Sherman Alexie is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe from the Spokane Reservation. He was born hydrocephalitic and when he started writing novels the harshness of growing up disadvantaged came seeping out of each page. In his later books, he mellows out and these books I treasure most. But all of them are worthwhile, if a reader wants an honest view of reservation life. Try starting with: Skins, Reservation Blues, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and Indian Killer.
Erdrich was born into the Ojibwa Tribe in Minnesota. Most of her work is about Native families, some on-reservation and others living in cities. But like true tribal members, her characters always keep their ties to home. She is a great writer and as a bonus has her own book store in Minnesota which she has also put on-line. (Check out this link to Birch Bark Books.) I recommend starting with: The Beet Queen, Love Medicine, and The Bingo Palace.
Hillerman allows the reader to see a Reservation environment from a fresh perspective – in this case through Navajo eyes. Plus, the psychography of the modern Native is shown with the tug of both traditional and contemporary worlds fully elucidated. Hillerman’s earlier works are the best. At the end of his life, Hillerman was sick and the publishers had ghost writers take early drafts and re-write manuscripts using his name. His Spirit literally wasn’t in the end products. Try Talking God, Coyote Waits and, A Thief of Time. These are a good sampling to get you started in Hillerman’s world.
Ed McGaa (a friend and contemporary of my husband in the Tribe) returned from Viet Nam (where he saw many friends die) and dedicated his life thereafter to the Spirits who kept him from dying in the war. He became a teacher, writer, and ceremonial leader. I like best his earlier works, Eagle Vision and Return of the Hoop. The later stuff feels like a lot of rehashing to me.
Definitely stick to her earlier novels, like Star Woman, Medicine Woman and Jaguar Woman. Andrews’ first books were ghost written by a young man who eventually (a decade or so into her career) took her to court for some of the millions of dollars she was making off his work. The court made her pay and they parted ways (so the later books are shallow and not worth the reading time). Tragically in the settlement, he took some of her millions, agreeing to disappear from the literary world for 25 years. The good news is that time goes fast and we will hopefully be hearing from him again soon!
I remember sitting next Vine on an airplane going from South Dakota to Denver, Colorado. He was editing his own work and I never took my eyes off his hands, as they flew across the pages. Here is a Dakota man that takes the white institutions of Church and State to task for what has been done to Native Peoples. I highly recommend God is Red and Custer Died for Your Sins. Get them one at a time because they are intense reads, exposing aspects of our comfortable lives that we may not want to look at through Deloria’s critical eyes.
A journalist, Matthiessen digs deep into government abuses and the life of poverty the Lakota suffer, primarily those on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse is a lot to read, but in it Matthiessen talks about the 1970’s (when I lived with the Tribe) and the AIM Declaration of Independence from the USA. This insurrection resulted in Leonard Peltier’s political imprisonment. Indian Country is a smaller book and may be the one to start with, although he wrote it later and some of his excitement from the first book is lacking.
Hey, what can I say: Kathy is a friend of mine, which is how I got my hands on her books in the first place. But even if we had not been friends, I would love her books, On the Edge of the Spotlight and On the Edge of Darkness. For you who grew up watching CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite (or observed your parents doing so), Kathy is his daughter. I bring this up because reading her books are like being immersed in the 1960’s and hearing the Cronkite voice in fresh form. I have to add that if you or anyone you are close to (friend or family member) suffers with depression, Kate’s On the Edge of Darkness is an absolute must. I marvel each time the book comes to mind (which is often, it’s that good). Kate interviewed depressed people, their doctors and family, yet still infused hopefulness into every page. The reader does not come away depressed at all. On the contrary, this book takes us from the edge of darkness a far distance into the bright and sunny light of healing.
Hand Clow is a prolific writer and researcher of new paradigm thinkers, philosophers, scientists and educators. A mixed blood Native American, she and her husband started Bear and Company, a small publishing house that grew BIG exclusively on non-fiction, new-paradigm writers. Barbara Hand Clow is one of them. My favorite reads of Hand Clow are those in the Mind Trilogy which includes Eye of the Centaur, Heart of the Christos and Signet of Atlantis. These small volumes are packed with channeled information. B. Marciniak and others have taken small bits of what Barbara Hand Clow presents in the Mind Trilogy and built lifetime careers growing trees from trilogy seeds.
Dorris was the first single man (and Native American at that) allowed to adopt a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome baby from the Tribe in South Dakota. His first book, The Broken Cord, is about his adopting experience. Have tissues ready; it is a sad, touching story. After the book (and a movie based on the story) came out, Dorris met and married another of my favorite authors, Louise Erdrich. They adopted other FAS children, but still found time to write fictionalized accounts of Tribal life. A Yellow Raft on Blue Water is one that Dorris wrote alone. It is beautifully written and a moving story. Another favorite, The Crown of Columbus, Dorris wrote with his wife, Erdrich. In this book there is such a beautiful relationship slowly unraveled between the grandmother and grandson. I’d read it again just to observe their love unfold once more. Tragically, Dorris was falsely accused of sexually abusing one of his adopted daughters, and deeply shamed, ended his own life. Later, his name was cleared and reputation restored. But we lost a good man and excellent Native Author.
Not only do my ears perk up at hearing this guy’s surname (it’s pronounced like my nickname “ike”), but my mind is incredibly stirred by the depth of thought-provoking research done by this author. In the past Icke has been scorned by the establishment and its media. You couldn’t even find his books in a book store. Lately, Icke is everywhere–books stores, internet, television, and radio. He has come to be known as an expert in political and cultural commentary. Be sure to remember that the “Reptilians” Icke refers to are merely astral forms that he has personally experienced. Unfortunately through such references, Icke ends up perpetuating a certain amount of fear-mongering. This can be overlooked because Icke’s research into the distortions of history as we know it, are phenomenal and well worth reading. Many recent authors, film-makers, and internet commentators are using his work as there own without giving him any credit whatsoever. This is terribly sad. The reason is that a lot of people do not want their productions dismissed as ‘lunatic’ by association with Icke and his conspiratorial ideas (particularly those pesky reptilians). Never mind. I recommend reading And the Truth Shall Set You Free. Yup. That’s true.