New and Upcoming Indigenous Books: Fall 2021 Edition

November 12, 2021 | Jamie

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The seasons may have changed, but fantastic new books by Indigenous authors will always be here! Below we're sharing recently released and upcoming books by Indigenous authors, from mid-year to the end of 2021.

Want to read more books by Indigenous authors after you're done with these ones? Be sure to check out Read Indigenous, which is a yearly list of must-read titles for all ages that have been selected with Toronto Public Library's Indigenous Advisory Council.

Please note that when an author or illustrator is Indigenous, their nation(s) will be in brackets next to their name. Descriptions of the book are from the book's TPL record.



On the Trapline by David Robertson

On The Trapline written by David A. Robertson (Cree), illustrated by Julie Flett (Métis and Cree)

“A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, "Is this your trapline?" Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago -- a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child's wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family.”

Jo Jo Makoons : The Used-to-be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley

Jo Jo Makoons : The Used-to-be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley (Chippewa and Anishinaabe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqiyik and Neqotkuk)

"Hello/Boozhoo--meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in an all-new chapter book series by Dawn Quigley celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.

Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn--about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)

"Malian loves spending time with her grandparents at their home on a Wabanaki reservation. She’s there for a visit when, suddenly, all travel shuts down. There’s a new virus making people sick, and Malian will have to stay with her grandparents for the duration. Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but Malian knows how to keep her family and community safe: She protects her grandparents, and they protect her. She doesn’t go outside to play with friends, she helps her grandparents use video chat, and she listens to and learns from their stories. And when Malsum, one of the dogs living on the rez, shows up at their door, Malian’s family knows that he’ll protect them too. Told in verse inspired by oral storytelling, this novel about the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the ways Malian’s community has cared for one another through plagues of the past, and how they keep caring for one another today."

Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia L Smith

Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia L. Smith (Muscogee Creek)

"Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship? Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children, to a sea of merfolk, pirates, and a giant crocodile. A boy who calls himself Peter Pan."



Notable Native People : 50 Indigenous Leaders Dreamers and Changemakers from Past and Present by Adrienne Keene

Notable Native People : 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present written by Adrienne Keene (Cherokee), illustrated by Ciara Sana (Chamorro)

"An accessible and educational illustrated book profiling 50 notable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, from NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Standing Rock Lakota to Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation."

The Great Bear: Misewa Saga Book 2

The Great Bear : The Misewa Saga Book Two by David A. Robertson (Cree)

"Eli and Morgan journey once more to Misewa, travelling back in time. Back at home after their first adventure in the Barren Grounds, Eli and Morgan each struggle with personal issues--Eli is being bullied at school, and tries to hide it from Morgan, while Morgan has to make an important decision about her birth mother. They turn to the place where they know they can learn the most, and make the journey to Misewa to visit their animal friends. This time they travel back in time and meet a young fisher that might just be their lost friend. But they discover that the village is once again in peril, and they must dig deep within themselves to find the strength to protect their beloved friends. Can they carry this strength back home to face their own challenges?"

You can also read the first book in the Misewa Saga, The Barren Grounds, which came out in 2020.

Borders by Thomas King

Borders by Thomas King (Cherokee), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Métis)

"A graphic-novel adaptation based on the work of one of Canada's most revered and bestselling authors. "What side do you come from?" On a trip to visit his older sister, who moved away from the family home to Salt Lake City, a young boy and his mother are posed a simple question with a not so simple answer. And when border guards will not accept their citizenship, mother and son wind up trapped in an all-too-real limbo between nations that do not recognize who they are. A powerful graphic novel adaptation of the Thomas King short story, Borders explores themes of identity, belonging, and is a poignant depiction of the significance of a nation's physical borders from an Indigenous perspective. One of Thomas King's most celebrated pieces of short fiction is brought to vibrant, piercing life by the singular vision of artist Natasha Donovan."

Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache)

"Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She's always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.
Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he's been cast from home. He's found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake. Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli's best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven't been in centuries. And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

A Snake Falls to Earth is a breathtaking work of Indigenous futurism. Darcie Little Badger draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed."

