Saturday, February 13, 2010

Books by Native Americans for older teen readers

Here are books written by Native American authors that older readers might enjoy -- fiction as well as essays and short stories that don't shy away from some serious topics. Locate these by using the World Catalog (for library copies) or Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Flight: A Novel, by Sherman Alexie (Black Cat) Adult Fiction. In this tragic, hilarious, and unapologetically graphic story, part-Irish, part-Indian foster kid Zits has an out-of-body experience (several, in fact) just as he is about to commit a horrendously violent act. Spun through time and successively into the bodies of a white FBI agent in the 1970s, an Indian child during the battle of Little Big Horn, a 19th-century Indian-tracker, a homeless alcoholic, and finally an airline pilot, Zits emerges from his journey transformed. Fans of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five or Octavia Butler's Kindred will be mesmerized by this brutal yet ultimately hopeful novel.

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins) These ten stories written by contemporary Native American authors including Cynthia Leitich Smith, Louise Erdrich, Richard Van Camp, Joseph Bruchac, and National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie (for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) are beautiful and intense. With themes ranging from painful tales of divorce, poverty, and addiction to proud celebrations of American Indian identity, strength, and humor, this collection "reminds us that the American Indian story is far from over."

Power, by Linda Hogan (W.W. Norton) Adult Fiction. When 16-year-old Omishto sees Ama, an elder from her Taiga tribe, kill a panther, she doesn't understand why her friend and mentor would slay an endangered animal, especially one that the Taiga hold sacred. Regardless, Omishto ("the One Who Watches") stands by Ama throughout her criminal prosecution--and her banishment by the Taiga people. This leisurely, lyrical story, which connects Native cultures' struggle to survive in the modern world with the destruction of the environment, is a haunting and memorable read.

Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing, by MariJo Moore (Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books) Adult Nonfiction. This collection of essays by Native Americans from more than 25 different nations explores the experience of "urban Indians," people who struggle to live in the two different worlds of their traditional heritage and modern society. Writing on topics ranging from identity and languages to Indian mascots and misconceptions of what it means to be Native American, the contributors to Genocide of the Mind bring serious current issues into stark focus and yet also offer hope and ideas for the future.

The Trap, by John E. Smelcer (Henry Holt) Adventure. Ahtna Athabascan poet and author John Smelcer spins a tale of survival in the cruelly beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Native Alaskan Johnny Least-Weasel's stubbornly traditional grandfather Albert has gone out to check his trapline, and he's been gone far too long. Johnny's grandmother urges him to go looking for her husband, but Johnny's uncles on the tribal council aren't concerned. Meanwhile, Albert Least-Weasel has his leg caught in one of his own traps and must fend off wolves, hunger, and bitter cold. This taut, suspenseful story will keep you turning the pages.

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