6 Books by Native American Authors to Add to your TBR

I’m going to be honest: this post has gone through many revisions in the past 24 hours; it started as a way to encourage others to combat the consumerism of Black Friday and the holiday season with doing good. It’s that time of the year again where stores lure us in with deep discounts and even I, a minimalist, get sucked into the hype of deep discounts and buy items that I don’t really want or need.

But while writing this post, it began to evolve into a discussion on the unedited history of Thanksgiving in America. About my personal feelings of discomfort celebrating a holiday that is rooted on colonial genocide. For this day of thanks and gratitude, for many Americans this day is the National Day of Mourning and a painful reminder of the country’s dark history.

After much reflection, the most important message I wanted to make was to support Native American authors. The final product was this list of six Native American books by own-voices authors. The greatest thing about reading is that you are able to travel and experience the world from your favorite reading spot, and reading diversely not only ensures that more diverse books are published but also breeds empathy and respect for people different from you. I hope that while you are filling your carts with books for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales that you consider picking up one of these books! I finally bought a copy of Trail of Lightning and would love to arrange a buddy read if anyone else is interested.

6 Books by Native American own-voices authors you need to check out

Through personal research and the help of Twitter, below is a list of recommended books by Native American authors. Titles link to the Goodreads page, I am not using affiliate links in this post.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse is a dystopian urban fantasy following climate change events. | 📖 Read my full review

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

✨✨✨

There There by Tommy Orange is a contemporary, literary fiction story set in Oakland, CA. This book was just named a nominee for the Aspen Words Literary Prize!

Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking—Tommy Orange’s first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen, and it introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career.

There There is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.

Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with stunning urgency and force. Tommy Orange writes of the urban Native American, the Native American in the city, in a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. An unforgettable debut, destined to become required reading in schools and universities across the country.

✨✨✨

Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon is a mystery/historical fiction novel set in Fargo, ND in the 1970s.

Cash and Sheriff Wheaton make for a strange partnership. He pulled her from her mother’s wrecked car when she was three. He’s kept an eye out for her ever since. It’s a tough place to live—northern Minnesota along the Red River. Cash navigated through foster homes, and at thirteen was working farms. She’s tough as nails—Five feet two inches, blue jeans, blue jean jacket, smokes Marlboros, drinks Bud Longnecks. Makes her living driving truck. Playing pool on the side. Wheaton is big lawman type. Scandinavian stock, but darker skin than most. He wants her to take hold of her life. Get into Junior College. So there they are, staring at the dead Indian lying in the field. Soon Cash was dreaming the dead man’s cheap house on the Red Lake Reservation, mother and kids waiting. She has that kind of power. That’s the place to start looking. There’s a long and dangerous way to go to find the men who killed him. Plus there’s Jim, the married white guy. And Longbraids, the Indian guy headed for Minneapolis to join the American Indian Movement.

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Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith is a young adult contemporary romance.

New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and first love.

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?

✨✨✨

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac is a middle grade fantasy/horror story.

Ever since the morning Molly woke up to find that her parents had vanished, her life has become filled with terrible questions. Where have her parents gone? Who is this spooky old man who’s taken her to live with him, claiming to be her great-uncle? Why does he never eat, and why does he lock her in her room at night? What are her dreams of the Skeleton Man trying to tell her? There’s one thing Molly does know. She needs to find some answers before it’s too late.

✨✨✨

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson is a young adult contemporary. This book was just named a nominee for the Aspen Words Literary Prize!

Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction

With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family. Literally and figuratively scarred by his unstable upbringing, Sequoyah has spent years mostly keeping to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface—that is, until he meets the seventeen-year-old Rosemary, another youth staying with the Troutts.

Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American backgrounds and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah’s feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.

📝 I want to note that there are also a lot of fantastic books by First Nations own voices authors, but for the purposes of this particular post I opted to limit to Native American in honor of the National Day of Mourning. I hope to do more diverse recommendation posts in the future where I will widen the scope.


If you have the money to spare and are interested in making charitable donations this holiday season, here are a couple of charities that support Native Americans:


spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!

43 Comments

  1. Vera

    November 22, 2018 at 11:30 AM

    Such a thoughtful post, I appreciated learning more about Native American history whilst visiting Canada last month. Thank you for sharing those authors with us and their work. ❤️
    By the way I’m a minimalist myself but also struggle with Black Friday sales. They are so tempting sometimes and I constantly have to keep tabs on my mind. And sometimes I do buy stuff I don’t really need. 😳
    Happy Thanksgiving, hope you are having a lovely day.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 23, 2018 at 2:57 PM

      Vera, thank you so much for stopping by! I have spent some time today learning a bit about the history on the other side of the border, and I will probably put together a list for First Nations own voices authors sometime in the future as well.

