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Native and Indigenous YA Nonfiction for Your TBR

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You may remember back in October, I had the honor of talking with a wide range of outstanding Native and Indigenous writers who discussed the past, present, and future of their voices in children’s and young adult literature. The bulk of the books highlighted there were fiction, but Native and Indigenous voices and stories are also important to explore in nonfiction. Let’s take a look at a few you can grab now and some for you to preorder for future reading.

Descriptions for these come from ‘zon because I’ve only read one myself (which I’ll talk about a bit after the description). But you better believe they’re all on my to-read.

Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth

How about a book that makes you barge into your boss’s office to read a page of poetry from? That you dream of? That every movie, song, book, moment that follows continues to evoke in some way?

The term “Apple” is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly “red on the outside, white on the inside.”

Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.

Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer (April 6)

From the acclaimed Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer comes an essential book of questions and answers for Native and non-Native young readers alike. Ranging from “Why is there such a fuss about nonnative people wearing Indian costumes for Halloween?” to “Why is it called a ‘traditional Indian fry bread taco’?” to “What’s it like for natives who don’t look native?” to “Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?”, and beyond, 

AN Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz 

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity.

The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian#Not Your Princess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible. 

This book is absolutely beautiful and powerful, showcasing Native teen voices, art, and creativity. It’s a shorter one, so you can read it quickly, but it’s really one to sit and savor!

Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Young, urban Natives powerfully show how their culture and values can survive—and enrich—city life. Urban Tribes offers unique insight into this growing and often misperceived group. Emotionally potent and visually arresting, the anthology profiles young urban Natives from across North America, exploring how they connect with Native culture and values in their contemporary lives. Their stories are as diverse as they are. From a young Dene woman pursuing a MBA at Stanford to a Pima photographer in Phoenix to a Mohawk actress in New York, these urban Natives share their unique perspectives to bridge the divide between their past and their future, their cultural home, and their adopted cities. Unflinchingly honest and deeply moving, contributors explore a wide-range of topics. From the trials and tribulations of dating in the city to the alienating experience of leaving a remote reserve to attend high school in the city, from the mainstream success of Electric Pow wow music to the humiliation of dealing with racist school mascots, personal perspectives illuminate larger political issues. An innovative and highly visual design offers a dynamic, reading experience.

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