A Perfect Likeness - Two Novellas by Richard Wagamese

A Perfect Likeness : Two Novellas by Richard Wagamese (Ojibway)

 "This volume contains two novellas by Richard Wagamese, Him Standing and The Next Sure Thing. Both stories follow the lives of young artists who have dreams for a better future."



The Strangers by Katherena Vermette

The Strangers by Katherena Vermette (Métis) 

"From the bestselling author of The Break comes a staggering intergenerational saga that explores how connected we are, even when we are no longer together—even when we’re forced apart. Cedar has nearly forgotten what her family looks like. Phoenix has nearly forgotten what freedom feels like. And Elsie has nearly given up hope. Nearly. As Cedar floats between foster homes, and eventually goes to live with her estranged father, she grapples with the pain of being separated from her mother, Elsie, and sister, Phoenix. From a youth detention centre, Phoenix gives birth to a baby she’ll never get to raise, and finds herself trying to—or wondering if she even should—forgive herself for all the harm she’s caused. Elsie, struggling with addiction and determined to turn her life around, is buoyed by the very idea of being reunited with her daughters and strives to be someone they can depend on, unlike her own distant mother, Margaret. These are the Strangers, each of them haunted in their own way by the death of Elsie’s youngest daughter, Sparrow, a sweet, boisterous 8-year-old who died suddenly of pneumonia, leaving the family reeling from the weight of her loss. Between flickering moments of warmth and support, the women diverge and reconnect, fighting to survive in a fractured system that dares them to succeed but expects them to fail. Facing the distinct blade of racism from those they trusted most, and a severe ignorance that surrounds them and confines their every move, they urge each other to move through the darkness, all the while wondering if they will ever emerge on the other side. A breathtaking companion to her bestselling debut The Break, Vermette’s The Strangers brings readers into the crushing and dynamic world of the Stranger family, the shared grief in their past, and the light that beckons from the horizon. This is a searing exploration of race, class, intergenerational trauma, and matrilineal bonds that—despite everything—refuse to be broken."

Unreconciled : Family Truth and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente

Unreconciled : Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente (Ojibway)

"One of Canada's most prominent Indigenous voices uncovers the lies Canada tells itself and the power of narrative to prioritize truth over comfort. Jesse Wente remembers the exact moment he realized that he was a certain kind of Indian. Not Anishinaabe or Ojibwe, but seen as a stereotypical cartoon Indian. He was playing softball as a child when the opposing team began to war-whoop when he was at bat. It was just one of many incidents that formed Wente's understanding of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in a society still overwhelmingly colonial in its attitudes and institutions. As the child of an American father and an Anishinaabe mother, Wente grew up in Toronto with frequent visits to the Serpent River reserve. By exploring his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and citing his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police who'd stop him on the streets, Wente unpacks the discrepancies between his personal identity and how non-Indigenous people view him. He also describes his discomfort at becoming a designated spokesperson for Indigenous people's concerns, even as he struggles with not feeling Ojibwe enough. In his work as a CBC Radio columnist, film critic and programmer, and as the founding director of the Indigenous Screen Office, Wente has analyzed and given voice to the differences between Hollywood portrayals of Indigenous people and lived culture. Through the lens of art, pop culture commentary, and personal stories, and with disarming humour, he links his love of baseball and movies to such issues as cultural appropriation, Indigenous representation and identity, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty. Indeed, he argues that storytelling in all its forms is one of Indigenous peoples' best weapons in the fight to reclaim their rightful place. Wente explores and exposes the lies that Canada tells itself, unravels "the two founding nations" myth, and insists that the notion of "reconciliation" is not a realistic path forward. There is not a state of peace between First Nations and the state of Canada that can be recovered through reconciliation--because no such relationship ever existed. Part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is a stirring call to arms to put truth over the flawed concept of reconciliation, and to build a new, respectful relationship between the nation of Canada and Indigenous peoples."