      Black Friday sales are SO TEMPTING! And then I get everything and totally get mad at myself. My general rule of thumb is to only buy things that I would pay full price for; buying something just because it is on sale isn’t the best. But I am definitely not perfect.

      How’s Whole 30 going? I am thinking about restarting after my -insert many months here- bingefest. I nabbed a copy of the Whole30 cookbook with 150 recipes for $1.99 off BookOutlet last week! Pretty excited about that. Hope all is well with you, and thank you so much!

      1. Vera

        November 25, 2018 at 12:12 AM

        I like your rule of thumb! And you are not alone, we all sometimes fall into that trap. ❤️

        My Whole 30 stopped a while ago as part of being tested required me eating everything – it was needed for endoscopy and my other appointments I had to go through. 😔 I currently eat everything but may clean up my meals post the festive period.

        Such a good bargain! I have that book as well and some of those recipes are really yummy! 👌Crossing fingers for you with your journey. If you ever need an accountability buddy, happy to be there for that hun! ❤️

  2. Clo @ Book Dragons

    November 22, 2018 at 1:14 PM

    Aaaah Kal, loved this post! I’ve also bookmarked it as there’s at least 2 I want to read. One being Trial of Lightening, but I may buy them. You know because we can never have too many books!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 23, 2018 at 2:58 PM

      Aww yay Clo, I am so glad that you enjoyed this post… I was so nervous about it! Trail of Lightning I am really excited to read. Let me know when/if you get a copy and maybe we can buddy read it?

      1. Clo @ Book Dragons

        November 23, 2018 at 3:02 PM

        Yassss, I’d love that, I’ll have to search for a copy though cause my library doesn’t have it sadly. I may have to snoop on amazon hehe

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          November 24, 2018 at 7:34 AM

          Sounds good, let me know! I got a copy on BD for $10

  3. Kristina

    November 22, 2018 at 2:56 PM

    What a neat idea!!
    This is one of the things we forget so easily, among the « festivities » and other stuff – I, myself, didn’t quite knew that part. So thank you to raise our knowledge, girl!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 23, 2018 at 3:00 PM

      Thank you so much, Kristina! I remember being shocked when I learned the full story way later in life than I would care to admit. I don’t want to ruin people’s enjoyment of the holiday because I think celebrating family and gratitude are important, but for me I can’t separate that from the past.

      1. Kristina

        November 23, 2018 at 6:09 PM

        I understand, it’s better informing and let people free of wanting to do good than ruin everyone’s fun.

  4. devouringbooks2017

    November 22, 2018 at 4:25 PM

    I feel like it’s so important to recognize what this day is for so many people. I have always celebrated Thanksgiving with tons of food and so has my family, but my grandfather grew up on the reservation. I love reading books about different heritages and own voices novels. I am always begging for better representation in books, so I’m really proud to see a post like this on my newsfeed.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 23, 2018 at 3:02 PM

      Thank you so much for sharing, Amanda! I definitely love the current spirit of family and gratitude, but really wish a brand new holiday could be created so we could start fresh because for so many it is hurtful. I am always looking for diverse and own-voices recommendations, so let me know if you ever come across something you think I would like.

      I hope you had a nice day with your family and friends!

      1. devouringbooks2017

        November 24, 2018 at 6:41 PM

        I know what you mean! I feel like everything I know of tends to have already been discovered. But if I do find something fresh I will let you know!!

  5. jennifertarheelreader

    November 22, 2018 at 6:34 PM

    Thanks for this post, Kaleena. ♥️

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 7:50 AM

      Of course, thank you for stopping by!

  6. Kelly Brigid

    November 22, 2018 at 10:45 PM

    This is such a sweet and thoughtful post, love! Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever read an ownvoice Native American novel! I’ll definitely have to check all these outs! Thanks for the recs, Kaleena! 😊❤️

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 7:52 AM

      Thank you so much, Kelly! I actually haven’t read any either, but I now have a good number of them on my TBR. I bought Trail of Lightning this weekend and am looking forward to FINALLY reading it… I featured it in an Anticipated Releases post!

  7. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    November 22, 2018 at 11:10 PM

    This is such a lovely post! I’ve read quite a bit of Canadian Aboriginal fiction, but I’m still pretty new to U.S. Native American books. I’m definitely checking these out. 😀 Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! <3

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 7:54 AM

      Thank you so much, for me Thanksgiving was just another normal day but it was a nice one. Happy reading!

      Do you have any recommendations for Canadian Aboriginal fiction?

