Shelf Stable: October 12th
When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.”Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves
Imagine we could be truly thankful every day. Imagine if we always gave gifts to the people we cared about, if we approached every problem from a perspective of generosity, if we understood our actions through the sacrifices and successes of our elders and ancestors, if we honored the various people in our lives who make our lives possible in big and small ways, if we remembered the course of history that brought us to our now. Of course, we can’t (as lofty as that all sounds, I’m not even sure we should), so we create holidays to focus our attention on some vital aspect of life and community and society that we tend to lose sight of during our daily lives. 

I think there is something interesting, maybe instructive, in that we are expected to be better versions of ourselves through holidays, even though holidays are human creations, with all the same flaws as their creators, subject to the same systems of power and social manipulations as people are, able to be corrupted like people are, reflecting the exact same prejudices and biases as people have. So we create perfunctory lists of things we’re thankful for, perform generosity with a donation or two, condense generations of struggle towards justice into a single icon, and justify lifetimes of uncompensated and unseen labor with brunch and a bouquet. And we also lionize a mass murdering, enslaving, incompetent navigator who lucked onto an island nowhere near where he thought he was.

Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day won’t solve any of the problems faced by the people my ancestors stole this land from, nor will it compensate for generations of genocide and oppression. And if it tracks with Mother’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it will probably end up a day in which we talk about “indigenous wisdom” and “connecting to the land,” and doing all sorts of “education” without adopting indigenous fire control techniques in California forests, or using less destructive agriculture in our farmlands, or giving Native Americans representation in Congress or compensation for stolen lands or, really, anything that would have immediate material benefits for the people and communities the holiday is supposed to celebrate. But it would be an improvement. It would be an acknowledgement. And, like all holidays are supposed to be, it would be an opportunity for individuals and communities to focus on an aspect of their existence they forget about on other days. 

The booksellers at PSB have put together this reading list of works by Indigenous, First Nations, and Native American authors. We based our inclusion on authors’ bios and publishing copy that self-identified as being a member of these communities. There are books in many genres and for all ages. Many of them deal directly with the problems mentioned above because those problems are inescapable, but some won’t or will include those problems as part of the environment rather than as the central concern. Some will use language and imagery we typically associate with “Native American,” but many will not. Americans of European descent are here because our ancestors stole this land and killed the people who were here first. Some of our ancestors only got the chance to commit those crimes because the people who were here first helped them survive. All of them benefited from unintentional and very intentional biological warfare. We should remember that every day because we are here every day. PSB hopes these books will help you do that.    

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Indigenous People's Day Reading List
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

In between his last breath and his descent to the underworld, Ellie’s cousin appears to her in a dream to let her know that his death wasn’t an accident —it was murder. Ellie (Elatsoe) begins to investigate, determined to keep her family safe. A haunting book filled with family, heart, Lipan Apache lore, and a ghost dog, this book had me hooked from the first page.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians is truly a roller coaster of a horror novel, and I mean that in the best way. It starts with a slow unraveling, and as the tension builds it feels very much like the climbing CHK CHK CHK of a roller coaster, and then, when you reach the top and pause and think it’s safe, just for a moment, that’s when the bottom drops out. Years after they massacre a herd of elk on land they’re not supposed to be hunting on, four friends find that they have become the hunted when the spirit of one of the elk comes back for them. Both a thrilling tale that will have you jumping at the slightest sound (I speak from experience), and a poignant look at cultural identity and what it’s like to live in a world that’s trying to kill you. I finished this book and immediately ordered two other novels by Stephen Graham Jones, because he is truly a master.
Lakota Woman by Mary Brave Bird (formerly Mary Crow Dog)

Mary Brave Bird (formerly Mary Crow Dog) was a Sicangu Lakota writer and activist, active in the American Indian Movement. In this autobiography, she describes not just the movement (including her time at Wounded Knee when she was 18 and the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters), but also her time at a Residential school, and what it was like growing up on a reservation. In turns inspiring and heartbreaking, I first read this book in high school, and have revisited it many times since then.
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

You'll want to eat these poems in heaping spoonfuls so they fill your mouth and also nibble at them in delicate bits so they last as long as possible. A gasping collection. A sighing collection. A singing collection. Diaz should clear space on her mantle for the awards she is sure to win.

