Em & M’s Book Nook: Amplifying Indigenous voices


Emily Luethy

Author Darcie Little Badger creates a fantasy world where main character Elatsoe has the power of raising ghosts of dead animals, a special power that has been passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family.

Emily Luethy, Features editor


“I Can Make This Promise” by Christine Day

“I Can Make This Promise,” written by Christine Day, follows main character Edie, who has always felt a strong pull towards her family’s culture. However, this proves difficult because her mother was adopted and is completely closed off in regards to her biological family. One day, while Edie is searching the attic, she finds a box full of letters from a woman named Edith. Along with the letters are many pictures of someone who looks just like Edie.  Full of a whole new list of questions, she must confront her mother’s past in order to face her future.

This book unexpectedly tugged at my heart. I really fell for the main character, Edie, which definitely helped me connect with the story. I also loved how the reader was trying to solve the mystery with our main characters, it was such a fun element of storytelling that kept me engaged throughout the whole novel.

“Heart’s Unbroken” by Cythina Leitich Smith

“Hearts Unbroken” is a contemporary YA novel by Leitich Smith that centers around Louisa, who has recently moved. A little bit before summer ends, her new boyfriend makes an ignorant comment about indigenous people, not realizing Lou herself is also a Native American. Breaking up with your new school’s top guy is a huge weight on her shoulders, so she decides to join the journalism team as a distraction. It’s there that she is paired up with Joey, as they compete to run the features department. Then a story falls into both of their laps: a group of parents is bothered about the diverse cast of “The Wizard of Oz”, claiming that all characters should be white. Readers follow Lou as she struggles with learning how to stick up for what she believes in, as well as finding her own identity.

I was truly delighted with the conversations brought up in this book. It really made me think about how I would handle situations, something that I really appreciate, especially in fiction novels. After finishing the book, I really took the time to reflect on everything that Smith included, which I recommend everyone to do after completing it.

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger

“Elatsoe” takes the reader to an America that is not quite like our own. Author Darcie Little Badger creates a fantasy world where main character Elatsoe has the power of raising ghosts of dead animals, a special power that has been passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. When her cousin has been dreadfully murdered, it is up to her to find justice.

With similar ties to “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, this novel with gorgeous prose celebrates Native American culture wonderfully. With the mix of magical realism Darcie Little Badger creates a stunning world readers will not soon forget. Additionally, Little Badger provides excellent political commentary that stirs the pot in just the right direction.


“Apple: Skin to the Core” by Eric Gansworth

“Apple: Skin to the Core,” is a memoir written in verse that chronicles Eric Gansworth’s life.  He describes with great detail how the dominant white culture treats him and his fellow indigenous folk in everyday life.

This book is written extremely well, with such great imagery included within the poems. Though the book can be quite heavy at times, it still is very approachable with the way it’s scripted. I highly recommend this if you are looking for a great start for non fiction voices of Native Americans.


McCleish – “Apple: Skin to the Core” is the first non-fiction book in verse I have read. I really enjoyed the way Gansworth unfolded his story and life in this style. I also really appreciated the drawings and photos that he included. Having been to a reservation in South Dakota myself, I could picture much of what Gansworth described. The pressure to constantly give up his culture is felt throughout as he and his family try to desperately hold on to who they want to be. More indigenous voices need to be highlighted and shared and I believe this book is extremely accessible for teens and adults.


“The Other Slavery: the Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America” by Andres Resendez

“The Other Slavery: the Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America,” written by historian Andres Resendez, delves into the previously untold tale of Native American enslavement across the U.S.

I loved this book so much because of how much it taught me. Going into this book I knew close to nothing about Indigenous enslavement, and after reading the last page I not only learned a whole bunch of new information, but I left wanting to learn even more.

“Rebone: the True Story of a Native American Rock Band” by Christian Staebler and Sonia Paolini

“Rebone: the True Story of a Native American Rock Band,” researched and written by Christian Staebler and Sonia Paolini along with illustrations by Thibault Balahy, is a graphic novel that showcases the inside story of a rock band composed exclusively of Native Americans. It demonstrates the usual struggles of finding fame with the added pressure of racism and bigotry.

One thing that this book did a great job of was being accessible towards potential younger readers. It broke down a lot of complicated issues, while still managing to expand the reader’s thinking outside of the text. The pictures were also extremely well done, and the color palette was excellent.