Monday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a time to honor Native people, their traditions, history, and contributions to our world. One thing that’s become obvious to me in recent years is how much of what I was taught about Native Americans growing up was very much entrenched in history, and very little focus was on learning about Native American communities in the present. While it is important to know history, it’s equally important to remember that Native American communities are still here, and their voices should be heard and honored. To that end, here are four YA books by Indigenous authors that have released or will release still in 2021 — a too-small number, so I hope that we will continue to see more new books each year after this.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Daunis has always felt torn between her family on the nearby Ojibwe reservation and her white family in town, and things don’t get easier just as she’s about ready to start college. But then when she witnesses a horrifying murder, Daunis is recruited by the FBI to try and uncover a drug trafficking ring on the reservation. Now, she’s keeping secrets and spying around, trying to figure out who is harming her beloved communities, but wondering just exactly what kind of person this work is turning her into, and where her true loyalties lie.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer
Adapted from his book for adults, this YA text is an open, straightforward guide to all of the questions that people might have about Native American communities, cultures, and traditions. It also breaks down racist stereotypes and provides important context for many of the problematic depictions of Native Americans in popular media. This updated version includes new questions relevant to today’s audiences, and updated back matter as well. It’s a great, informative guide for anyone seeking to understand what life is like for Native Americans now, and how to challenge racism and discrimination that is baked into society.
Hunting by Stars by Cherie Dimaline
Set in the same world as her award-winning novel The Marrow Thieves, Hunting by Stars is about French, a boy who is trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where dreaming has become impossible for most…except for the Indigenous people. The government reopens residential schools in an attempt to control those who can still dream, and French and his friends want to avoid those schools at all costs. They’re headed north, hopefully to safety, when French is separated from the group and wakes up in a dark room, entirely alone. He knows that he’s been taken in by the enemy. Meanwhile, outside, his family is trying to stage a rescue, but even if they’re successful, it’ll be up to French to survive by whatever means necessary until they arrive.
A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger
In our world, Nina is a Lipan girl who still believes in the stories of the old ones and just knows that there is something more out there, beyond the things we can see. Oli is from a different world, one where, like the other cottonmouths, he’s an outcast. When Oli’s best friend falls sick and a terrifying event strikes Nina’s world, their worlds cross…but there are some that want to keep them apart, for good. This book isn’t out yet, but it’s already appeared on the National Book Award longlist.
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