NHPR Reads: November 2023
The origins of Native American Heritage month begin around the turn of the century with a movement to honor the vital contributions made by the first Americans as a nationally observed day. That initial effort has blossomed into the U.S. paying tribute for the entire month of November. You can read more about Native American Heritage month here.
Sara and I have compiled a list of a few stories from Indigenous voices that we think you and the kiddos in your life should check out. As always, please send us your review if you decide to add any of these books to your library list at email@example.com. - Zoë
There There by Tommy Orange
There There follows twelve indigenous people all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow for their own reasons, whose lives will intersect in ways they don’t yet understand. It is gritty and contemporary and decidedly urban. It takes a little while for the threads to start enmeshing, but once they do, it’s pretty magical. This one, though, is not for kids. - Sara
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Both a ghost story and a pandemic novel, The Sentence follows Tookie, an Ojibwe woman just released from prison and working in a bookstore as she is haunted by the ghost of her most obnoxious customer. It mixes tragicomedy with harrowing current events and a profound love for books of all sorts - indeed, the appendix of the novel provides a list of works mentioned and further reading that will keep you busy for years. - Sara
Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Absolutely the most beautiful books about indigenous land practices and traditions, about how we intersect and interact with the natural world, and what we can learn directly from the land as well as from scientific practices. As both a trained botanist and citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer asks questions of the world and allows plants to be her teachers. If you are an audiobook listener at all, I strenuously recommend listening to them - Kimmerer reads both books herself, and her voice is just golden. - Sara
American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Sa
The memoir of a Dakota Sioux woman who, as a child excited about education, begs to leave home and attend a Quaker missionary school, only to find she is expected to erase herself and assimilate in order to find success. Through poems, short stories, and remembrances, Zitkala-Sa brings us along on her journey away from and back to her indigenous heritage. - Sara
The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History by Ned Blackhawk
This retelling of U.S. history, which “addresses the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations”, just won the 2023 National Book Award in Nonfiction this month! Join us in picking up a copy at your local bookstore or library to celebrate.
Remember by Joy Harjo and illustrated by Michaela Goade
Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and served as the 23rd United States Poet Laureate. Her poem, Remember, invites children and adults alike to pause and reflect on their place in the world among nature and their community. The striking illustrations done by Caldecott Medalist and enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Michaela Goade add color and detail that will bring the reader back to this poem time and time again. - Zoë
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Kevin Noble Maillard, a member of the Seminole Nation, depicts a diverse and intergenerational community across the pages of this colorful book. Each page begins with “Fry bread is”, inviting the young reader to dive deeper into the tradition of fry bread page by page. The author's note is a highlight for me - as Maillard writes in detail about each thing “fry bread is” for the older reader. - Zoë
My Heart Fills With Happiness: Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett
“The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness?”
Smith, of Cree descent, gently invites the reader to pause and cherish the small things that bring the greatest joy. Flett’s illustrations’ earthy color palette are the perfect accompaniment. Although this little board book is meant for an audience 5 years and younger, I keep a copy on my desk for moments when I need a reminder of the things that fill my heart with happiness and I recommend that you pick up your own copy from your local bookstore. - Zoë
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk and illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
This sweet bedtime book describes what gifts the animals of the Arctic choose to share with each new baby. The poem is told from the perspective of a mother cooing at her own "Kulu," an Inukitut term of endearment. The author, Celina Kalluk, is an acclaimed Inuit throat singer and I implore you to click here and give one of her gorgeous performances a listen. - Zoë
NHPR Reads is a blog series published on the second Thursday of the month dedicated to poetry, prose, and everything in between. Follow along for a staff-curated list of what we’re reading that month and read along with us!