Call Me Indian by Fred Sasakamoose

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL's First Treaty Indigenous Player by Fred Sasakamoose (Cree)

"Trailblazer. Residential school survivor. First Indigenous player in the NHL. All of these descriptions are true--but none of them tell the whole story. Fred Sasakamoose suffered abuse in a residential school for a decade before becoming one of 125 players in the most elite hockey league in the world--and has been heralded as the first Canadian Indigenous player with Treaty status in the NHL. He made his debut with the 1954 Chicago Black Hawks on Hockey Night in Canada and taught Foster Hewitt how to correctly pronounce his name. Sasakamoose played against such legends as Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, and Maurice Richard. After twelve games, he returned home. When people tell Sasakamoose's story, this is usually where they end it. They say he left the NHL after only a dozen games to return to the family and culture that the Canadian government had ripped away from him. That returning to his family and home was more important to him than an NHL career. But there was much more to his decision than that. Understanding Sasakamoose's decision to return home means grappling with the dislocation of generations of Indigenous Canadians. Having been uprooted once, Sasakamoose could not endure it again. It was not homesickness; a man who spent his childhood as "property" of the government could not tolerate the uncertainty and powerlessness of being a team's property. Fred's choice to leave the NHL was never as clear-cut as reporters have suggested. And his story was far from over. He continued to play for another decade in leagues around Western Canada. He became a band councillor, served as Chief, and formed athletic programs for kids. He paved a way for youth to find solace and meaning in sports for generations to come. This isn't just a hockey story; Sasakamoose's groundbreaking memoir intersects Canadian history and Indigenous politics, and follows his journey to reclaim pride in an identity that had previously been used against him."

Sufferance by Thomas King

Sufferance by Thomas King (Cherokee)

"Jeremiah Camp, aka The Forecaster, can look into the heart of humanity and see the patterns that create opportunities and profits for the rich and powerful. Problem is, Camp has looked one too many times, has seen what he hadn’t expected to see, has come away from the abyss with no hope for himself or for the future. So, he does what any intelligent, sensitive person would do. He runs away. Goes into hiding in a small town, at an old residential school on an even smaller Indian reserve, with no phone, no internet, no television. The windows shut, the door locked, the mailbox removed to discourage any connection with the world, he feels safe at last. Except nobody told the locals that they were to leave Jeremiah alone. And then his past comes calling. Ash Locken, the head of the Locken Group, the multi-national consortium that Jeremiah has fled, arrives on his doorstep with a simple proposition. She wants our hero to formulate one more forecast, and she’s not about to take no for an answer. Before he left the Locken empire, Jeremiah had created a list of twelve names for Ash’s father, Thomas Locken. Billionaires, every one. The problem is, the people on the list are dying, at an alarming and unnatural rate. And Ash Locken wants to know why. A sly and satiric look at the fractures in modern existence, Sufferance is a bold and provocative novel about the social and political consequences of the inequality created by privilege and power -- and what we might do about it."

Me Tomorrow - Indigenous Views of the Future edited by Drew Hayden Taylor

Me Toronto: Indigenous Views of the Future edited by Drew Hayden Taylor (Ojibway)

"First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists, activists, educators and writers, youth and elders come together to envision Indigenous futures in Canada and around the world. Discussing everything from language renewal to sci-fi, this collection is a powerful and important expression of imagination rooted in social critique, cultural experience, traditional knowledge, activism and the multifaceted experiences of Indigenous people on Turtle Island.”

Richard Wagamese Selected : What Comes from Spirit by Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese Selected : What Comes from Spirit by Richard Wagamese (Ojibway)

"Richard Wagamese, one of Canada’s most celebrated Indigenous authors and storytellers, was a writer of breathtaking honesty and inspiration. Always striving to be a better, stronger person, Wagamese shared his journey through writing, encouraging others to do the same. Following the success of Embers, which has sold almost seventy thousand copies since its release in 2016, this new collection of Wagamese’s non-fiction works, with an introduction by Drew Hayden Taylor, brings together more of the prolific author’s short writings, many for the first time in print, and celebrates his ability to inspire. Drawing from Wagamese’s essays and columns, along with preserved social media and blog posts, this beautifully designed volume is a tribute to Wagamese’s literary legacy."