Being a teenager is a time to explore yourself and the world around you, to find your place in it. Books are an excellent way to venture out and sample other people’s experiences and even build empathy. Here is a list of bestselling Young Adult/Teen fiction by Canadian Indigenous authors, to give the YA reader in your life insight into Indigenous lives.
For the Dystopian
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden - but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.[i]
Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author. The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Kirkus Prize, and was named to the Globe and Mail Top 100. Further, she was named the first Writer in Residence in Aboriginal Literature for the Toronto Public Library, and is the 2018 Vancouver Writers Fest’s first Guest Curator.
For the Series or Mystery Lover
Thumps DreadfulWater has finally found some peace and quiet. His past as a California cop now far behind him, he’s living out his retirement as a fine-arts photographer in the small town of Chinook. His health isn’t great, and he could use a new stove, but as long as he’s got his cat and a halfway decent plate of eggs, life is good.
All that changes when a body turns up on the eve of a major water conference and the understaffed sheriff’s department turns to Thumps for help. Thumps wants none of it, but even he is intrigued when he learns the deceased was developing a new technology that could revolutionize water and oil drilling . . . and that could also lose some very powerful people a lot of money.
As strangers begin to pour into Chinook for the conference, Thumps finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into a conflict between secretive players who will kill to get what they want. In Cold Skies, the sly, wry, reluctant investigator of DreadfulWater and The Red Power Murders returns for another irresistible mystery that only Thomas King could tell.[ii]
Thomas King is a member of the Order of Canada, and is “often described as one of the finest contemporary Aboriginal writers in North America.”[iii] He didn’t begin writing until his forties, and currently writes alongside his day-job, teaching Native Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Guelph.
For the Fantasy Reader
Those Who Run in the Sky By Aviaq Johnston
A coming-of-age story that follows a young shaman named Pitu as he learns to use his powers and ultimately finds himself lost in the world of the spirits. After a strange and violent blizzard leaves Pitu stranded on the sea ice, without his dog team or any weapons to defend himself, he soon realizes that he is no longer in the world that he once knew. The storm has carried him into the world of the spirits, a world populated with terrifying creatures—black wolves with red eyes, ravenous and constantly stalking him, and water-dwelling creatures that want nothing more than to snatch him and pull him into the frigid ocean through an ice crack—as well as beings less frightening, but equally as incredible, such as a lone giant who can carry Pitu in the palm of her hand and keeps caribou and polar bears as pets.
After stumbling upon a fellow shaman who has been trapped in the spirit world for many years, Pitu must master all of his shamanic powers to make his way back to the world of the living, to his family, and to the girl that he loves.[iv]
Aviaq Johnston is from Igloolik, Nunavut, and this is her first novel. It is the 2018 Winner of Indigenous Voices Award for Most Significant Work of Prose in English by an Emerging Indigenous Writer, and a Finalist for the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature.
For a Women’s Point of View
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women
Edited by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale
Native women demand to be heard in this stunning anthology.
Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous girls and women across North America resound in this book. In the same visual style as the bestselling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, intergenerational trauma, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women demanding change and realizing their dreams. Sometimes outraged, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have had their history hidden and whose modern lives have been virtually invisible.[v]
The anthology contains works by fifty-eight contributors from across North America, including Danielle Daniel, Julie Flett, Lee Maracle, and Rosanna Deerchild.
Once you have read these novels, pick up one of the following Young Adult books, featured on our other lists:
Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones
The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti LaBoucane-Benson (Author), Kelly Mellings (Illustrator)
[i]Synopsis and Cover Photo from Cormorant Books
[ii]Synopsis and Cover Photo from Harper Collins
[iv]Synopsis and Cover Photo from Inhabit Media
[v]Synopsis and Cover Photo from Annick Press