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A Reading List for Native American Heritage Month

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

By Deborah J. Ledford

My latest novel, Redemption (published September 1, ), features Eva “Lightning Dance” Duran, a Taos Pueblo sheriff’s deputy searching for her best friend and once-famous hoop dancer, Paloma “White Dove” Arrio, who has become addicted to heroin after a career-ending injury and veers her idyllic life off course. Paloma’s son and Eva form an unsanctioned alliance to find the woman no one else in their tribe believes is missing.

As a Native American author of six published novels featuring Native characters, it is a bit unnerving to be unable to find an extensive offering of books actually written by Native women. I’m thrilled to see the doors beginning to open as readers discover new Native American voices.

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, here are some exceptional titles by Native female authors to add to your reading list.

Shutter, by Ramona Emerson, continues to be at the top of my recommendation list. This is an intriguing tale about a Navajo crime scene photographer haunted by slayed Natives, whose spirits insist she help solve their murders.

Newly released Blood Sisters by Vanessa Lillie is racing up the bestseller lists and creating big buzz. When bones are found on the reservation where Cherokee archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Syd Walker was raised, she is tasked with finding out the dead woman’s identity—which ties directly to a deadly crime from Syd’s Oklahoma childhood.

A number of stories by female writers appear in the phenomenal Never Whistle at Night. This anthology is written exclusively by Natives, many of them women. Most notably is the story “Wingless” by Marcie R. Rendon, who also writes the fascinating Cash Blackbear Mystery series about an Ojibwe university student and crime solver.

If you’re looking for something a bit chilling, check out White Horse by Erika T. Wurth. A bit supernatural, a touch ghostly, and completely satisfying, this debut novel is certain to keep you thinking about the story long after you’ve reached the final page.

For readers who enjoy historical fiction, Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling takes place in the 1940s on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. Earling’s thoroughly distinctive voice captivates and transports readers back in time, where the characters face issues relevant and relatable to today’s challenges.

Nonfiction enthusiasts will find interest in Code Talker Stories by Laura Tohe. This is a fascinating account of the Navajo marines who used their indigenous language to transmit crucial information during World War II.

I would be remiss not to mention the premier Native bestselling author, Louise Erdrich. Although all of Erdrich’s novels are exceptional, her National Book Award Winner The Round House is some of the finest literature ever crafted.

Posted November 27, 2023

Deborah J. Ledford is the award-winning author of the Native American Eva “Lightning Dance” Duran Series, including Redemption and Havoc (2024). Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she is an Agatha Award winner, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, and two-time Anthony Award Finalist for Best Audiobooks Crescendo and Causing Chaos from her Smoky Mountain Inquest Series set in the great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Deborah lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and awesome Ausky. DeborahJLedford.com