How to Select Books by Native Creatives
Even though Native people are still here, there are two months when the general public seems to focus on Native culture, traditions, and books – October and November. But books crafted by Indigenous authors and illustrators can be read all year long!
Over the years, I’ve taken notice of the Native book displays of libraries and bookstores. Most of the time, I can barely find one that’s prominently on display, even during October and November. When I search the library catalog or ask in the store if they have (insert Native author or book title here), the answer is usually no. It’s like we’re invisible.
These are sad conversations at first because I realize that the staff – who are really trying to help – don’t recognize who or what I’m talking about.
So my teacher brain lights up. I realize How can I take offense when people just don’t have the knowledge? And then I wonder why they don’t have the knowledge? And, how can I help them gain the knowledge?
Why People Know About Native Books
Since 2019, Native creatives have publishing more contemporary books than ever before…so it’s a new thing that’s happened. It’s exciting! You can watch a small portion (3 minutes) of a book talk I gave last November HERE.
A Process for Selecting Books by Native Creatives
There are some great resources out there for choosing the right books. Try these first:
- Debbie Reese website page titled “Best Books” and her “recommended books” list on her blog
- Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website is full of book information! Her blog “Cynsations” highlights best book choices and interviews with authors.
While doing your own research, try these steps to find authentic books:
- Investigate the author (and/or illustrator) by doing some research and see how they are tribally affiliated. Look for: a specific nation, “enrolled or citizen of,” or and explanation of their descendancy connection.
- Type into your search engine “author’s name + news” and see what pops up. Is this person a good role model for children?
- Refer to the Native Knowledge 360° “Worksheet for Selecting Native American Children’s Literature” (an identical worksheet can be found on the Smithsonian and Debbie Reese websites) Is the book using a present day worldview?
These are just a few ideas to help you find Native stories to share with your readers. Please group contemporary and authentic Native kidlit on your displays.
Avoid sneaking in that one book you loved as a kid, that you have in stock, or others that don’t belong. They stand out. Older books (common, well-known ones that were used in our schools) have inaccuracies in them and perpetuate the stereotypes of Native people living in the past.
And as you learn more, adjust your stock.
As I learn more, I adjust books and authors that I share.
We are still here, living in vibrant communities. Help us become more “visible” on your book displays – all year long.
Thank your for supporting Native Creatives and their exceptional work!