10 top indigenous books for your summer reading list

If you are looking for summer reading suggestions, you are in luck. Check out 10 new releases by indigenous authors, brought to you by the editors of Muskrat Magazine — from fiction to non-fiction, poetic prose, science, politics, romance and traditional stories.

New releases by aboriginal authors, from fiction to science, politics and romance

CBC journalist Waubgeshig Rice is the author of Legacy, to be release in July. (Theytus Books)

If you are looking for summer reading suggestions, you are in luck. Check out 10 new releases by indigenous authors — from fiction to non-fiction, poetic prose, science, politics, romance and traditional stories — brought to you by the editors of Muskrat Magazine.

1. Legacy by Waubgeshig Rice (Theytus Books)

Legacy is the first novel by Waubgeshig Rice, whose collection of stories — Midnight Sweatlodge — was the gold-medal winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2012 for Adult Multicultural Fiction.

Set in the 1990s, Legacy deals with violence against a young indigenous woman and its lingering after-shocks on an Anishnawbe family in Ontario.

Its themes of injustice, privilege, reconciliation and revenge are as timely as today’s headlines. The book is scheduled for a July release. *Stay tuned for MUSKRAT Magazine’s review of Legacy. 
Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese (McClelland)

2. Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese (McClelland)

Celebrated author and Canada Reads finalist for Indian Horse, Wagamese has a stunning new novel that has all the timeless qualities of a classic.

Fresh and utterly memorable, Medicine Walk unveils a universal father-and-son struggle set in the dramatic landscape of the B.C. Interior.

3. Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson (ARP Books)
Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson. (ARP Books)

Well-written, poetic prose has special power — and the pages of Islands of Decolonial Love read like a salve for wounds from colonial hurts.

The title itself evokes both romantic and radical imagery of indigenous sovereignty and relationships. I asked Leanne Simpson what inspired her to choose this fitting title for the book:

"I started with a different title for the manuscript, and when I was in the final stages I happened to read an article by the Dominican-American author Junot Díaz entitled 'Decolonial Love.' He was talking about his own experience as an immigrant and male, trying to find love and intimacy with a romantic partner, despite having the damage of colonialism, rape culture, and gendered violence as a starting point," she said.

"I was thinking, what if they weren’t Dominican men but Anishinaabe or Haudenosaunee women…. I think that indigenous women are very good at love, despite all of the trauma of colonialism. I started to see Anishinaabe women —whether it’s their love of land, culture, elders, or partners — as little islands of hope, little islands of love. Maybe we don’t always get it right, but we get glimpses of love, so the title really seemed to fit."

4. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Milkweed)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. (Milkweed)

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings — asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass — offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.

In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten our existence today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.
The Moons Speak Cree by Larry Loyie & Constance Brissenden. (Theytus Books)

5. The Moons Speak Cree: A Winter Adventure by Larry Loyie & Constance Brissenden (Theytus Books)

Learning the universal lessons of aboriginal culture, young Lawrence rides his father’s long toboggan pulled by four eager dogs, invents a sliding machine that really works from his grandfather’s old steamer trunk, reconnects with his older brother and learns the secrets of winter survival from his parents and grandparents.

Based on Larry Loyie’s traditional Cree childhood, the story teaches deeper lessons: respect for culture and history, the effect of change on aboriginal people and the importance of being good to animals.
Halfling Spring: An Internet Romance by Joanne Arnott (Kegedonce Press)

6. Halfling Spring: An Internet Romance by Joanne Arnott (Kegedonce Press)

A book of poetry, tracking the transformative aspects of desire through updates or notes posted through a variety of virtual and real landscapes.

Traditional stories, electronic metaphors, bird life and geographic observations, literary and song references combine with dream imagery and conversational turns, tracking the early stages of a love affair.

7. Walking in Balance: Meeyau-ossaewin by Basil Johnson (Kegedonce)
Walking in Balance: Meeyau-ossaewin by Basil Johnson. (Kegedonce)

We have, according to our beliefs, five essential parts: body, soul, spirit, heart, and mind, which all have to be satisfied equally.

"When you are in balance you are walking on the right road, following the right path of life," writes Basil Johnston.

Eight traditional Anishinaabe stories are told in both Anishinabemowin and English languages for adults.

8. The Truth That Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process by Lynn Gehl (Fernwood Publishing)
The Truth That Wampum Tells by Lynn Gehl. (Fernwood Press)

In commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Treaty at Niagara, The Truth that Wampum Tells offers readers a first-ever insider analysis of the contemporary land claims and self-government process in Canada.

Incorporating an analysis of traditional symbolic literacy known as wampum diplomacy, Lynn Gehl argues that despite Canada’s constitutional beginnings, first codified in the 1763 Royal Proclamation and ratified during the 1764 Treaty at Niagara, Canada continues to deny the Algonquin Anishinaabeg their right to land and resources, their right to live as a sovereign nation and consequently their ability to live mino-pimadiziwin (the good life).

9. The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future and Idle No More Movement by The Kino-nda-niimi Collective (ARP Books)
The Winter We Danced by The Kino-nda-niimi Collective. (ARP Books)

A collection of writing, poetry, lyrics, art, and images from some of the voices that make up the past, present, and future of the Idle No More movement.

The Winter We Danced draws from a wide-ranging body of narratives, journalism, editorials and creative pieces, calling for pathways into healthy, just, equitable, and sustainable communities.

This collection consolidates some of the most powerful, creative and insightful moments from the winter we danced and gestures towards next steps in an on-going movement for justice and Indigenous self-determination.

10. Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette (Kegedonce)
LIGHTFINDER by Aaron Paquette. (Kegedonce)

Aisling is a young Cree woman who sets out into the wilderness with her Kokum (grandmother), Aunty and two young men she barely knows. They have to find and rescue her runaway younger brother, Eric. Along the way she learns that the legends of her people might be real and that she has a growing power of her own.

This article was initially published in Muskrat Magazine. Edited and republished with permission.

Tell us about your summer reading recommendations, in the comments below, via CBC Aboriginal on Facebook, or on Twitter @cbc_aboriginal.