November is here, and it’s Native American Heritage month! We are lucky here in Minnesota to have many Native American authors and a vibrant history. We have places like the Minneapolis American Indian Cultural Corridor, host of many Indigenous businesses and learning institutions. We have also the Minneapolis American Indian Center along with many Anishinaabe culture and language programs that we can tap into in this city. To honor Native American heritage, here are a few Indigenous authors that we are highlighting this month at Brookdale Library.
Terese Marie Mailhot
“Seabird Island First Nation “
Terese’s debut novel, Heart Berries, came out earlier this past year – it may be small and seem average by the title – but it’s not. Just to shed some light on why it’s not what you expect, Terese began her Memoir while still living in a psychiatric hospital. It is a beautiful and complicated story that centers the experience of a woman who survived abuse (having been abused, and also the abuser), addiction, and a long, intergenerational history of violence and wonderfully sums up being human. Coming from a past where Indigenous people had to be whiter and could not speak their language nor learn their spiritual heritage, this is a poetic yet heart-wrenching read. If you love memoirs, a beautifully written sentence, and learning about strong Indigenous feminists, she is an author for you.
“White Earth Band of Ojibwe”
Have you ever delved into your cultural heritage? How about your own local Minnesotan heritage? Carter Meland, a professor at the U of M, has published many stories, articles and poems in several journals that revolve around local Indigenous heritage here in Minnesota. His latest publication is the novel Stories for a Lost Child that was published in 2017. Meland’s stories invoke the local history of Minnesota, especially for those of us whose heritage is not easily found or, in Meland’s case, not even known until adulthood. If you love local history, folklore and surrealism, touched with wit and humor, I recommend reading Meland’s stories.
“Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe”
Let’s be honest fellow Minnesotans, who hasn’t read Erdrich? A local here in Minneapolis, she is considered a powerhouse in the Native American writing community. Her works have been up for the Pulitzer Award for Fiction and she has won many acclaimed literary awards. Erdrich’s novels range from fiction to local history to youth to adult and can be found almost anywhere. If you love literary novels, especially those with multiple interweaving narratives, as well as with local lore and history, you will love Erdrich’s novels. And if you don’t want to read her books, I then would at least recommend a visit to her bookstore Birchbark Books – it’s a pretty fantastic place to discover Indigenous authors and books!
“Red Lake Band of Ojibwe”
Another local author! If you love well researched local history, Brenda Child is an author for you. Child does not hesitate to take a deep dive into local Native American history here in Minnesota. From her memoir My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation to her groundbreaking research of powerful women in Native American history Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community, or the tragic history of the many children sent to boarding schools to assimilate into white culture Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940. And if you want something a little more light hearted, yet still full of Ojibwe history, try her children’s book, “Bowwow Powwoww, Bagosenjige-niimi’idim,” which is written both in English and Ojibwe.
Tim Tingle - Youth
“Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma”
A prolific young adult writer and master storyteller, Tim Tingle is the author for any adult or young adult who wants to learn more about Choctaw stories that are passed down from generation to generation. Tingle’s heritage includes the Trail of Tears, boarding schools, and white assimilation. Tingle has also given voice to young Native American peoples in our contemporary society where many think “Indians are a thing of the past.” Check out his famous No Name series for young adults, about a Choctaw teenage boy, struggling through high school life, playing basketball, and discovering his own identity as a Choctaw. Tingle has a bit of everything for the young reader interested in Native cultures.
“#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women”
Not an author, but a book that is beautifully done by multiple Indigenous authors and accessible to many. If you are not a reader, this book is for you. If you are a reader, this book is for you. If you love poetry, this book is for you. If you love photography, fashion, history, lore, the list goes on. From teens to grandmothers sharing their perspectives, I cannot stress enough how impactful and beautiful this narrative is. It ties together a community that shares both a painful past, and a hopeful future. If you read nothing else about Indigenous culture, read this one.
Suzi Stephenson is a librarian at the Brookdale Library.