How will you decide where to go next? What part of the country are you going to explore? Independent, locally-owned bookstores are always best for finding just the right thing to read. Not only great places to visit, but Native-owned bookstores are also the best resource to find authentic writing and delightful browsing for books by and about Native American people, places and experiences.
Make a bookstore your first stop in your next adventure so you can plan your best journey. Find a good read that will inform you about Native places and historical events or pick a work of Native fiction to read while you travel through Native communities that will help you understand the culture and special experiences that insiders know about.
There is something in the pages of books for every traveler, whether you are a history buff, art lover, food fanatic, or looking to explore the quiet forests.
Preserving and sustaining Native American stories and knowledge of culture and art is at the heart of the work going on in Native communities around the country. Native authors and illustrators are getting published more and more in a growing market, not only because there are new writers, but because publishers are recognizing that works telling diverse stories are being sought after. It should be no surprise that there is a new group of Native American booksellers whose mission is to share contemporary Native American literature on their shelves with a new generation of readers, both within and outside the Indigenous community.
HERE ARE SOME AMAZING NATIVE-OWNED BOOKSTORES YOU CAN’T MISS!
Birchbark Books, Minneapolis, MN
Bird Cage Books, Rapid City SD
Books & Burrow, Pittsburg, KS
Libelula Books, Waterloo, IA
Nã Mea Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI
Red Salmon Arts, Austin TX
Talking Leaves, Cherokee NC
AND ONLINE NATIVE BOOKSELLERS
Check out Eleanor’s Books.
And this selection of diverse literature at Paperbacks & Frybread.
Native American literature today is an exciting and growing genre encompassing fiction and nonfiction. No longer are books printed by and about Native people mostly historical, as in the past, but fine art collections, children’s books, scholarly works, young adult stories, poetry, novels, graphic novels and comic books are available. Books in Native languages are starting to proliferate.
Native literary festivals and poetry gatherings are picking up steam around the country and well worth checking out if they are taking place while you are visiting Native communities. Contemporary writers are engaging and eloquent, telling compelling stories, often accompanied by impactful artwork. Reading some of these works is a great way to understand the past as well as serve as an entree to visiting Native communities. Visitors can get a more accurate and respectful depiction of the complexities of Native identities and narratives, even in a fictional story. A good book written by a Native voice informs thoughtful tourists and reminds them that Native storytelling is still a vibrant part of living culture.
Project 562 Changing the Way We See Native America, which came out this year from Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip), is a photographic celebration of contemporary Native life, featuring portraits and interviews of people from all 562 federally recognized tribes. There are 574 recognized tribes today, and this book serves as a great way to meet Native people where they are, countering archaic stereotypes and opening the door to understanding the richness, creativity and diversity of Native communities. We can’t crisscross the nation as Wilbur did on her astounding tour of Native America, but you can’t beat it for inspiration to go visit some of these varied people and places!
Last year the James Welch Literary Festival got off to a roaring start in Montana, and we hope to see more of the same as it moves into a biannual schedule.
At the University of Washington American Indian Studies program in Seattle, check out the annual Sacred Breath: Indigenous Writing and Storytelling Series.
IN NA PO Indigenous Nations Poets are all over the map! Check out the latest events on their calendar
Check out the bookstores for in-store events including readings and book signings!
This list could go on and on as new works are coming out every month, but we thought we’d give you a taste with a few links to some favorite reads from around the country. The staff members of the First Nations Development Institute have compiled a list of what they consider to be essential reading for anyone interested in the Native American experience.
Our nation’s first Native Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, made sharing Native writing part of her project during her residency, and you can still access “Living Nations Living Words” Harjo’s curated collection.
Some more recent notes from the blog Book Riot.
Check out what’s going on with the NDNgirls Book Club
SPECIAL READINGS FOR KIDS THIS YEAR!
We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) published by Charlesbridge Press, 2021. The title says it all for this award-winning book.
REMEMBER by Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation), illustrated by Caldecott award winner Michaela Goade,(Tlingit) is a book for children of all ages to treasure, with lush illustrations accompanying one of Harjo’s most beloved poems. Published by Penguin Random House, 2023
Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child (Ojibwe) Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018 This joyous book has it all.
Don’t forget to check out the amazing book selections inside the shop of your favorite Tribal Museum and Cultural Center. Always shop from your favorite Native bookshop!