by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
This Wednesday, we'll release our Book Club episode focusing on Darcie Little Badger's Elatsoe (Amazon | Bookshop.org). This amazing YA novel focuses on Elatsoe, a member of the Lipan Apache tribe, and blends fantastic world building with a compelling mystery, along with some great paranormal touches.
Reading Elatsoe made me reflect on my reading year and some other amazing books I've read. (Be sure to read through the end for some additional books we've highlighted on Unabridged!)
Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - I absolutely loved this YA novel about Daunis Fontaine, a teenager who lives in a hockey town. An unenrolled member of the Ojibwe tribe, Daunis wrestles here with identity, her complicated family, and the impact of the opioid epidemic on her community. A powerful read, Firekeeper's Daughter captivated me until the final page. (Check out my review here.)
Louise Erdrich's The Night Watchman (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - I've long been a fan of Erdrich's work, and you can't go wrong with any of her many books. This one, however, was the first I've read in a while, and it reminded me of Erdrich's beautiful prose and her nuanced touch with characters. While there's a whole community represented here, two characters stand out to me: Thomas Wazhashk, based on Erdrich's grandfather, is a member of the Chippewa Council who is fighting for the rights of his tribe and the Turtle Mountain Reservation; and Patrice "Pixie" Paranteau whose search for her sister leads her away from the reservation to Minneapolis. Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Night Watchman is the best kind of historical fiction. (Read my review here.)
Stephen Graham Jones's The Only Good Indians (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - I've been singing the praises of this book, which made my favorites list for the first half of the year. This horror novel focuses on four Blackfeet friends who make a mistake in their teens that haunts them—literally!—through adulthood. (Check out my review here.)
N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - All right, I'll admit: I'm cheating a little bit here. It's been years since I read the whole of Momaday's memoir (first published in 1969), but I revisited it this year when I taught an anthologized chapter of it in my class. It reminded me of the beauty of Momaday's writing and the power of the journey he takes to retrace the steps of his Kiowa ancestors after his grandmother's death. I'll definitely be re-reading the entire book soon.
Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - Like The Way to Rainy Mountain, Ceremony had been a book I had loved but not read for decades (since college, when I read them both!). I decided to pick it up early this year and was blown away again by the story of Tayo, a veteran of World War II, who finds his life and world changed when he returns to his Laguna Pueblo reservation. The novel blends prose and poetry, incorporating Pueblo myth that parallels Tayo's experience. (Here's my review.)
Jesse Thistle's From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - This powerful memoir was fabulous on audio (it was read by the author) and has really stayed with me through 2021. Thistle's childhood was full of turmoil, and as he grew up, that turmoil only grew. Thistle works through addiction, homelessness, and total rejection by his family to find a new strength and the ability to reach out again to those he loved. (You can find my review here.)
I didn't read all of these next books this year, but I wanted to be sure to highlight some other books that have been a focus on the podcast/blog:
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
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