Shelf Care at The Blue Bench: November Reading List
Welcome to the Shelf Care reading list by The Blue Bench! Every month, we will curate a reading list of books showcasing powerful voices and talented storytelling. These books delve into topics related to sexual assault, sexual identity, trauma, healing, hope, community, and resilience.
The books highlighted in this month’s list are written by Native American and Indigenous authors in honor of National Native American Heritage Month. [TW/CW: These books may contain topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, and others that some may find triggering]
by Sarah Deer
This book documents the legacy of sexual violence against Native American women, and argues that this gender-based violence is steeped in colonialism. Violence against Native women is systematic, political, and bound by oppression. Deer provides a historical overview of sex trafficking and sexual violence in North America, and in particular how tribal nations were and are affected. Deer critiques federal law that accommodates sexual assault by dismantling the tribal legal system. Using historical, cultural, and legal approach, Deer makes clear arguments about how Native women are left unprotected and undervalued. She makes practical plans of action for this issue, drawing on years of experience in advocacy.
Sarah Deer has experience as a sexual assault victim advocate and received her JD with a Tribal Lawyer Certificate from the University of Kansas School of Law.
by Elissa Washuta
This is a nontraditional memoir, created through a series of linked essays. These essays tell the story of Washuta's coming of age experience, and navigating her Native American identity, struggling with bipolar disorder and the medications she takes for it, and coming to terms with her sexual assault. A unique take on discovering oneself, Washuta reflects on her memories as it relates to pop culture: her Catholic school education with Cosmopolitan’s mandates for womanhood, viewing her experience through the distorted lens of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and contrasting her struggle with bipolar disorder through the highs and lows of Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain.
Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the Ohio State University.
edited by Quo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tanonetti
This anthology features collections of work from the Native Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (GLBTQ2) communities. This anthology spans different genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poems, and essays. They delve into different themes- memory, history, sexuality, indigenous identity, friendship, family, love, and loss. This landmark collection sheds showcases the intersection of Native American and Indigenous identity, literature, and Queer studies. These stories highlight the strength and resilience in Native and Indigenous GLBTQ2 communities.
The full list of contributors to this anthology are: Indira Allegra, Louise Esme Cruz, Paula Gunn Allen, Qwo-Li Driskill, Laura Furlan, Janice Gould, Carrie House, Daniel Heath Justice, Maurice Kenny, Michael Koby, M. Carmen Lane, Jaynie Lara, Chip Livingston, Luna Maia, Janet McAdams, Deborah Miranda, Daniel David Moses, D. M. O’Brien, Malea Powell, Cheryl Savageau, Kim Shuck, Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp, James Thomas Stevens, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, William Raymond Taylor, Joel Waters, and Craig Womack.
by Erika T. Wurth
Taking place in Idaho Springs, Colorado, this novel tells the story of Margaritte, a sharp-tongued sixteen-year-old Native American girl struggling with crippling poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse. Margaritte refuses to be not only a victim of her circumstance, but also refuses to be a stereotype. This gritty novel deals with everything- domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, and the unforgiving realities of poverty.
Erika T. Wurth is of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent. She teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is also a narrative artist at the Meow Wolf installation in Denver.
by Lisa Charleyboy, edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale
This book is an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that showcase what it means to be a Native woman in North America. While some pieces reflect the trauma of colonialism, others embrace a hopeful future. The hardships- abuse, humiliation, and violence, are all countered by the strength of women demanding to be heard and to see change. This book is presented in a zine/magazine style format, which makes the stories of these women accessible and digestible for a younger audience.
Lisa Charleyboy is a First Nations (Tsilhqot’in) writer, editor, storyteller, and entrepreneur. She is the editor-in-chief of Urban Native Magazine.
by Toni Jensen
This memoir is a collection of vignettes that showcase the theme of gun violence in America, through the eyes of a Métis woman. These stories weave the traumas of different types of gun violence- domestic abuse, police brutality, and mass shootings. Jensen maps out how historical violence is passed down through generations, and how trauma response lives in the body. She makes the connections about school shootings as it relates to her experience of sexual assault on a college campus, all of which are a reflection of the generational trauma in America. At times a forensic analysis and others deeply poetic, the writing is always emotional. Being a newer publication, Jensen touches on topics like the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd and how that relates to her experience with gun violence.
Toni Jensen teaches at the University of Arkansas and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a 2020 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.