’ve compiled a list of 7 recommended books written by Indigenous women. They all contain testimonies of exploitation and injustice, but they also act as lanterns guiding readers to spaces of healing and community.

The authors integrate Indigenous knowledge, which has been historically buried by colonialism, into bold stories that promote cultural understanding. Each book on this list is a powerful tool for reflection not just on Indigenous Peoples Day, but throughout the year.

1

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

In The Night Watchman, National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich (enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians) draws inspiration from the life of her grandfather who worked as a night watchman while struggling with dispossession native of rural North Dakota. en route to Washington, D.C. Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this powerful novel explores the lives and ambitions of its living characters who live on an impoverished reservation, while shedding light on the exploitation and violence these characters face as they grapple with love and death.

2

Warrior Poet: Memoirs of Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, America’s first Native American Poet Laureate, invites readers into the world she grew up in, the world that taught her to write poetry of compassion and healing. She recounts ancient poetry, music and stories of grief-stricken owls and resilient desert plants. She recognizes and celebrates the influences that have shaped her poetry, including Audre Lorde, N. Scott Momaday, Walt Whitman, Muscogee stomp dance call-and-response, Navajo horse songs, rain and sunrise. Poet Warrior is a memoir detailing her grief over the loss of her mother, the theft of her ancestral homeland, and a celebration of the rituals that make up her life as a poet and Indigenous woman.

3

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is an author from Colorado whose goal is to tell stories with the diversity and representation of her family and ancestry. Set in 1930s Denver, Woman of Light is the story of a laundress and tea leaf reader named Luz “Little Light” Lopez. When her brother, Diego, leaves town to escape the violence, she begins to have visions of her ancestral homeland, witnessing the very violence that befalls her people. As she reflects on these deep-rooted memories, Luz becomes responsible for keeping them alive and not letting these vital stories fade into oblivion.

4

Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Probably Ruby is the debut novel by Cree Métis poet and writer Lisa Bird-Wilson. It follows Ruby, an Aboriginal woman in her thirties who was adopted as a baby. Her adoptive parents, both white, understand very little of her Aboriginal heritage. The story is told through a kaleidoscope of different perspectives, from Ruby to those of her biological parents, her grandparents, her own children, and more. As her life and relationships begin to spiral out of control, Ruby sets out to find her own story in hopes of understanding herself better.

5

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Ceremony, published over thirty-five years ago, is considered one of the most moving works of Native American literature to this day. It follows Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed background, as he returns home to the Laguna Pueblo reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and even more hurt by the rejection he encounters from his people. His elderly grandmother and Betonie, a Navajo healer, engage Tayo in ceremonies to open his mind and help him find his place in the world. Written by Leslie Marmon Silko, a Laguna Pueblo Indian, this novel has been described as a healing ceremony in itself.

6

Sweetgrass Braiding by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation who believes that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. Braiding Sweetgrass is a collection of essays that examine how other living things offer us gifts and lessons, even though we have forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, it revolves around a central argument: that to awaken ecological consciousness, we must recognize and celebrate our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the world. living. Kimmerer’s novel is a must-read because it brings Indigenous wisdom to the global conversation on the climate crisis.

seven

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Nishnaabeg award-winning storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson combines narrative and poetic fragments in this truly original novel about a long period of hopeless connection and freedom and solace in isolated suspension. It is told from the perspective of seven main characters – including a maple tree, a giant and a caribou – who attempt to commune with the unnatural world of urban settlers. But cut off from nature, they are cut off from their natural selves. The characters, all connected in the same web, carry out the daily work of collective healing. The novel itself is an act of decolonization, degentrification, and unlearning the colonial ideas that shaped the world today.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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