5 Must-Reads for Native American Heritage Month (and Every Month)

November 5 2021
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This November, we’re celebrating Native American Heritage Month with books by inspiring Native authors. Not only do these books entertain, but they also introduce readers to the world and culture of Indigenous people. Stories of love, bravery, family, identity, and class politics—these picks have it all!

Discover more books to read to celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

My Heart Is a Chainsaw
by Stephen Graham Jones

Jade Daniels—an angry, half-Indian outcast who is infatuated by horror movies—is convinced that her small town of Proofrock, Idaho, has its own masked murderer. Equating her real life to that of a slasher film, she uses movie logic to predict how things will unfold when blood actually starts to spill into Indian Lake. However, the horrors of her world are at the root of her slasher obsession. Delving into the genre as a coping mechanism for all her personal struggles with gentrification, racism, isolation, and abuse, Jade is simply a girl who desperately wants to be loved and have a home. Stephen Graham Jones’s MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW, a gory and biting homage to horror, transcends the expectations of genre through its discussions of real issues that indigenous communities face and what it means to be forgotten.

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My Heart Is a Chainsaw
Stephen Graham Jones

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

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Black Sun
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Inspired by Pre-Columbian histories and myths, BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse is a fantasy about a world filled with celestial obsession and intriguingly twisted politics. As a rare celestial event approaches, it heralds the arrival of the Crow God coming to avenge past injustices wrecked upon the Carrion Crow clan. Ingeniously plotted, storylines build and converge toward that divine moment: We follow a priest, whose traditions are threatened by cultists; a down-on-her-luck Teek captain, whose magical sea-calling abilities mark her as a pariah; and a prophesied avatar on his way to fulfill his destiny. Kirkus Reviews calls this book “perfection,” and you can’t get higher praise than that!

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Black Sun
Rebecca Roanhorse

From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the “engrossing and vibrant” (Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Riot Baby) first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial even proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created a “brilliant world that shows the full panoply of human grace and depravity” (Ken Liu, award-winning author of The Grace of Kings). This epic adventure explores the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in this “absolutely tremendous” (S.A. Chakraborty, nationally bestselling author of The City of Brass) and most original series debut of the decade.

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Prudence
by David Treuer

In rural Minnesota, August 1942, Frankie Washburn’s homecoming is interrupted by the accidental murder of a young Native American girl when a German soldier escapes from a POW camp across the river. Prudence, the victim’s sister, is struggling with not only her sister’s death but also her unrequited crush on Frankie, who has repressed homosexual feelings for an Indigenous childhood friend. David Treuer’s PRUDENCE explores the racial politics and power dynamics that separate white families from Natives’ families, as well as the repression and disingenuous representations of self that everyone, regardless of race, constructs.

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Prudence
David Treuer

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Trail of Lightning
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Welcome to the Sixth World. Specifically, you’re in Dinétah, a former Navajo reservation that has been reborn with gods, heroes of legend, and most menacingly, monsters. Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING follows Maggie Hoskie, a supernaturally gifted monster hunter who reluctantly enlists the help of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, in her quest to help the town find a missing girl. In some ways, Maggie is just like any other girl—struggling with unresolved teenage angst, an unrequited crush, and feelings of isolation—but she also draws upon tribal gifts and general badassery to fight monsters in this dystopian urban fantasy. If you’re ready to be transported into a world of ancient legends, dark witchcraft, and deteriorating technology, this is the book for you!

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Trail of Lightning
Rebecca Roanhorse

2019 LOCUS AWARD WINNER, BEST FIRST NOVEL
2019 HUGO AWARD FINALIST, BEST NOVEL

Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel

One of Bustle’s Top 20 “landmark sci-fi and fantasy novels” of the decade

“Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick.” —The New York Times

“An excitingly novel tale.” —Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight Crossroads series

“Fun, terrifying, hilarious, and brilliant.” —Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper and Star Wars: Last Shot

“[C]rafts a powerful and fiercely personal journey through a compelling postapocalyptic landscape.” —Kate Elliott, New York Times bestselling author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

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There There
by Tommy Orange

Some books are easy to read and forget, while others, like Tommy Orange’s THERE THERE, burrow into your heart forever. Twelve Native men and women have the same goal: to attend the Big Oakland Powwow. Their motives for traveling to the annual event are varied, from wanting to make amends to honoring a relative’s memory, but they all sense the pull of their shared heritage . . . and they all struggle with the effects of generations of mistreatment by the government. A poignant tale that puts a spotlight on modern-day, urban Indigenous experiences, THERE THERE should be essential reading for all Americans.

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There There
Tommy Orange

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Photo credit: Simon & Schuster

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