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So You Want to Read Indigenous Fiction

So you want to read indigenous fiction? Here's seven must-read works from seven must-read authors.
So you want to read indigenous fiction? Here's seven must-read works from seven must-read authors. By Angel Zhang
By Ava E. Silva, Crimson Staff Writer

Many aspects of Indigenous history are colored by dark, historical truths. The world is beginning to shine a light on the underrepresented history of Indigenous peoples, but there is still much more work to be done. However, recent pushes from Indigenous authors have created a new era of positive representation and visibility in fiction.

Indigenous culture is more than a history of pain — it’s a tapestry of powerful stories, spiritual connection to nature, and new ways of looking at the world. The Indigenous writers of today are changing the narrative of what it means to be Indigenous by celebrating the beauty of our culture and uplifting Indigenous identities. By diving into the following stories, readers can explore the way that Indigenous people view the world.

“The Marrow Thieves” by Cherie Dimaline

This young adult novel takes a new turn on the traditional dystopian trope: In a world destroyed by global warming, the remaining population has lost the ability to dream — except Indigenous people. This ability stems from Indigenous people’s bone marrow. As a result, the Indigenous population is often forced to donate their marrow, even if the consequence is death. The novel combines the exploitation of Indigenous communities with a unique dystopian world to create an impactful representation of systemic abuse.

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger and illustrated by Rovina Cai

In this novel, America resembles the one known today, but it is infused with fantasy. The protagonist, Elatsoe, has the ability to raise animals from the dead, a common gift passed down in her family. When her cousin dies under suspicious circumstances, Elatsoe goes through a winding tale of mystery. Through magic, monsters, and other supernatural characters, both evil and good forces come into play. The novel was included in Time’s collection of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time and is a gripping tale that centers indigenous voices.

“Walking in Two Worlds” by Wab Kinew

An indigenous teenager is pulled between two worlds, one virtual and one real. While in the real world, the main character, Bugz, is a reserved teenager — but in her virtual realm, she takes on a fearless alter-ego. The novel moves through her journey of navigating these two worlds and the relationships that exist in both. Through the lens of a world heavily influenced by virtual reality, Kinew conveys the struggle between anxiety and self-confidence through an indigenous character.

“There There” by Tommy Orange

“There There” is equal parts mesmerizing and moving. This book was Orange’s breakout novel and immediately catapulted him into the national spotlight, as the book was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and received countless other awards. This elegantly written and powerful piece tells the story of 12 different Indigenous characters from different communities. Their interwoven stories question identity, specifically urban Indigenous identity, and reconfigure what belonging can look like.

“Sabrina & Corina” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

This collection of short stories highlights Latina characters of Indigenous ancestry and the generational bonds that connect them. Set against the backdrop of Colorado, Fajardo-Anstine depicts a varied cast of strong female characters who deal with discrimination, addiction, poverty, and displacement. She masterfully tackles feminism, indigeneity, and the intersection of the two.

“Where the Dead Sit Talking” by Brandon Hobson

In this excellently crafted and deeply emotional coming-of-age story, the main character, Sequoyah, is placed in foster care after the arrest of his mother. The book’s characters are extremely complex, and Hobson achieves a heartbreaking honesty that shines a light on hard truths in American society. Hobson‘s Indigenous protagonist also grapples with gender identity, further underscoring historically marginalized voices and their intersections.

“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath” by Moniquill Blackgoose

This novel follows the character Anequs, who bonds with a dragon hatchling, setting in motion a revival of dragons in her community on the island of Masquapaug. However, the “Anglish” settlers label her as unfit to care for such a mysterious and valuable animal, and they send her to a school that they deem more suitable. The story showcases Anequs’s coming of age and growth into her power. Blackgoose adds an exciting layer to this book through her inventive and unique world building without losing the impact of the social issues she addresses. Through the historical parallels of Anequs’s forced education and the settler ideals of the Anglish to residential schools and colonization, Blackgoose delivers a captivating story and powerful message about assimilation through the lens of a mystical world.

—Staff writer Ava E. Silva can be reached at

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