Books by Native Americans

November 2, 2021

To honor and give thanks to the first Americans and today’s citizens of over 500 tribal nations, I encourage everyone to read books by and about Native people. Each week this month I will describe a variety of excellent, amazing, and surprising new selections from picture books to young adult, fiction, and nonfiction.

Heartdrum books

For starters, take a look at books published through Heartdrum. This new imprint of HarperCollins offers a variety of outstanding books. In the words of Suzanne Murphy, president and publisher, “HarperCollins is dedicated to publishing books with a wide breadth of representation so that all children see themselves in the books they read. Drawing on the expertise of Cynthia Leitich Smith, Heartdrum will publish … authors and illustrators across all genres for children and teens that reflect the diversity of Native people.”

The Heartdrum name honors and reflects the connection between the drumbeat and the heartbeat. Artist Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson (Iñupiaq), creator of their logo, says, “The Native American population is beautifully diverse, and I wanted to capture the elements that we had in common and that unite us all: our connection with nature and our path towards balance and unity.”

What types of books will you find? Rosemary Brosnan, Heartdrum editor, describes their list as “innovative, unexpected, and heartfelt stories by Native creators … with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.” I am intrigued by “innovative and unexpected.” I was not disappointed.

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, a middle-grade collection edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, offers a delightful variety.

Find great adventure in Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young (Navajo).

Jo-Jo Makoons, is a fun, engaging chapter book series by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mt. Band Ojibwe).

The Sea in Winter, offers a gentle but powerful story about a Makah-Piscataway girl searching for a way to recapture joy, written by Christine Day, author of I Can Make This Promise.

You’ll enjoy each of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s books, represented by these three: Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes, Rain is Not My Indian Name.

Cynthia Leitich Smith books

I encourage everyone to explore the books of Native authors who have written such a wonderful variety of outstanding books: Joseph Bruchac, S.D. Nelson, Linda Boyden, Tim Tingle, Gerald Dawavendewa, Zitkala-sa, Sherman Alexie, Baje Whitethorne … and so many more.

For readers especially interested in recent picture books, look here.

Enjoy. Learn. Reflect.

Nancy Bo Flood

As a fish-brain surgeon or a rodeo poem wrangler, I have loved stories. I strongly believe that words – in poetry or prose – help heal our hearts and give us new eyes to see the world. I was first a research psychologist studying brain development at the University of Minnesota and London University before following my passion – writing for children. Learn more...