  8. Norrie

    November 23, 2018 at 4:26 AM

    Cool list!
    I think I’d enjoy both Where the Dead Sit Talking and Trail of Lightning. Saved them on the list 😀

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 7:55 AM

      Those both are definitely top of my list as well! I bought Trail of Lightning over the weekend and can’t wait for it to arrive!

  9. curlygeek04

    November 23, 2018 at 5:18 AM

    I love this post. There There and Trail of Lightning are already books on my TBR list, but I hadn’t heard of the others. Murder on the Red River sounds like one I’d like. This makes me realize that except for Louise Erdrich, I can’t think of other books I’ve read by Native Americans. I can recommend a recent anthology, American Like Me.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 7:56 AM

      I was surprised I hadn’t heard of There There given how much buzz it has gotten, including the award nominations. I can’t wait to read all of these, honestly!

      Thanks for that additional recommendation!

  10. facingthestory

    November 23, 2018 at 1:10 PM

    This is a really great post, Kaleena! I will have to check out some of these books. I keep seeing There There around in the blogging community and it looks great so I may have to add it to my TBR list.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:05 AM

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Darina, and I hope you enjoy There There when you pick it up!

  11. Kat @ Novels & Waffles

    November 23, 2018 at 5:33 PM

    This is such a great post! I truly love posts like this because it helps my TBR list to grow and spotlights a culture for me to learn more about. I’m always looking for ways to widen my world so that I can be more understanding and empathetic to people. There is such a wide world out there and I love learning about all the different peoples who populate it! So thank you a million times for this list! ALSO, I am LOVING the winter theme of your website. It’s so fun that you change it all up for each season 🙂 🙂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:08 AM

      Awww Kat, thank you so much for your kind comment! I also enjoy reading diversely for the same reason. I love traveling to other countries the world and experiencing the world through different lenses, and books are a good way to do that when you run out of vacation time!

      Thank you so much! I might not change the theme ever because I love the colors of this one.

  12. RoseMarie

    November 23, 2018 at 6:04 PM

    This is such a great post. I’ve added Murder on the Red River and Where the dead sits talking to my TBR list.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:09 AM

      I am glad you found this post useful, and hope you enjoy those books when you have a chance to read them!

      1. RoseMarie

        November 26, 2018 at 9:16 AM

        They’re already on my TBR list. I’m sure I’ll enjoy them😊

  13. Marie

    November 23, 2018 at 11:47 PM

    Ahh what a great idea for a post, thank you so much for sharing this <3 I haven't read or heard of any of these books, but Hearts Unbroken sounds right up my alley! Thank you <3 <3

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:12 AM

      Before doing research for this post the only book on my radar was Trail of Lightning, but all of these sound great! Thanks for stopping by, Marie. ❤

  14. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks

    November 24, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    It’s actually SO HARD to find books by Native Americans – I’m really happy to see this list. Sharing.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:13 AM

      Thank you so much, Evelina! Hopefully this time next year I will have more books to recommend as well.

  15. Cam @ Camillea Reads

    November 25, 2018 at 6:39 AM

    I’ve been wanting to read Trail of Lightning ever since I heard of it being published! But, yeah, I’m not able to get the book, unfortunately 🙁

    I would love to read any of these books here. I’m working to diversify my reading, and support more #ownvoices authors. It can be quite challenging considering the ARCs I already have but it’s worth making the time for diverse books. For one, not only do we learn better about inter-sectional social issues but we also understand better how we can help. Thank you for sharing this post with us!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:16 AM

      Same here, but for some reason I never got around to getting the book (which I remedied this weekend!). Does Book Depository ship to your country? If so, I would like to gift you a copy of Trail of Lightning!

      I also have been actively diversifying my reading this year, and have really enjoyed reading stories that are drawn from different cultures. Not only is it great to see new voices emerging, but honestly it is refreshing to see stories inspired by something different. Thank you so much for stopping by, Camillea!

      1. Cam @ Camillea Reads

        November 27, 2018 at 2:05 AM

        OMG. I had to pinch myself. But yes!! *screams* Thank you so much, Kaleena :’) You have no idea how much this means to me! Do I contact you on Twitter?

        Yes, same here. I love losing myself in these books. Though I’ve only been sticking to the Fantasy genre, so next year I want to try one or two contemporaries!

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          November 27, 2018 at 6:34 AM

          Aww you are so welcome! Send me a DM on Twitter and we’ll get it sorted!

          I read a good amount of contemporaries earlier this year but haven’t in like 6 months. Hopefully next year for me too!

  16. Karen

    November 25, 2018 at 10:25 AM

    Thank you for this. We definitely need to look beyond Sherman Alexie, for several reasons! Cheers.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 26, 2018 at 8:16 AM

      Absolutely, and thank you so much for stopping by!

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