The Best Native American Authors You Can Listen to Right Now
Indigenous authors share a unique perspective and literary style that's hard to find anywhere else. The audiobooks by the authors on this list are must-listens for everyone looking to better understand this perspective.
July 1, 2021
You know that Native American voices are important, and you want to hear their stories. But where to begin? We've compiled some of the best contemporary Indigenous authors you can listen to right now. Some of these authors have several books to choose from and some are new to the literary scene. But whether they’re famous for memoir, literary fiction, horror, fantasy, or something else, all of these indigenous authors are worth a listen.
Tommy Orange is an American novelist from Oakland, California. He’s also a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Nationsin western Oklahoma. Published in 2018, his debut novel There, There became a New York Times Best Seller and won multiple awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Awards’ John Leonard Prize for the best book by a new voice.
There, There makes for an incredible listening experience. The novel is narrated by a full cast, including Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Alma Ceurvo, and Kyla Garcia. The story follows 12 characters who are all attending the Big Oakland Powwow in Oakland, California.
While authors like Tommy Orange are just making their debut on the literary scene, Louise Erdrich has been writing excellent works of poetry, novels, and children’s fiction for years. An enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a federally recognized tribe of the Anishinaabe, she’s been publishing since the 1970s, and her works all feature Native American characters and settings. Over the past several decades, her writing has won multiple awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction.
Erdrich’s most recent novel, The Night Watchman is based on the life of her maternal grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and fought against Native dispossession. This audiobook is wonderfully narrated by the author herself, which seems fitting for a story that is so personal.
Stephen Graham Jones
Fans of horror fiction, look no further—you’ve found your new favorite author. Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author who, since 2000, has released more than 20 novels across multiple genres, including science fiction, speculative fiction, and my personal favorite, horror.
You won’t want to miss Stephen Graham Jones’s latest audiobook, The Only Good Indians. The story follows four Native American men who are struggling for their lives after experiencing a disturbing event in their youth. Now they are being hunted by a supernatural entity bent on revenge. The storytelling style of this novel has been compared to the works of writer and filmmaker Jordan Peele because of its use of an eerie narrative to provide social commentary. Shaun Taylor-Corbett, one of the talented narrators of Tommy Orange’s There, There is back to narrate this story.
Rebecca Roanhorse is an American author who writes science fiction and fantasy stories that feature Navajo main characters. When Roanhorse was faced with racial prejudice as a child, she turned to reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy stories as a form of escape. Her family is from the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo of Northern New Mexico, and she spent many years living in the Navajo Nation, where she worked as a clerk for the Navajo supreme court.
Check out Roanhorse's The Sixth World series, which starts with Trail of Lightning. This is Roanhorse’s debut work, introducing a story about Navajo monster-slayer Maggie Hoskie. With the help of an unconventional medicine man, she travels to Dinétah to help search for a missing girl. But Maggie soon discovers the monster she’s been tasked with hunting is more terrifying than anything she could have imagined. This audiobook features the narrative talents of Tanis Parenteau, a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Parenteau also narrates the second book in the series, Storm of Locusts.
Terese Marie Mailhot
Terese Marie Mailhot is a First Nation Canadian author from Seabird Island, British Columbia, and she grew up in the Seabird Island First Nation Reservation. Mailhot’s work has appeared in Guernica, Elle, Granta, Mother Jones, Medium, Al Jazeera, The Los Angeles Times, and Best American Essays.
Her memoir Heart Berries was a New York Times Best Seller and listed among National Public Radio’s Great Reads of 2018. It was also a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for English-Language Nonfiction. And Emma Watson selected Heart Berries as the “Our Shared Shelf Book Club.”
Pick for March/April 2018. In Heart Berries, Mailhot writes about growing up on the Seabird Island Reservation in a dysfunctional household. She was later diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar disorder, and she was told to use writing as a way to work through her trauma. Those pages became the first draft of this memoir. With heartbreaking honesty, Mailhot recalls her pain and invites us to experience it and work through it alongside her. The audiobook is narrated by Rainy Fields, who delivers the story to listeners with beautiful sincerity and solemnity.
Cherie Dimaline is a Métis writer from the Georgian Bay Métis Nation in Canada. She’s also an activist whose main goal is to tell Indigenous people’s stories and uplift First Nation voices. Her first novel, Red Rooms, won Fiction Book of the Year at the Ânskohk Aboriginal Literature Festival. She currently lives in Toronto.
Her newest novel, Empire of Wild marks her US debut. This listen is based on the Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou, a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of native communities. Joan’s husband has been missing for almost a year. And then one morning, she hears the unmistakable sound of his voice coming from a revival tent in a parking lot. When she goes to investigate, there he is. She recognizes everything about him, and yet he insists he’s not who she says he is. And Joan begins to suspect something dark and sinister is at play. Michelle St. John, who is also from Toronto and a First Nations actress, narrates this suspenseful novel.
Melissa Febos is part Native American. Her father descended from the Wampanoag tribe. She has won multiple awards for her work, including the Prairie Schooner Book Prize for Creative Nonfiction the Center for Women Writers Creative Nonfiction Prize, and LAMBDA Literary's Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction.
Her most recent memoir is Abandon Me, a collection of lyrical essays exploring the human need for connection with family members, friends, lovers, and oneself. Febos reflects on her birth father, who left her with an inheritance of addiction and a tenuous connection to his Native American blood, and her relationship with the sea captain who raised her. She also writes, with intimacy and candor, about her long-distance love affair with a woman that vacillated between passion and obsession. Febos also writes about reconnecting with her family. The author narrates her own audiobook, which is available exclusively on Audible. With prose this lyrical, the best way to experience it is to listen to it, and Febos reads her own work melodically, in a way that serves the writing style.
Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, playwright, and memoirist. She’s also the incumbent United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. She’s a member of the Muscogee Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv, also known as Hickory Ground, the last capital of the National Council of the Muscogee Nation, now considered a sacred place. An outspoken activist when it comes to the United State and Native American affairs, she regularly speaks and writes about fighting for the rights of women and Native American people. Her works also reflect this activism, often focusing on issues of Indigenous people and violence against women.
In Crazy Brave, Harjo recounts her journey to becoming a poet. Joy grew up in Oklahoma with an abusive stepfather and learned how to find shelter in her imagination at a very young age. She then attended an Indian arts boarding school, a learning experience that fostered her love for storytelling, music, painting, and writing poetry. As a teenager, she became pregnant, gave birth, and struggled to care for her child as a single mother, all while still trying to find herself and her voice in her poetry. Harjo’s memoir reveals all of the things in life she had to fight against to become the person she is today. But it’s also just as much about all of the things that uplifted her. The author narrates this deeply personal, often heartbreaking, and wonderfully lyrical work.
Emily Martin received her PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. She currently writes for Book Riot and co-hosts the podcast Book Squad Goals.