maakanixtasada | inspire

Summer Indigenous Reads

An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
By Erin Tripp (Tlingit)
close view of the hardback copy of The Summer of Bitter and Sweet against a background of flowering shrubs

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

by Jen Ferguson

I had almost no expectations going into this book, and ended up really enjoying it! The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson is a the story of a Métis teen navigating her sexuality and her relationship with those around her, all while grappling with confrontations with her white father who raped her mother. She’s dealing with things that are too big for her to handle on her own, although she tries, and learns the importance of community and relying on them to help you. The story was engaging, and the character development really drove the story for me. It opened up discussions about race and proximity to whiteness. And showed us what healthy relationships can look like.

In her author’s note, Ferguson talks about not having literature growing up that reflected her as an Indigenous or asexual person and wishing she had had that. I think she achieved something great with this book in giving future generations of Native and queer youth a book that might resonate with them. I mourn what I didn’t have growing up, but I celebrate the future for our kids. It gives me hope.

close view of the cover of Lizards Hold the Sun held in hand against a background of flowering shrubs

Lizards Hold the Sun

by Dani Trujillo

It was just a couple of years ago when I was having the hardest time finding Native written romance novels. In a genre that has an awful history of Native representation, or lack thereof, we absolutely need more romances written by Native people. It is vital that we see our peoples living contemporary lives, falling in love, caring for community, and finding what we’re passionate about. And this is something Lizards Hold the Sun by Dani Trujillo does, adding to the growing canon of Indigenous romance.

This book was full of love. Not just the love formed between the main characters, but also the love between family and friends, cultures, traditions, and Ancestors. It was so fun to watch our main characters fall for one another. I also found a deeper appreciation for anthropology, specifically from a Native worldview. It was just a lot of fun to read, and so refreshing to read about Native people thriving.

close view of the cover of Warrior Girl Unearthed held against a background of flowering shrubs

Warrior Girl Unearthed

by Angeline Boulley

Before going into this book, I wasn’t sure Angeline Boulley could top her fantastic work with Fire Keeper’s Daughter, but she really stuck the landing with this one. Warrior Girl Unearthed revolves around the theft of Indigenous artifacts and remains, which is a particularly heartbreaking and gut-wrenching thing in our community. To not only know the way people feel ownership over your peoples’ bodies and culture, but how they talk about it is extremely frustrating. There were definitely a couple of times where I cried. I’m so glad Boulley was able to shine a light on this, and how vital repatriation is, in such a good way. The messaging of this book is something that I think is so important for both Native and non-Native people to hear.

And on top of all that, she gave us a really entertaining story to get sucked into with a heist, young love, drama… and seeing characters from Fire Keeper’s Daughter from a new perspective, years after the first book! And it cracks me up that technically both of her books are historical fiction for the 2000s (there’s some fun nostalgia with that). This book is an absolutely perfect companion to her first book, and I look forward to revisiting her work for many years to come. I’m eternally grateful to Angeline Boulley for these stories. Warrior Girl Unearthed is good medicine.