Books by Indigenous Authors

Books & Bites Podcast, Ep. 83

JCPL librarians bring you book recommendations and discuss the bites and beverages to pair with them.

In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, we discuss books by Indigenous authors, one of the prompts on the Books and Bites Bingo Reading Challenge. Our picks are as varied as ever, with a ghost story set in a bookstore, a teen mystery, and, of course, horror! We also share some of our favorite cookbooks for the “read a cookbook prompt.”

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Firekeeper's Daughter book cover

Jacqueline’s Pick

Firekeeper’s Daughter is a young adult mystery by Angeline Boulley. The story mostly takes place on the Sault St. Marie Reservation in northern Michigan. Main character Daunis Fontaine is torn between two worlds: her mother’s wealthy French/white family and her father’s Ojibwe Firekeeper’s side.

Although she code-switches easily between both cultures, Daunis does not feel like she fits in her hometown or on the Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of getting a fresh start by going away to college. When tragedy strikes her family, she puts her dreams on hold.

Pairing: Fry bread, which you can read more about in Kevin Maillard’s children’s book, Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story.

Don't Fear the Reaper book cover

Michael’s Pick

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones picks up four years after My Heart is a Chainsaw, the first book in the Indian Lake trilogy. Jade is a half-Native American teen with an abusive father and absent mother, and she’s a bit of an outcast in her hometown of Prufrock.

Now a little more world-weary and having sworn off slashers, Jade arrives back home in Prufrock just as a blizzard paralyzes the town. And unbeknownst to her, Dark Mill South, an Indigenous serial killer who is seeking revenge for 38 Dakota men hanged in 1862, escapes his prison transport when an avalanche hits near Prufrock.

People start turning up dead in uncanny ways that are straight out of the slashers Jade knows so intimately. Is Dark Mill South acting out his vengeance on the citizens of Prufrock, or is there another killer lurking around town? 

Pairing: Three Sisters Chili, named after the traditional Indigenous farming practice of planting corn, beans, and squash together.

The Sentence book cover

Carrie’s Pick

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is the darkly humorous story of Tookie, an Ojibwe woman, and Birchbark Books, an independent Minneapolis bookstore owned by the author. Tookie begins working at the bookstore after being released from prison. When the store’s “most annoying customer” dies, she begins haunting Tookie.

Tookie and the rest of the Indigenous staff must contend with a ghost, the beginnings of the coronavirus pandemic, and the long history of police and racial violence—a history made even more painful when George Floyd is murdered.

Pairing: Hand-harvested wild rice, which you can read about in The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman.

More Books by Indigenous Authors