8 Fantastic Debut Novels by Indigenous Authors

Carolina Ciucci


Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

Sponsored by Flatiron Books, publisher of White Horse by Erika T. Wurth

Erika T. Wurth's White Horse is a gritty, vibrant debut novel about an Indigenous woman who must face her past when she discovers a bracelet haunted by her mother’s spirit.

August 9 is considered the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples by the UN, as it commemorates the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. In addition to this, Indigenous communities in the Americas are increasingly becoming the focus of October 12, the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to what we now know as the Bahamas. Other countries, such as Australia, are also beginning to center the colonized over the colonizers during such anniversaries.

That isn’t to say that we don’t still have a long way to go. In the United States, for example, October 12 is still officially known as Columbus Day. Many people have explained why this is offensive and a celebration of colonization, including Professor Susan C. Faircloth in this great article. On October 7, Biden released a proclamation declaring October 10 Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

This state of things is reflected in publishing: Indigenous authors have a much harder time getting published, let alone getting work in publishing. At the same time, there has been a greater percentage of books published by Indigenous authors within the last five years than ever before. Many of these books are novels: in this post, I focus on debut novels published since 2020. They span a variety of genres and topics, but they have one thing in common: you’ll be glad you read them. Shall we?

Cover of The Peacekeeper by B.L. Blanchard

The Peacekeeper by B.L. Blanchard

Set in a never-colonized North America, the first installment in this series introduces us to Chibenashi. Part of the Ojibwe nation, he is a Peacekeeper with a tragic past: 20 years ago, his father murdered his mother, leaving Chibenashi to raise his little sister alone. But when his mother’s best friend is killed, he must leave home and confront two people from his past that he never wanted to see again. What happens when he finds that large parts of his life were built on a lie?

Cover of Probably Ruby

Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Ruby, a Métis woman in her 30s, is spiraling out of control. Adopted as an infant by a white couple who know little to nothing about her heritage, she feels like something is missing — and doesn’t know how to fix it. Through time and multiple perspectives of people connected to her, we come to understand Ruby as she takes control of her own life.

cover of the book Calling For A Blanket Dance

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

Cherokee Ever Geimausaddle’s life is growing more and more unstable. Between his father’s disability and his mother’s struggles to care for him while holding down her job, he’s increasingly resentful of the constant upheaval. It doesn’t help that all his family seem to think they know what’s best for him. Can Ever save himself and his family?

cover image for Shutter

Shutter by Ramona Emerson

A forensic photographer’s job is hard enough without adding ghost sightings to the equation. But for Rita Todacheene, a Navajo woman who sees the ghosts of the murder victims she photographs, it’s an unfortunate reality. When she’s called to photograph an apparent suicide scene, the victim isn’t having it: she’ll force Rita to get justice for her come hell or high water. The problem, of course, is that in doing so, Rita will come in contact with danger herself.

Five Little Indians cover

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

In this harrowing novel, five little children were taken from their families and forced into a church-run residential school. They’re teenagers when they’re released, and they must each find their own way to cope with the trauma of this long-term abuse.

Book cover of Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Daunis Fontaine doesn’t feel like she fits in: as a biracial teenager, an unenrolled tribal member, or as the product of scandal. When she becomes caretaker to her mother, Daunis focuses on putting her dreams aside. All in all, her life is complicated enough before she’s witness to a murder. Agreeing to go undercover to assist the investigation? That’s just the cherry on top of a very messy cake.

Cover of Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe lives in the United States, but one that looks a little differently to the one we know now. Oh, sure, some things are the same (a world without ice cream would be tragic), but others…not so much. Elatsoe’s United States owes much to the magic, the knowledge, and the legends of its people. This brings pros, but also cons: namely, “this-horrible-person-is-wielding-tremendous-power.” When Elatsoe’s cousin is murdered, she refuses to let sleeping dogs lie.

Book cover of This Town Sleeps

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples

Marion Lafournier, a twentysomething gay Ojibwe man, falls in love with Shannon, a closeted white man. Marion and Shannon are aware of the difficulties and discriminations faced by gay men in narrow-minded, bigoted societies. Then one night, when Marion and Shannon are walking together, the former accidentally brings to life the spirit of a dog, one who leads him to the grave of Kayden, a murdered 17 year old Ojibwe boy. Now, Marion has to conduct an investigation and solve the crime.

Looking for more books by Indigenous authors? How about poetry?