A Book by an Indigenous Author: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020

February 25, 2020 | Despina

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I was heartened when I asked library staff and customers for their favourite books by Indigenous authors for our Reading Challenge – they responded with such passion. I believe that Indigenous literature may be one more path to Truth and Reconciliation. 

I've hosted many author talks and lectures at my branch, and one theme that authors consistently raise is "write what you know." Who better than our excellent Indigenous writers to tell us about their experiences in and out of their communities?

My own introduction to Indigenous authors was Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, a book that I would now consider a classic. My immediate response was to want to read more by Mr. Wagamese, and more by other Indigenous authors. If you feel the same, you can always find great reads in our Read Indigenous list, created in consultation with Toronto Public Library's Indigenous Advisory Council

And here are some books our staff and other participants are reading for the TPL Reading Challenge.


Staff Recommendations

These books were picked by our staff for "a book by an Indigenous author".

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act

21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act by Bob Joseph

All formats

After reading this book, I was made acutely aware of how little I know. This is a short guide that breaks down what is in the Indian Act and the impact of that Act on generations of people. If there was a list of books that all Canadians should read, I feel like this one should be on that list. As Joseph says, "Reconciliation is not an Indigenous problem, it's a Canadian problem, and every Canadian needs to be aware of this dark period of history, understand that it has caused an intergenerational and ongoing impact, and find ways and means to support reconciliation."

- Nalini, Branch Head


Indigenous Relations

Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality by Bob Joseph with Cynthia F. Joseph

All formats

An extremely relevant read right now for people interested in relations with Indigenous people in Canada. The current context of pipeline protests and railroad blockades certainly brings this issue of getting along with and understanding Indigenous people to the forefront of Canadian society. The book instructs readers on how to avoid offensive and stereotypical phrases, how to work with Indigenous elders, and provides a basic understanding of the Indian Act and treaties. Talking the talk goes along with walking the walk for Canadians who truly believe in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

- John, Branch Head


There There

There There by Tommy Orange

All formats

We just read it for book club and it was fantastic - unanimously regarded as a propelling, well-crafted, necessary and unique story. Orange is American (from Oakland) so it's a different Indigenous perspective than a lot of what I've read from Indigenous authors up here (for instance, nothing about residential schools in this one where it's usually central in "Canadian" Indigenous works).

- Andrea, Librarian


Empire of Wild

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

All formats

A really suspenseful novel with an element of the mythical and some funny moments. I couldn't put it down and kept almost missing my stop. Joan's husband disappears one night after they have a huge fight. Except, almost a year later, she swears she sees him in a parking lot, leading a church revival group. She sets off on an adventure to uncover the truth: she knows she saw her husband, and she wants him back. Even when the man claims to have no knowledge of who she is.

- Pauline, Librarian


Seven Fallen Feathers

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga

All formats

This book tells the story of seven Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay who died between 2000 and 2011, eventually prompting an inquest. It is very powerful. I had the opportunity to hear Tanya Talaga speak on two occasions, and the story behind how this book came to be is also quite interesting. As a journalist for the Toronto Star, she was in Thunder Bay writing a piece on why there was such low voter turnout from Indigenous communities, and was eventually convinced that a piece on elections wasn't the story she should be writing.

- Larysa, Senior Services Specialist


Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

All formats

A strangely uplifting and highly readable black comedy about a teenager named Jared and his messy life as a drug dealer with a dysfunctional family. Strangely, Jared is finding that the supernatural keeps creeping into his already-complicated life. A raven occasionally talks to him. An old woman keeps turning up, but she seems to have a creature moving beneath her skin. Soon, he is spotting animal spirits practically everywhere he goes. Eventually, Jared's mother confesses that his father is a trickster named Wee'git. Son of a Trickster was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2017. It's fresh, funny, and moving. It is also the first book in a trilogy, so if you enjoy it, there's more to read!

- Amy, Assistant Branch Head


The Marrow Thieves

The Marrow Thieves

All formats

A great book for YA readers and adults. It takes post-apocalyptic writing to the next level! It is on the Amnesty International Book club list as well.

 - Rachelle, Senior Services Specialist 


The Inconvenient Indian

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King

All formats

My all time favorite.

- Eunice, Librarian


This Place

This Place: 150 Years Retold

All formats

A comics anthology from a stellar cast of creators, with a foreword by Alicia Elliott.

- Jennifer, Librarian


The Break

The Break by Katherena Vermette

All formats


Birdie by Tracey Lindberg

All formats

Jonny Appleseed

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

All formats

These are hard stories to read but they say so much about the impacts of colonization on Indigenous peoples.

- Cynthia, Manager



Injichaag: My Soul in Story by Rene Meshake with Kim Anderson

All formats

Rene is a creator of powerful poetry and art. We have also a couple of his children's books. And Rene and Kim shared stories at North York Central Library in the fall, in a discussion moderated by Armand Garnet Ruffo. 

Indigenous Men and Masculinities

Indigenous Men and Masculinities ed. Kim Anderson and Robert Alexander Innes

All formats

An academic work by Indigenous academics. It explores identities. Powerful and challenging. Kim's other titles are also at TPL.

- Marie, Librarian


Recommendations from the Indigenous Services Committee:

Our Indigenous Services Committee shared this booklist of titles with Indigenous content and authors with recommendations for many of the Reading Challenge categories!


Recommendations from our Facebook group:

These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2020 discussion group.


Be sure to join our TPL Reading Challenge Facebook group, attend our Reading Challenge Meetups,  and read our other booklists. So many books, so little time!

What did you read for "a book by an Indigenous author"? Do you have other recommendations? Share in the comments below!


Updated June 8, 2020: Added link to booklist from our Indigenous Services Committee.