November is Native American Heritage Month!
I've been fascinated by Native American history since I read Celia Rees's Witch Child when I was around fourteen, and the older I grew the more I realised just how much western, European societies completely screwed over indigenous people around the world.
The worst thing is indigenous people are still being treated poorly; in fact one of America's most popular holidays is celebrated because Native Americans helped starving colonials and the settlers then repayed them by slaughtering them. Ah, good times.
I know very, very little about Native American history but it's something I'm constantly eager to learn more about. I've been meaning to do a reading challenge like this for a while now and there's no time like the present!
If you'd like to join in then please feel free! If you would like to join in, I've created three 'rules' to encourage reading that doesn't encourage oppression, white-washing or victimisation. Naturally books that feature horrible moments in history are likely to be read during a reading challenge like this, but I'd like it to be a primarily positive and eye-opening experience.
1) Read a book written by a Native American author. Someone like Sherman Alexie or Thomas King, for example! Someone who's as white as milk but whose great great grandmother was Native American doesn't count.
2) Read a book with a Native American protagonist. Something like Celia Rees's Sorceress or Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
3) Read a book with Native American characters. These are books in which the protagonist may not be Native American, but there are characters in the book who are Native American and who also have agency. The Twilight books would fit into this category, as would Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves.
You don't have to do any of these challenges to take part, I don't want this to come across as some strict reading challenge if it is something you want to do, I can only suggest that, if you do want to take part, you read books that don't exoticise America's indigenous people or treat them as punching bags with no agency. Don't do what Joe Wright did when he cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily...
So what'll I be reading? Well there are a few books I own I've yet to get to, and now seems like the perfect time to gobble them up! I don't know if I'll get to all of them, though I hope I do, because I'm going to try and take part in a few other reading challenges this month too, but I'm certainly going to try.
I'd be a hypocrite if my TBR didn't match my own rules, so I've got a book for each. I've been meaning to read more Geraldine Brooks since I read and enjoyed Year of Wonders which, like Caleb's Crossing, is a fictionalised account of a true event. Caleb's Crossing is based on the first Native American student to graduate from Harvard in 1665; while the student himself isn't our protagonist he's still a very important character, and instead our protagonist is Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Puritan minister whose childhood friendship with Caleb, a local chieftain's son, ends up with her following him to college as his housekeeper. It's Bethia's father who sends Caleb to college, intending to prove that 'savages' can be 'civilised', and Bethia's forced to watch her friend receive the education her own sex deprives her of.
Joseph Boyden's The Orenda has three protagonists, two of whom are Native Americans. Or I suppose I should say Native Canadians, given that Canada is actually the setting of this novel, but I'm still going to count them as part of this challenge for no other reason than that it wasn't actually North America's indigenous population who decided Canada and the United States were separate countries so... Anyway, I've yet to read any Joseph Boyden but I've heard nothing but good things, particularly about this novel. It's quite chunky but I'm looking forward to diving into it!
I mentioned Thomas King above and unlike the other books on my TBR The Inconvenient Indian is a piece of non-fiction, and another book I've heard nothing but praise for. Thomas King is a Native American writer who, through this book, explores the history of North America's indigenous population, the way indingeous people are still treated now, and even how Native Americans are portrayed in the media. I think it's going to be a heart-breaking read, but an importand and informative one. If I can only get to one of these books this month, I hope it's this one.
I'll be back in a few days with some recommendations for anyone interested in joining me for this reading challenge, and if not I hope you look forward to any reviews or discussions I post throughout November!