I’m so thrilled that the One Book, One Philadelphia selection this year is There, There by Tommy Orange. I’m so thrilled that it features Indigenous folks with complicated, modern lives. And I’m so thrilled that it’s an excellent and moving read!
Similarly, I could not be more excited about the selection of If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth as one of the companion books for young folks. I love that it's set in modernish times (I mean, it’s the late '70s, but still—modernish), I love that the author explores these complicated relationships between boys and men, and I love that these characters have stayed with me since I first read this book almost five years ago. I’m not sure if it’s the contemporary-ish setting, or the author’s honest voice, or how flawed and similar the characters were to how I remember myself at that age—but I still think about Lewis and George, Lewis’s troubled uncle, and George’s stoic but kind Dad A LOT. Honestly, please read this book! The writing is great, the characters will stay with you, and so will the structural unfairness of Lewis’s life and circumstances.
That being said, if you are looking to expand your knowledge of contemporary Indigenous Young Adult novels, or looking for books to share with young people in your lives—and I definitely mean #OwnVoices novels (which of course you know means that the author is part of the same group that they are writing about)—then have I got some suggestions for you!
Let’s start, as I often do, with The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
In a future world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's indigenous population, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow and dreams means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a 15-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones, and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing factories.
This Place: 150 Years Retold edited by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm
Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel, surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by 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.
Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy
An anthology of art and writings from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today. Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Chef Aaron Bear Robe explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing 'Native' clothing. Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, this book refuses to shy away from difficult topics.
American Indians in Children’s Literature
Run by Dr. Debbie Reese, who is tribally enrolled Nambe Pueblo, American Indians in Children’s Literature is my go to for reviews, historical perspectives, and most importantly for learning and understanding representation of Indigenous folks in literature for children.
"Native Stories: Books for tweens and teens by and about Indigenous peoples" by Kara Stewart and Debbie Reese, for School Library Journal on August 20, 2019.
An amazing and annotated list of recent books by Indigenous authors for children and teens.
An interactive map reveals the Indigenous Lands on which modern nations were built.
Helpful hint – Philadelphian's are living on the land of the Lenape people. Learn more about the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania »
For more Indigenous Young Adult Reads you can check out this list of titles available in our catalog and at your neighborhood library.
Did I miss your favorite #OwnVoices title? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!