Shelf Care at The Blue Bench: November Books
Welcome to the Shelf Care reading list by The Blue Bench! Every month, we curate a reading list of books showcasing powerful voices and talented storytelling. These books delve into topics related to sexual assault, identity, trauma, healing, hope, community, and resilience.
The books highlighted in this month’s list are by Indigenous and Native American identified authors in recognition of Native American Heritage Month.
[TW/CW: These books may contain topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, racism, alcoholism, violence, and other topics that may be triggering]
Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future
By Patty Krawec
This book weaves the story of the author’s ancestors with the broader history and themes of creation, replacement, and disappearance. Through this way of storytelling, Krawec is able to tell the story of colonialism from the perspective of an indigenous writer. Diving into myth, identity, and spirituality that retraces the steps of Indigenous history helps the reader learn what was lost along the path of colonialism.
Patty Krawec is an Anishanaabe woman from the Lac Seul First Nation. She is the co-host of the podcast Medicine for the Resistance and serves on the board of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Center. Her writing has been published in Sojourners and Canadian Living.
By Michelle Good
This novel tells the story of five Indigenous children who are taken from their families and placed in a remote church-run residential school. After they are released, they are without support, skills, or families to rely on and are forced to navigate life while only relying on each other. Confronting the trauma they experienced, working though internalized pain, and dealing with the other ramifications of the abuse are at the forefront of this book.
Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry, and is a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. She has spent decades working with Indigenous communities and supporting organizations that uplift the Indigenous community. Five Little Indians was nominated for the Writers’ Trust Award, among other accolades.
By Tommy Orange
This novel tells the story of 12 people from Native communities, all traveling to a Powwow, and all have interwoven stories. From Jacquie Red Feather who is newly sober, to Dene Oxendene who is navigating the grief after his uncle’s passing, to others headed to the powwow, all of the characters are at an event where they confront the complex and painful history while celebrating the beauty and spirituality of their cultures.
Tommy Orange is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He currently serves as a faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA Program. There There has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and noted on best book of the year lists by The New York Times, NPR, Time, and other publications.
They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School
By Bev Sellars
This memoir is by Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellars and is about her experience at St. Joseph’s Mission in British Columbia, and weaves her own story with that of her mother and grandmother who all attended the same residential school. Her stories of hunger, forced labor, beatings, sexual violence, and cultural alienation are detailed accounts of the suffering Native children faced in residential schools across Canada and the United States.
Bev Sellars is the Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia. She has served as an advisor to the BC Treaty Commission.
By Richard Wagamese
This novel is about Saul Indian Horse, who is receiving treatment for alcoholism, and feels that he’s surrounded by people that don’t understand him or his story. He finds that the only way to find peace is by telling his story—how he was taken away from his family and his culture and placed in a residential school. Set in the harsh realities and racism of 1960s Canada, this story is about healing childhood trauma and relearning a culture that was stripped away from him.
Richard Wagamese is an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario. Indian Horse was a winner of the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, and was made into a feature film.
By Joy Harjo
Poet Warrior is a memoir by poet laureate Joy Harjo, and it weaves together stories and poems about her life and the lives of her ancestors. This memoir also shows how Harjo came to write poems and songs about history, the search for justice, and the journey to healing. This fluid work touches on themes of grief and growth, and displays the poetic and musical talent of Joy.
Joy Harjo is a musician, poet, author, playwright, and performer. She is of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is the only poet laureate to have served three terms.