Jake Skeets’s poems sometimes sound like gears grinding in an old pickup truck you’ve barely kept going for years, sometimes like a heavy pint glass being slammed down on a sticky bar moments before someone says something they’ll always regret, and sometimes like a tender, consoling whisper. This collection will take your breath away and give it back with something added.
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

This book made me cry out of joy and out of sorrow. The way Wagamese depicted learning to play hockey took me right back to my childhood skating on the outdoor rinks of Maine. Though this is a story of hockey it is also a story of colonialism, racism, and exploitation. It can be hard to watch, but we can’t look away. 
Open the Dark by Marie Tozier

Marie Tozier’s poems do not flow just from her, but from generations of her Inupiaq ancestors and their legacy in tradition and the inheritance of their pain. Her poems have a staccato sharpness to them, but there are moments of nature, of beauty, of quiet nestled inside.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

A customer recommended this book to me, and I'm so glad. It's a beautiful book and a gift that's meant to be shared. By the end you'll feel centered and like you've made a new friend in Robin Wall Kimmerer and many new friends in your environment.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Out October 13, Rebecca Roanhorse’s latest novel follows an ensemble cast of characters as the cataclysmic Day of Convergence creeps steadily closer. Featuring political intrigue, a would-be god, and a bisexual sea captain, the worldbuilding of this story is something truly unforgettable 
There There by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange’s bestselling debut novel tracks the path of twelve narrators, as they all make their way to the Big Oakland Powwow. Each point of view was so compelling I found myself wanting to skip directly to that character's next chapter, only to become just as engrossed in the next character, and the ending was so good it left me staring at the wall in shock for a good long while.
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

A beautifully illustrated story that brings warmth to every page, Fry Bread is both whimsical and emotional. This picture book is fun for the whole family, and contains a delicious fry bread recipe at the end!
At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

A lyrical story of peace and interconnection. Sorell skillfully weaves trees, family, peace, home, and history together, balancing the small histories with larger ones. Alvitre's detailed illustrations leave space for the reader to make connections while threads visually loop and tie past, present, and people together. Moving and important, this book is one to revisit and discuss in every home.

I was immediately pulled into this memoir. Alvarez's writing is beautiful, and his journey is a compelling one.
Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac

This historical novel features eleven-year-old twins who have to work together to outwit teens with ill intent. Featuring intense sports matches (lacrosse), stories, trickery, and sweet strawberries, there’s something here for every reader.
Nîtisânak by Lindsay Nixon

How do you honour blood and chosen kin with equal care? A groundbreaking memoir spanning nations, prairie punk scenes, and queer love stories, Lindsay Nixon's memoir is woven around her grief over the loss of their mother. It also explores despair and healing through community and family, and being torn apart by the same. Using cyclical narrative techniques and drawing on Nixon's Cree, Saulteaux, and Mâetis ancestral teachings, this work offers a compelling perspective on the connections that must be broken and the ones that heal. 
Apple: (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth

A memoir for young readers, in prose and poetry, about growing up in the Onandaga and Tuscarora nations.

2018 James Beard Award Winner: Best American Cookbook

Named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2017 by NPR, The Village Voice, Smithsonian Magazine, UPROXX, New York Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, and others

Here is real food—our indigenous American fruits and vegetables, the wild and foraged ingredients, game and fish. Locally sourced, seasonal, “clean” ingredients and nose-to-tail cooking are nothing new to Sean Sherman, the Oglala Lakota chef and founder of The Sioux Chef. In his breakout book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sherman shares his approach to creating boldly seasoned foods that are vibrant, healthful, at once elegant and easy.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Inspired by many indigenous-led movements, We are Water Protectors is a lyrical tale about a young girl who defends her home against the evil black snake intent on poisoning her water and her land. Featuring gorgeous watercolor illustrations, this book is hopeful, compelling, and filled with a fierce determination for justice.
Bury Me in Thunder by syan jay

