Did You Know…
November is Native American Heritage Month?
And as there are many books, DVDs and even music titles available in our system that highlight the rich culture of the Native American peoples, I’m going to post a list of recommended titles each of the first four Fridays of this month for your perusal.
This weeks’ selections include fiction titles, on November 9 we’ll recommend non-fiction titles, on November 16 movies and on November 23 albums featuring Native American music.
Recommend Fiction Titles:
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko:
The great Native American Novel of a battered veteran returning home to heal his mind and spirit
More than thirty-five years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profound and moving works of Native American literature, a novel that is itself a ceremony of healing. Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Masterfully written, filled with the somber majesty of Pueblo myth, Ceremony is a work of enduring power.
Fools Crow by James Welch:
Suspenseful and moving, written with an authenticity and integrity that give it sweeping power, Welch’s third novel (The Death of Jim Loney) is a masterful evocation of a Native American culture and its passing. From their lodges on the endless Montana plains, the members of the Lone Eaters band of the Pikuni (Blackfeet) Indians live in harmony with nature, hunting the “blackhorns” (buffalo), observing a complex system of political administration based on mutual respect and handing down legends that explain the natural world and govern daily conduct. The young protagonist is first called White Man’s Dog, but earns the respected name Fools Crow for meritorious conduct in battle. Through his eyes we watch the escalating tensions between the Pikunis and the white men (“the Napikwans”), who deliberately violate treaties and initiate hostilities with the hard-pressed red men. At the same time, the feared “white scabs plague” (smallpox) decimates the Lone Eaters communities, and they realize that their days are numbered.
There is much to savor in this remarkable book: the ease with which Fools Crow and his brethren converse with animals and spirits, the importance of dreams in their daily lives, the customs and ceremonies that measure the natural seasons and a person’s lifespan. Without violating the patterns of Native American speech, Welsh writes in prose that surges and sings. This bittersweet story is an outstanding work. – Publisher’s Weekly Review.
The Heartsong Of Charging Elk by James Welch:
Charging Elk, an Oglala Sioux, joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and journeys from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the back streets of nineteenth-century Marseille. Left behind in a Marseille hospital after a serious injury while the show travels on, he is forced to remake his life alone in a strange land. He struggles to adapt as well as he can, while holding on to the memories and traditions of life on the Plains and eventually falling in love. But none of the worlds the Indian has known can prepare him for the betrayal that follows. This is a story of the American Indian that we have seldom seen: a stranger in a strange land, often an invisible man, loving, violent, trusting, wary, protective, and defenseless against a society that excludes him but judges him by its rules. At once epic and intimate, The Heartsong of Charging Elk echoes across time, geography, and cultures.
House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday:
The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a stranger in his native land
“Both a masterpiece about the universal human condition and a masterpiece of Native American literature. . . . A book everyone should read for the joy and emotion of the language it contains.” – The Paris Review
A young Native American, Abel has come home from war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father’s, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world—modern, industrial America—pulls at Abel, demanding his loyalty, trying to claim his soul, and goading him into a destructive, compulsive cycle of depravity and disgust.
Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom:
Rich, colorful and bursting with excitement, this remarkable story turns James Alexander Thom’s power and passion for American history to the epic story of Tecumseh’s life and give us a heart-thumping novel of one man’s magnificent destiny—to unite his people in the struggle to save their land and their way of life from the relentless press of the white settlers.
“Oh, what a man this will be, with such a sign as that!”
In 1768, when Turtle Mother gave birth to a strong baby boy in the heart of the Shawnee nation, a green-yellow shooting star streaked across the heavens. Hard Striker saw the unsoma, the birth sign, and named his son Tecumseh, meaning Panther in the Sky . . .
