Editor Cherise Lopes-Baker shares her Indigenous YA recommendations

YA encompasses many sins and many delights. Working in this industry is a constant battle for representation, but also a constant celebration of community. In these especially uncertain times, I’d love to focus on the joys and triumphs.

Thank you so much for your support of our debut YA, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. I am sincerely grateful for the reception this book has received. Not to be biased, but this is one of my favourite books of all time. Striking and tender, Cherie expertly enfolded us in the very real horrors of indigenous genocide, as well as the complexity of a community and culture trying to survive.

I’d love to share with you other Native YA I’m excited to read:

Race to the Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse

While technically Middle Grade, I am incredibly excited to read this new book from the Rick Riordan Presents Imprint. Roanhorse already captured my attention with the addictive Trail of Lightning fantasy series, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store now! 

"Lately Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins [...] When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says 'Run', the siblings and Nizhoni's best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Dine Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters…"

Rebecca Roanhorse has also contributed to YA anthologies: A Phoenix First Must Burn and How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation.

Crazy Horse's Girlfriend, Erika T. Wurth

While difficult to get your hands on in the UK, Erika T. Wurth is worth the effort. An incredible author, she has also written several poetry collections, including Buckskin Cocaine, and judged for literary magazine, Desert Rose.

"Margaritte is a sharp-tongued, drug-dealing, sixteen-year-old Native American floundering in a Colorado town crippled by poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse. She hates the burnout, futureless kids surrounding her and dreams that she and her unreliable new boyfriend can move far beyond the bright lights of Denver that float on the horizon before the daily suffocation of teen pregnancy eats her alive."

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young PeopleRoxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz originally wrote An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States in 2015, and it has since been adapted to YA by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza last year. Debbie Reese is herself Nambé Pueblo and an integral activist for Native representation in children’s publishing. She has created a wealth of resources to learn more at: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/

"Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up history examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism.

The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history."

Give Me Some Truth, Eric Gansworth

Gansworth’s follow up to If I Ever Get Out of Here promises to be as musical, stirring and immersive as his other work. 

"Carson Mastick is entering his senior year of high school and desperate to make his mark, on the reservation and off. A rock band -- and winning Battle of the Bands -- is his best shot. But things keep getting in the way. Small matters like the lack of an actual band, or his brother getting shot by the racist owner of a local restaurant.

Maggi Bokoni has just moved back to the reservation with her family. She's dying to stop making the same traditional artwork her family sells to tourists (conceptual stuff is cooler), stop feeling out of place in her new (old) home, and stop being treated like a child. She might like to fall in love for the first time too.

Carson and Maggi -- along with their friend Lewis -- will navigate loud protests, even louder music, and first love in this stirring novel about coming together in a world defined by difference."

Heart’s Unbroken, Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Jingle Dancer and Rain is not my Indian name, has a new paperback YA out on April 16th! Heart’s Unbroken promises to be just as thoughtful and wonderful as her previous best-selling works. 

"When Louise Wolfe's first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It's her senior year, anyway, and she'd rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper's staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director's inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town [...] As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey -- but as she's learned, 'dating while Native' can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey's?"

Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

(Please note, I have not been able to ascertain whether this is an own-voices book, but it is based on Mayan beliefs.) 

Mayan monsters and gods cavort through the grandeur of Jazz Age, Mexico. With a similar feel to Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, Roanhorse herself endorsed Gods of Jade and Shadow as “an evocative and moving fairy-tale about a downtrodden girl and the Mayan God of Death and how they both find each other and their humanity together ...”

"The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy scrubbing floors in her wealthy grandfather's house to do more than dream of a life far from her small town in southern Mexico.

Until the day she accidentally frees an ancient Mayan god of death, who offers her a deal: in return for Casiopea's help in recovering his throne, he will grant her whatever she desires.

From the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City and deep into the darkness of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, Casiopea's adventure will take her on a perilous cross-country odyssey beyond anything she's ever known."