Way back in another lifetime - that is to say, in March - we were meant to host Boston-based poet syan jay for the first in a new reading series: Poets & Plants, featuring local poets in our friends over at Pemberton Farms’ greenhouse space. Syan jay’s poetry draws on vivid imagery drawn from nature and memory--personal and generational--to illustrate the trauma of colonization, and we thought they’d be the perfect inaugural Poets & Plants reader. We can’t bring you that particular experience right now, but we can bring you a copy of syan's first full length collection, Bury Me in Thunder.
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Joan has never kept the old ways of Mâetis culture, until here husband’s disappearance pushes her to consult Ajean, one of the few who still remembers the traditions of her people. With the help of Ajean and her twelve-year-old nephew, Joan must confront some ancient enemies and uncover the truth. A wonderful novel that has it all; love, mystery, monsters, an eerily white revival tent, and a family that is in turns hilarious, tough, and loving.
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith

The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.

International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett

In this sweet and lyrical board book from the creators of the bestselling Little You, gentle rhythmic text captures the wonder new parents feel as they welcome baby into the world. A celebration of the bond between parent and child, this is the perfect song to share with your little ones.

Internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author Richard Van Camp teams up with award-winning illustrator Julie Flett for a second time to create a stunning board book for babies and toddlers.
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations. “I am,” she writes, “a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation—and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.” This strident, plaintive book introduces a major new voice in contemporary literature.
Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents critically acclaimed indigenous fantasy writer Rebecca Roanhorse's thrilling adventure about a Navajo girl who discovers she's a monsterslayer.

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he's a threat, but her father won't believe her.
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden--but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.
This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell

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. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts' New Chapter initiative. With this $35M initiative, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors is a groundbreaking debut novel that folds the legends of Hawaiian gods into an engrossing family saga; a story of exile and the pursuit of salvation from Kawai Strong Washburn.

“Old myths clash with new realities, love is in a ride or die with grief, faith rubs hard against magic, and comic flips with tragic so much they meld into something new. All told with daredevil lyricism to burn. A ferocious debut.”
—MARLON JAMES, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf

So good it hurts and hurts to where it heals. It is revelatory and unputdownable. Washburn is an extraordinarily brilliant new talent.”
—TOMMY ORANGE, author of There There
A History of Kindness by Linda Hogan

Linda Hogan, the current Chickasaw Nation Writer in Residence, is (in addition to being an incredible writer) an environmentalist, historian, and activist. These facets all shine through her newest poetry collection. A History of Kindness examines the violence that has been done to the American landscape and its peoples, and responds to it with beauty, compassion, and hope. If you enjoy Mary Oliver or Braiding Sweetgrass, or if you just need a book to feed your spirit and anchor you to the natural world right now, pick this one up.
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.

Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.
The Brave by James Bird

Perfect for fans of Rain Reign, this middle-grade novel The Brave is about a boy with an OCD issue and his move to a reservation to live with his biological mother.

Collin can't help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It's a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father.

Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.
The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills

Shelly and her grandmother catch ghosts. In their hair. Just like all the women in their family, they can see souls who haven't transitioned yet; it's their job to help the ghosts along their journey. When Shelly's mom dies suddenly, Shelly's relationship to ghosts--and death--changes. Instead of helping spirits move on, Shelly starts hoarding them. But no matter how many ghost cats, dogs, or people she hides in her room, Shelly can't ignore the one ghost that's missing. Why hasn't her mom's ghost come home yet?

Rooted in a Cree worldview and inspired by stories about the author's great-grandmother's life, The Ghost Collector delves into questions of grief and loss, and introduces an exciting new voice in tween fiction that will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo's Louisiana's Way Home and Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls.
Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family. Literally and figuratively scarred by his mother’s years of substance abuse, Sequoyah keeps mostly to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, a troubled artist who also lives with the family.

Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American background and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah’s feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelly Jo Ford

Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine--a mixed-blood Cherokee woman-- and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma's Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn't easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world--of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados--intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.

In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifices for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.
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