Here at Indian Country Today Media Network we appreciate good books. Storytelling is an integral part of our culture(s) and runs in our blood. So in order to celebrate this we’ve composed a list of best sellers with some extra flair – great books with just a little bit of a twist that’s sure to inspire everyone to jump in their cars and make a run to their local—albeit virtual—bookstore.
“Eat, Smudge, Snag”
You’ve read “Eat Pray Love,” and you’ve seen the movie starring Julia Roberts. Well hold onto your seats because here’s the Lakota version, “Eat, Smudge, Snag.” Synopsis: In her early thirties, Frida Talks Way Too Much had everything a modern Native American woman could hope for—four great kids, a condo, a successful Etsy shop—but instead of feeling fulfilled, she was overcome by anxieties and confusion. This wise and transformative book is the story of how she overcame her worries and set out to reclaim the traditional aspects of her culture, and renew her sense of serenity. Not by visiting Italy, India, or Bali, but by burning some sweetgrass and having a baloney sandwich picnic with her ‘significant other’ in her own back yard.
“How Sacagawea Got Her Groove Back”
Go west, they said. It’ll be fine, they said. Little did our iconic heroine know she’d be stuck for months on end, forging trail with 30 unruly laborers and a baby strapped to her back. Little did she realize that after enduring illness, flash floods, insane temperature extremes, food shortages and mosquito swarms, all that she’d receive in compensation was a commemorative coin two centuries too late. What’s an Indian guide to do? Go to Jamaica, man, sip mimosas on the beach and indulge in an island fling with a much younger man. Groove-y.
"Bead by Bead"
In 1995, the how-to instructional manual for writers “Bird by Bird” made its stunning debut. But have you ever heard of the Indigenous version, “Bead by Bead?” As any good bead artist knows, when crafting earrings, a belt buckle or a bolo tie, you’ve got to be patient and take it bead by bead. “Bead by Bead: Instructions for Indigenous Writing” applies the same principles to the craft of writing. Whether you’re writing the Great (Native) American Novel, a blog post, or even just a postcard, you’re only going to achieve the desired result by keeping your focus on the small details, and taking it one bead, or one word, at a time.
Best chapter: Don’t move your leg too fast or all the damn beads are going to fly onto the floor. After reading this inspirational chapter, you’ll be hearing the clack-clack-clack of beads in your vacuum cleaner in no time.
“The Casinos of Madison County”
For anyone who has ever experienced the anguish of The-Snag-Who-Got-Away, “The Casinos of Madison County” is the book for you. Synopsis: It’s lonely on the plains, and housewife and mother Fran Lone Elk’s marriage has grown stale. Enter the tall, dark and handsome National Geographic photographer who by chance stops by her isolated HUD house lost and looking for directions to the casino. With Fran’s husband and children away, Fran climbs into the mysterious photographer’s truck and directs him to the casino, and then the next casino, and the next. Over the next four days—because four is a sacred number—Fran’s loneliness transforms into a mad, passionate love affair…in between the slot machines.
“The Color Turquoise”
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, captured many a reader’s heart throughout the world. ICTMN brings you the Indigenous version we’d like to see, called The Color Turquoise. Meet our heroine, a woebegone woman named Turquoise. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a champion jingle dress dancer as a BFF, but Turquoise and Sugar’s relationship, which includes a bit of frybread-making and spitting into the lemonade of that one fake Indian store owner, is the key to unlocking dreams.
"A Confederacy of Dunces with Wolves"
While bearing striking similarities to the cult classic A Confederacy of Dunces, which was written by John Kennedy Toole, published posthumously and won a Pulitzer, “A Confederacy of Dunces with Wolves,” however did not have the same literary success. Some critics pointed out that had it used New Orleans as its setting, instead of the plains of Nebraska, it might have been a bestseller. They tried to emulate Kevin Costner’s naked butt scene, but let's just say the whole thing fell flat.
Harry Pottahontas is a delightful series of chapter books about a magical Native American boy who rides buffalos and talks to unicorns. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If not, then certainly you’ve heard of its doppelganger series, Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling? There was much hullabaloo in the press recently about Rowling’s misappropriation of Indigenous Peoples. This writer believes that if so many non-native people think Indians practice magic, then maybe they should be nicer to us. P.S. Too bad the Native kid didn’t make the cover of the book.
“Are You There, Tunkasila? It’s Me Margaret ManKiller”
Growing up can be a hard road, and with so many bodily changes happening, life can sometimes feel overwhelming and even scary. “Are You There Tunkasila? It’s Me Margaret Mankiller” helps to negotiate those trails to womanhood, and will provide solace for any young girl who might feel alone and is looking for her path. Of course, a young Native girl can always look for guidance within her Tiyóspaye, but it’s also comforting to know that a good book is always within reach.