The autumn months are a time when harmful, inaccurate narratives about Indigenous people are especially prevalent. In October, Canadian Thanksgiving falls on Columbus Day, the U.S. federal holiday that’s increasingly being reclaimed as Indigenous Peoples Day, and U.S. Thanksgiving follows in November. These observances are rife with misinformation, and they’re commonly taught in schools in ways that ignore uncomfortable historical and contemporary truths. Books by Indigenous authors, such as the following, are critical correctives that dismantle historical myths, explore present-day Native lives, and imagine Native futures. They’re also simply fabulous reads.
Two speculative fiction offerings plunge readers into vividly realized stories that creatively incorporate traditional culture and lore:
The latest from Wab Kinew (Anishinaabe), The Everlasting Road (Tundra Books, Jan. 10), is the sequel to Walking in Two Worlds, and it’s ideal for avid and reluctant readers alike. Keen gamer Bugz is mourning the death of Waawaate, her beloved older brother. The virtual world she’s created, infused with Anishinaabe lore and complete with a bot version of Waawaate, brings unexpected perils.
Bad Medicine by Christopher Twin (Emanata, Oct. 24) is a debut graphic novel by a member of the Alberta Cree community’s Swan River First Nation. The novel’s combination of vivid illustrations, spine-tingling horror, and accessible text makes it an irresistible read, as well as one that layers traditional Cree stories with contemporary concerns in deeply thought-provoking ways.
The tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People lies at the heart of two genre fiction page-turners by prominent, award-winning authors:
Harvest House (Candlewick, April 11) by Muscogee citizen Cynthia Leitich Smith reunites fans with characters from 2018’s Hearts Unbroken but works equally well as a stand-alone read. It’s a spooky, atmospheric blend of Halloween chills and all-too-real fears, following theater-loving Muscogee teen Hughie as he confronts typecasting and investigates threats to his community.
In Warrior Girl Unearthed (Henry Holt, May 2), a gripping stand-alone companion to her 2021 runaway hit debut, Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, returns to Sugar Island as Black and Anishinaabe twin sisters Perry and Pauline pursue summer internships, learn about institutionalized exploitation, and become embroiled in a dangerous mystery.
Readers seeking realistic fiction centering the lives of contemporary First Nations teens can’t go wrong with these well-realized coming-of-age stories, both released on Sept. 12 by Heartdrum, an imprint publishing books that “emphasize the present and future of Indian Country and the strength of young Indigenous heroes”:
Those Pink Mountain Nights by Jen Ferguson, who is Michif/Métis and white, explores with nuance and strong characterization the lives of a multiracial group of teens working at a Black-owned pizza parlor in Alberta that’s threatened by a corporate takeover. Meanwhile, they’re trying to find missing local teen Kiki, who’s Black and Cree.
Ojibwe author Byron Graves’ debut, Rez Ball, contains all the elements that make sports novels perennial favorites—from breathtaking game play to team camaraderie—anchored by a thoughtful account of a teen boy’s inner emotional landscape as he reckons with grief, a new crush, and hoop dreams.
Laura Simeon is a young readers’ editor.