Books and Beads

Native Author Reading Guide

Looking for a new book? Check out what Books & Beads and Youth Book Nerds have been reading! If you would like to join us for our discussions every other week email rachel.kolkman@glt-nsn.gov to get the book in audiobook, paper copy, or eBook.


Currently Reading:

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Genre: Magical Realism
Light, medium, heavy: Medium
Focus: Characters
You might like it if…you like being wholly engulfed into the world of the characters or like the watch the movie after you read the book. You follow a girl and her relationships as she grows up in a Haisla community that is inexorably woven with living on the water in the Canadian Northwest.  She learns about her culture, how to heal from loss, and how to not to squander her special gift.
Skip this book if… you need a straightforward timeline or clear answers [and go straight to the movie].


Books We've Read:

There There by Tommy Orange

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Light, medium, or heavy: Medium
Focus: Characters
You might like it if… you like a gritty narrative about the complex issues of identity and authenticity for urban Natives. The plethora of characters allows you to experience a spectrum of what life is like in the moccasins of urban Natives. 
Skip this book if… you are sensitive to violence and want the ending neatly packaged.

 


One Native Life by Richard Wagamese

Genre: Biography
Light, medium, heavy: Light
Focus: Author’s life stories
You might like it if… you are looking for a contemplative biography told with short stories about a man finding his identity. The book feels like you are taking a stroll in a garden with the author as he recounts his life to you. Even though his stories resonate with trauma, neglect and abuse he takes a perspective of healing and humor to find meaningful peace.
Skip this book if... you like to stick to action, adventure, or thrills.

 


The Road Back to Sweetgrass by Linda LeGarde Grover 

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Light, medium, heavy: Heavy
Focus: Characters
You might like it if… you like exploring the grit and authenticity of complex relationships in Native communities. This book invites you into the stories of family members through snapshots of their lives’ in history. We watch the characters' lives weave together their families as their choices impact generations.
Skip this book if... you are sensitive to some abusive scenes and don’t like books that can be quite sad.

 


The Only Good Indians by Steven Graham Jones

Genre: Horror/ Mystery
Light, medium, heavy: Heavy
Focus: Plot
You might like it if… you like suspenseful thrillers, horror, or mystery books seeped in traditional Native lore of creatures. This book really polarized our book club. The people who liked it, loved it and the people who disliked it really didn’t like it. This book is mysterious, intense, and raw with characters plagued by the mistakes of their past. The Only Good Indians is not for the faint of heart.
Skip this book if... you don’t like gore, horror, or suspense.

 


The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

Genre: Magical Realism
Light, medium, heavy: Heavy
Focus: Characters
You might like it if… you like stories where humans can communicate with spirits and medicine has very potent repercussions. You follow a Native family’s complex dynamics over generations as they decide how to use their powerful medicine, how to survive, and grapple with the consequences of their unique power.
Skip this book if… you are not in the mood for a book that is somewhat sad or you do not like the genre of magical realism.

 


The Break by Katherena Vermette

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Light, medium, heavy: Very Heavy
Focus: Characters
You might like it if… you want to hear a story about a native family coming together in a crisis. This heartbreaking book is about the cycle of trauma told through the lens of youth who displays courage and tenacity.  
Skip this book if… you are not feeling up to read very heavy content that may make you cry. 

 


The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulle

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Light, medium, heavy: Medium
Focus: Characters
You might like it if… you like strong female characters, riveting crime stories, and local Michigan storytelling. The main character, Daunis, feels fresh and modern as she navigates the seemingly polar worlds of modern science and traditional ecological knowledge to solve a mystery for her community.
Skip this book if… you don’t want to stay up late reading (because this book is hard to put down!)

 


The Last Pow Wow by Steven Paul Judd and That Native Thomas

Genre: Fantasy
Light, medium, heavy: Light
Focus: Storytelling
You might like it if… You want to sit back and enjoy great storytelling. Reading The Last Pow Wow it feels like you are listening to your Native uncle tell stories that are obviously not true but he tries to convince you they are true. Find out how a hitman, the greatest medicine woman, a talking dog, and a girl who talks butterflies all end up at The Pow Wow of all Pow Wows. In addition to captivating storytelling, this book seeks to incorporate creatures from Native lore as well as educating with some little known history, and it does so beautifully. 
Skip this book if… you want a serious read.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian Series by Sherman Alexie

Genre: Coming of Age
Light, medium, heavy: Light
Focus: Storytelling
You might like it if… you want to read an uplifting story that is hilarious and yet heartbreaking. This story chronicles the life of a kid from the Spokane rez who struggles with friends, girls, and bullies all while switching schools to pursue better opportunities. The voice of the main character, Junior, is authentically endearing as he tries to find hope amid a multitude of obstacles.
Skip this book if… you are looking for a more serious read.

 


Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo Series by Katherena Vermette

Genre: Historical Realistic Fiction/ Graphic Novel
Light, medium, heavy: Medium
Focus: Storytelling
You might like it if… you like graphic novels and you want to learn about history. This series chronicles the life of Echo, a 13 year old Metis girl, as she is transported back in time to 1800’s era Saskatchewan during the Pemmican Wars. Sometimes history can be oversimplified and in the process readers lose some of the nuance of what our ancestors might have experienced; Vermette sets herself up with the difficult task of trying to capture some of that complexity. Youth Book Nerds spent a lot of time thoughtfully considering the character’s responses and discovering interesting revelations in both the narrative and the historical timeline in the back of the book.
Skip this book if… you don’t like graphic novels or you want a strictly non-fiction narrative.