People of the Whale by Linda Hogan:
In telling a story of the fictional A’atsika, a Native people of the American West Coast who find their mythical origins in the whale and the octopus, Hogan (Mean Spirit) employs just the right touch of spiritualism in this engrossing tale. When Thomas Witka Just succumbs to peer pressure and joins the army, then is sent to Vietnam, Ruth Small is pregnant with his child. In an attempt to prevent an atrocity, Thomas kills fellow soldiers and deserts, ultimately blending into the Vietnamese culture and fathering a child, Lin, by Ma, a village girl. In the meantime, Ruth gives birth to their son, Marco Polo, who is said to have the same mystical whaling powers of Thomas’s grandfather. Years later, following Thomas’s return, Dwight, a ne’er-do-well friend of Thomas’s, arranges for the tribe to kill a whale and to sell the meat to the Japanese, a plan that will draw in Marco Polo and set up a confrontation between the whole ensemble. Despite the plot’s multiple strands, the story flows smoothly, and Hogan comes up with a powerful, romantic crescendo.
Power by Linda Hogan:
A mythical, far-reaching masterpiece from one of our best Native American writers. It is the night of an ominous storm when sixteen-year-old Omishto, a member of the Taiga tribe, witnesses her Aunt Ama kill a panther–an animal considered to be a sacred ancestor of the Taiga people. That single act will have profound consequences for Omishto, whose name means “the one who watches.” Suddenly, she is torn between her loyalties to her Westernized mother, who wants her to reject the ways of the tribe, and to Ama and her traditional people, for whom the killing of the panther takes on grave importance. But Omishto’s quest in this timeless, lyrical novel goes far deeper. As she tries to understand the mystery that lies behind Ama’s actions, she must reckon with her own spiritual connection to her people, to nature, and to the world itself. She is caught in a web of powers: the power of the legal system over native peoples, the mythic power that ancestral stories hold over her, and the power that is part of the great mystery of life. This is an extraordinary work about a young girl at a crossroads who must determine her place in the world. Spellbinding and unforgettable, Power will endure as a classic–ensuring Linda Hogan’s stature as one of this country’s most important and urgent writers.
Pushing the Bear by Diane Glancy:
Poet, dramatist, short-story writer and essayist Glancy (winner of an American Book Award for Claiming Breath) turns her talents to the novel, recreating in this bone-true tale the sorrow, struggle and betrayal suffered by the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears. In the winter of 1838-39, 13,000 Cherokee were forced to walk the Trail of Tears from North Carolina toward the “new territory” of present-day Oklahoma. Following the Native American belief that many voices are needed to tell a story, Glancy employs a multitude of narrators. There are the voices of Cherokee of all ages and clans, of white soldiers and preachers, and snatches from actual historical records. The central narrator, Maritole, emerges to tell her personal story of “pushing the bear,” a dark heavy burden of anger, impending madness, physical distress and, above all, doubt in herself and her heritage as she perseveres in the grueling walk. Maritole’s shaky relationship with her husband, and the deaths of her baby and parents, push her into a relationship with a white soldier, Sergeant Williams. Ultimately, however, he can’t fathom the Cherokees’ mystic, symbiotic relationships with the land and with each other. At times, the novel proceeds as slowly as the march itself, but it rewards the reader with a visceral, honest presentation of the Cherokee conception of story as the indestructible chain linking people, earth and ancestrya link that becomes, if not unmitigated salvation, then certainly a salve to the spirit. – Publisher’s Weekly Review
The Round House by Louise Erdrich:
The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction.
One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.
Riveting and suspenseful, arguably the most accessible novel to date from the creator of Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Bingo Palace, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.
Tracks by Louise Erdrich:
From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Louise Erdrich comes an arresting, lyrical novel set in North Dakota when Native Americans were fighting to keep their lands.
Set in North Dakota at a time in the past century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance—yet their pride and humor prohibit surrender.
The reader will experience shock and pleasure in encountering characters that are compelling and rich in their vigor, clarity, and indomitable vitality.
“The author captures the passions, fears, myths, and doom of a living people, and she does so with an ease that leaves the reader breathless.”—The New Yorker
Have a great week,