November is Native American Heritage Month, which honors the cultures and traditions of Native Americans. Today’s Native YA writing community is dynamic and on the rise. So is the resulting body of compelling, quality teen literature that tackles daily life and fantastical stories of teens grounded in their Indigenous identities and communities. Please enjoy this recommended list of #OwnVoices YA books by Native American authors about Native American characters not just this month, but all year long.
The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start... until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
After breaking up with her jock boyfriend after he made insulting remarks regarding Native Americans, Lou, who is Muscogee, begins to navigate her senior year of high school with an altered social standing. She dives into her journalism class, eager to make connections and report for the school newspaper, when suddenly the school musical and its new inclusive casting direction, becomes the biggest story in town and threatens to divide the community.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
In a world where most people have lost the ability to dream, a fifteen-year-old Indigenous boy who is still able to dream struggles for survival against an army of "recruiters" who seek to steal his marrow and return dreams to the rest of the world.
Flight by Jae Waller
Seventeen-year-old Kateiko doesn't want to be Rin anymore -- not if it means sacrificing lives to protect the dead. Her only way out is to join another tribe, which means a one-way trek through the coastal rainforest. Killing a colonial soldier in the woods isn't part of the plan. Neither is spending the winter with Tiernan, an immigrant who keeps a sword with his carpentry tools. His log cabin leaks and his stories about other worlds raise more questions than they answer. Then the air spirit Suriel, long thought dormant, resurrects a war. For Kateiko, protecting other tribes in her confederacy is atonement. For Tiernan, war is a return to the military life he's desperate to forget. Leaving Tiernan means losing the one man Kateiko trusts. Staying with him means abandoning colonists to a death sentence. In a region tainted by prejudice and on the brink of civil war, she has to decide what's worth dying -- or killing -- for.
Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones
How can Shane reconcile his feelings for David with his desire for a better life? Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she's too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves--his friend, David. Things go from bad to worse as Shane's dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together. With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane's rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but ultimately ends with him on a path that doesn't always offer easy answers, but one that leaves the reader optimistic about his fate.
Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth
In 1980 life is hard on the Tuscarora Reservation in upstate New York, and most of the teenagers feel like they are going nowhere: Carson Mastick dreams of forming a rock band, and Maggi Bokoni longs to create her own conceptual artwork instead of the traditional beadwork that her family sells to tourists--but tensions are rising between the reservation and the surrounding communities, and somehow in the confusion of politics and growing up Carson and Maggi have to make a place for themselves.