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Stacked books
Photos by Erin Tripp (Tlingit)
Reads and Reviews
An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
By Erin Tripp (Tlingit)
Empire of Wild
by Cherie Dimaline
Dimaline’s writing created a dark atmosphere that enveloped me. So much so that I still find myself thinking about it. It gave me the feeling of being lost in the woods and trying to race my way out of it through to the end of the book.

One of the things I took from the story, even though it was never directly confronted and dealt with, was the discourse on pipelines and how they effect Indigenous communities. This also played into the exploits of the traveling Christian missionary as they sought to colonize Indigenous peoples’ lands. It’s something that continuously came up and encircled the characters’ lives. I also appreciated the opportunity to learn, through storytelling, some of the traditional beliefs and stories of the Métis people.

The characters and their relationships to each other stood out for me. They were all so wonderfully complex and layered. The family dynamics were excellent (particularly Joan and her nephew Zeus), the women were unapologetic in their sexuality and there was respect for their Elders and Indigenous knowledge. If you’re looking for a little bit of horror that shines a light on colonization and Indigenous ways of being, I highly recommend Empire of Wild.

Bone Black cover
by Carol Rose GoldenEagle
I had a lot of expectations going into this book, but was taken completely by surprise as the story progressed. On the surface, it’s about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). On a deeper level, however, it’s about the way grief manifests in our main character and how she responds to it in the wake of her sister’s disappearance. It was an external manifestation of the pain eating away at her soul. And it was no help that her sister was completely forgotten by the police and her community, so she never really gets closure. How can she heal?

The writing was exceptional in how it drew you in and didn’t let you go until the very last page. The story moves so fast. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about a very really problem in Indigenous communities. I think this book would be enjoyed by a cross section of people, because it overlaps with several genres people love. If you like books about social justice issues, Indigenous stories, crime narratives, or gritty stories, I think you would like this book.

The Night Watchman cover
by Louise Erdrich
After spending the first half of the year immersed in Erdrich’s Love Medicine series, it was so comforting to read this book. She has such a distinct voice and storytelling style. The book was written as a way to honor her grandfather, who was a night watchman, and the real life fight against the termination bill of the 1950’s. The bill’s intent was to strip Indigenous people of their land and treaty rights, which would have been devastating. The story follows a cast of characters living on an Ojibwe reservation, and alternates between their perspectives. I became attached to Thomas and his fight for his people’s rights, Patrice and her search for her sister Vera, Wood Mountain and his desire to be loved and have a family. They’re fictional characters, but felt so real to me. Erdrich hits that right balance of tragedy and humor that makes her books so readable. There were moments that broke my heart and ones that had me laughing, including an entire chapter from a horse’s perspective. Honestly, I would read a whole book with a horse as the main character if Louise Erdrich wrote it.
There were moments that broke my heart and ones that had me laughing, including an entire chapter from a horse’s perspective.
Although this book is technically historical fiction, it felt like it was holding a mirror up to today. A lot of the issues covered (land rights, missing/murdered Indigenous women, fetishizing Native women, etc.) are still so relevant right now. The author’s note at the end of the book is a must read. Especially if you think events in the book are false or an exaggeration. It might be a bold statement, but The Night Watchman is my favorite book that Louise Erdrich has written thus far. She honored her grandfather, and the Anishinaabe people, very well with this work.
Erin Tripp is a Tlingit stage and voice actor who earned her a bachelors degree in Theatre and Tlingit Language from the University of Alaska Southeast. You can follow Erin on Instagram @erins_library or her YouTube channel, “Erin’s Library.”