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Decolonizing your grown-up bookshelf

Here's a list of five books that feature Indigenous authors and illustrators
Three book covers, from left to right, all written by Indigenous authors: river woman, by Katherena Vermette; Five Little Indians, by Michelle Good; Split Tooth, by Tanya Tagaq.

Over the past couple of months, IndigiNews has been exploring what it might look like to decolonize the bookshelves of children and teens – but what about for adults? Decolonizing bookshelf

Jenessa Joy Klukas, child welfare and education storyteller, has compiled a list of five books by Indigenous authors, across genres, that are worth adding to your personal library. 

Son of a Trickster

By Eden Robinson / Fiction

This is a coming-of-age novel which explores the complexities of being an Indigenous teen in a small town. It also delves into the social issues of poverty, addiction and family dynamics. This the first book in a trilogy along with Trickster Drift and Return of the Trickster. 

Eden Robinson is from the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations. 

From the Ashes 

By Jesse Thistle / Memoir 

This heartbreaking memoir walks through Jesse Thistle’s life as an Indigenous man. As he and his brothers enter the foster “care” system, Thistle battles with memories of his father who lived with a drug addiction. It also follows Thistle’s own struggles with substance use, his experiences of houselesness, and how he eventually found his way back to himself. This is a story of courage, community and a reawakening of intergenerational strength. 

Jessie Thistle is Métis/Cree, and is an assistant professor at York University. 

river woman 

By Katherena Vermette / Poetry

river woman is Vermette’s second book of poetry, which explores and celebrates love as “postcolonial action.” These poems address how her personal kinship with trauma has shapeshifted over time, and how she searches for moments that have been lost. 

Katherena Vermette is a Métis poet and novelist from Treaty 1 territory. 

Split Tooth 

By Tanya Tagaq / Memoir/Fiction

This book is a coming-of-age story which collides the genres of fiction and memoir. The story follows the life of a young girl in Nunavut in the 1970’s as she experiences the wonders of the world around her, through ice, sky, and animals, along with the trials that alcohol addiction and violence bring. When she becomes pregnant she’s forced to face a crushing reality. Split Tooth is a beautiful weaving of narrative and genres, and blurs the lines between myth and reality. 

Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk writer and musician.

Five Little Indians

By Michelle Good / Fiction

Five Little Indians follows the life of five youth as they leave residential “school” for adulthood. After being detained for so long, these five characters learn to navigate the unfamiliar outside world, while trying to reconcile with the trauma of their childhood. Harper Collins Publishing says that “with compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.” 

Michelle Good is a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.