Native American Authors
Native American literature has grown in popularity and recognition in recent years. Writers such as Louis Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Leslie Marmon Silko paved the way for a new generation of Aboriginal writers. They use their storytelling prowess to confront these challenges head-on, initiating critical conversations and advocating for change.
Through their narratives, Native American authors raise awareness about the struggles faced by Indigenous communities and call for a more inclusive and equitable society.
Connecting ancestral traditions with contemporary experiences, Native American writers offer a unique perspective on American history and identity.
Their work spans a wide range of genres, including history, fiction, poetry, essays and memoirs.
Exploring cultural identity and heritage
Native American writers heighten their claims to cultural identity and heritage through references to ethnic traditions, and intimate connections between Native Americans and broader American life, as revealed by writers such as N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, and Tommy Orange.
They offer a clarity in evocative language and powerful symbolism that celebrates their heritage and commands a greater sense of resilience.
In addition to exploring cultural identity, Native American writers often address important social issues. Native American literature has grown exponentially in popularity and recognition in recent years.
The impactful works of Native American authors have inspired a new generation of Indigenous writers to share their own stories. Through diverse voices and perspectives, emerging authors like Terese Marie Mailhot, Tommy Pico, and Stephen Graham Jones are making their mark on the literary landscape.
With themes ranging from personal journeys to the reclamation of Native languages, these authors are contributing to the ongoing legacy of American literature and enriching the literary world with their unique voices.
As the literary landscape evolves, it is crucial to recognize and support these authors, encouraging the growth of Native American literature and fostering a more inclusive literary canon that honors the depth and complexity of Indigenous cultures.
Here is a list of 10 of the most interesting native American authors I have found. Some of their works will shed light on activism, culture, and history, while others expose the challenges of living on reservations or establishing an identity in the modern world. All are beautiful, well-written pieces of poetry, prose, and non-fiction that are excellent reads, regardless of the heritage of their authors. This list touches on just a few of the amazing Native American authors out there and can be a great starting point for those wanting to learn more about native americans.
Sherman Alexie is one of the best known Native American writers today. He has authored several novels and collections of poetry and short stories, a number of which have garnered him prestigious awards, including a National Book Award. couple of his most popular titles are The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Reservation Blues. In his work, Alexie draws on his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation, addressing sometimes difficult themes like despair, poverty, alcoholism, and Native American identity with humor and compassion. In fact, some of his descriptions were so real, that some schools banned his books for being too graphic. However, no survey of Native American literature is complete without Alexie’s work.
Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Marmon Silko is a key figure in the first wave of the “Native American Renaissance.” Silko is an accomplished writer who has been the recipient of MacArthur Foundation Grants and a lifetime achievement award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Her most well-known work is the novel Ceremony , in which she draws on her Laguna heritage to tell the story of a WWII veteran returning home from the war to his poverty-striken reservation. She has written numerous novels, short stories, and poems in the years since, and remains a powerful figure in American literature.
Janet Campbell Hale
Janet Campbell Hale grew up on reservations, which helped inspire some of the work of this writer and professor. Hale honed her gift for the written word at UC Berkeley while earning her M.A. in English. Her novel The Jailing of Cecelia Capture was nominated for a Pulitzer and is perhaps her best-known work, though her Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter is a close runner up, earning her the American Book Award. Both novels, one fiction and one non-fiction, are essential reads for anyone trying to understand the modern Native American experience.
Paula Gunn Allen
Paula Gunn Allen made an impact on both fiction and poetry, and on the anthropological understanding of Native American culture, making her a must-read for anyone exploring Native American literature. Among her fictional work, The Woman Who Owned the Shadows , her only novel, is a must-read, as is her collection of poems, Life Is a Fatal Disease. Both were inspired by Pueblo oral traditions and stories. Allen also produced impressive non-fiction work, perhaps most notably her book The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, a controversial work in which she argues that women played a much larger role in Native societies than was recorded by the largely patriarchal Europeans in their writings.
Vine Deloria, Jr
Vine Deloria, Jr was one of the most outspoken voices in Indian affairs for decades. His writings helped to redefine Native activism in the 60s and 70s. He is perhaps best-known for his book Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, which upon its publication in 1969 generated unprecedented attention to Indian issues. He would go on to write more than 20 books, addressing stereotypes, challenging accepted ideas of American history, and helping the American Indian Movement to gain momentum.
N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday , a writer, teacher, artist, and storyteller, N. Scott Momaday is one of the most celebrated Native American writers of the past century. His novel, House Made of Dawn , is widely credited with helping Native American writers break into the mainstream and won Momaday the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969. Since then, he has published several more novels, collections of short stories, plays, and poems and has been honored with numerous awards, including a National Medal of Arts and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. He was also made Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.
Professor Duane Niatum
Professor Duane Niatum has dabbled in everything from playwriting to essay writing, but he is best known for his poetry. His epic lyric poems draw on both the work of great Western poets and his native S’Klallam cultural heritage. Some of his best work can be found in his collections The Crooked Beak of Love and Songs for the Harvester of Dreams (which won the American Book Award)
Gerald Vizenor is one of the most prolific Native American writers, having published more than 30 books to date. In addition to teaching Native American Studies at UC Berkeley for several years, Vizenor has produced numerous screenplays, poems, novels, and essays. His novel Griever: An American Monkey King in China, a story that takes Native mythology overseas into a Chinese setting, won him the American Book Award in 1988. His latest novel, Shrouds of White Earth , also won him the same award, and he continues to be a leading figure in Native American literature today.
During her long literary career, Louise Erdrich has produced thirteen novels, as well as books of poetry, short stories, children books, and a memoir. Her first novel Love Medicine won her the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984, and would set the stage for her later work, The Plague of Doves, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. Erdrich’s work centers on Native American characters, but draws on the literary methods and narrative style pioneered by William Faulkner
James Welch was one of the best-known and respected Native American authors during his lifetime. The author of five novels, his work Fools Crow won an American Book Award in 1986 and Winter in the Blood has been named as an inspirational work by many other authors. Welch also published works of non-fiction and poetry, and even won an Emmy for the documentary he penned with Paul Stekler called The Battle of Little Bighorn.
In Honor of Vine Deloria, Jr. (1933-2005)
The great indigenous visionary, philosopher, author and activist Vine Deloria, Jr. passed over to join his ancestors on November 13, 2005.