Native American Books for Teens
This is part 3 of a 3 part series by Debbie Reese, renowned scholar of Native American Children’s Literature. Part 1 is Top 10: Best Native American Picture Books. Part 2 is Top 10: Native American Middle School Books.
p.s. I updated this list: Top 10 Best Native American Books for Kids because I had a lot to learn about which books best depict the people of First Nations.
Top Ten Native American Books Recommended for High School
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie is accused of sexual misconduct.
Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative by Ignatia Broker
With the art of a practiced storyteller, Ignatia Broker recounts the life of her great-great-grandmother, Night Flying Woman, who was born in the mid-19th century and lived during a chaotic time of enormous change, uprootings, and loss for the Minnesota Ojibway. But this story also tells of her people’s great strength and continuity. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today edited by Lori Marie Carlson
A supermarket checkout line, a rowboat on a freezing lake at dawn, a drunken dance in the gym, an ice hockey game on public-access TV. These are some of the backgrounds against which ten outstanding authors have created their memorable characters. Their work — both poignant and funny, sarcastic and serious — reminds us that the American Indian story is far from over — it’s being written every day.[young adult, ages 14 and up]
Waterlily by Ella C. Deloria
This book traces the life of Waterlily, a Sioux woman, from her birth to the birth of her own child, and shares her view of tribal culture. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
Stories for a Winter’s Night: Fiction by Native American Writers edited by Maurice Kenny
A collection of short stories by thirty-five Native American authors ranging from those who have achieved mainstream success to young writers just starting out. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
One Good Story, That One by Thomas King
These highly acclaimed stories conjure up Native and Judeo-Christian myths, present-day pop culture, and literature while mixing in just the right amount of perception and experience. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories by Simon J. Ortiz
Best known for his poetry, Ortiz also has authored 26 short stories that have won the hearts of readers through the years. Men on the Moon brings these stories together—stories filled with memorable characters, written with love by a keen observer and interpreter of his people’s community and culture. True to Native American tradition, these tales possess the immediacy—and intimacy—of stories conveyed orally. They are drawn from Ortiz’s Acoma Pueblo experience but focus on situations common to Native people, whether living on the land or in cities, and on the issues that affect their lives. We meet Jimmo, a young boy learning that his father is being hunted for murder, and Kaiser, the draft refuser who always wears the suit he was given when he left prison. We also meet some curious Anglos: radicals supporting Indian causes, scholars studying Indian ways, and San Francisco hippies who want to become Indians too.
Whether telling of migrants working potato fields in Idaho and pining for their Arizona home or of a father teaching his son to fly a kite, Ortiz takes readers to the heart of storytelling. Men on the Moon shows that stories told by a poet especially resound with beauty and depth. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories by Luci Tapahonso
Wrapped in blankets and looking at the stars, a young Navajo girl listened long ago to stories that would guide her for the rest of her life. “Such summer evenings were filled with quiet voices, dogs barking far away, the fire crackling, and often we could hear the faint drums and songs of a ceremony somewhere in the distance,” writes Luci Tapahonso in this compelling collection. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor
Nothing ever happens on the Otter Lake reservation. But when 16-year-old Tiffany discovers her father is renting out her room, she’s deeply upset. Sure, their guest is polite and keeps to himself, but he’s also a little creepy. Little do Tiffany, her father, or even her astute Granny Ruth suspect the truth. The mysterious Pierre L’Errant is actually a vampire, returning to his tribal home after centuries spent in Europe. But Tiffany has other things on her mind: her new boyfriend is acting weird, disputes with her father are escalating, and her estranged mother is starting a new life with somebody else. Fed up and heartsick, Tiffany threatens drastic measures and flees into the bush. There, in the midnight woods, a chilling encounter with L’Errant changes everything … for both of them. A mesmerizing blend of Gothic thriller and modern coming-of-age novel, The Night Wanderer is unlike any other vampire story. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp
Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the center of the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school “tramp.”
In this powerful and very funny first novel, Richard Van Camp gives us one of the most original teenage characters in Canadian fiction. Skinny as spaghetti, nervy and self-deprecating, Larry is an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability. His past holds many terrors: an abusive father, blackouts from sniffing gasoline, an accident that killed several of his cousins, and he’s now being hunted and haunted by a pack of blue monkeys. But through his new friendship with Johnny, a Metis who just moved to town, he’s now ready to face his memories — and his future.
The Lesser Blessed is an eye-opening depiction of what it is to be a young Dogrib man in the age of AIDS, disillusionment with Catholicism, and a growing world consciousness. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
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p.s. Related posts:
Native American Books For Kids
A Selection of #OwnVoices Native American Stories
#OwnVoices Powwow Picture Books
Native American Residential Schools #OwnVoices Book List
Books for Kids to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month
Contemporary Native Americans in KidLit
Do kids think that Native Americans are only the past? This list will hopefully change that!
Native American Folklore and Creation Stories by Native Americans
Plimoth Plantation: Learning About Native Americans
What to read when preparing for a visit to Plimoth Plantation.
Top 10: Native American Children’s Books (ages 2-16)
This is the list I made.
Top 10: Best Native American Middle School Books
Debbie Reese’s list for middle grade chapter books.
Top 10: Best Native American Picture Book
Debbie Reese’s list for picture books.
Top 10: Best Native American Young Adult Books
Debbie Reese’s list of YA books is very popular.
Notable Native American Children’s Author: Joseph Bruchac
I am a huge fan of Joseph Bruchac, a happy discovery from chatting with my librarian when creating my list.
The Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
The author of this advanced picture book lives one town over!
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
4 thoughts on “Top 10: Best Native American Young Adult Books”
Thank you Ms. Reese. I am fascinated by your ability to self promote, your seeming endless options, and your belief that you speaks for all native peoples and cultures
I think that it’s great that Debbie Reese speaks on behalf of Native Americans with regard to how they are portrayed in children’s literature. She is uniquely qualified and seems to want to break egregious stereotyping.
I guess this is thankless work.
Missed these excellent book selections while on vacation. Will RT.
Thanks so much Patricia for sharing! I really appreciate it! I hope you had a great vacation. Where did you go?