In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Teen Tuesday spotlights two American Indian authors, Sherman Alexie and Joseph Bruchac, whose young adult novels have won numerous awards and garnered critical praise. For fans of realistic fiction, humor, horror, history or fantasy, there is something for every reader in their books.
Sherman Alexie’s first young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, won the National Book Award in 2007. This hilarious and heartbreaking novel is narrated by Junior, an aspiring artist whose life on the reservation takes a dramatic turn when he decides to continue his schooling at the high school in town, where the only Indian there is the mascot. Issues on race, poverty, class distinction, culture and education all confront Junior as he navigates his way between vastly different worlds. Junior’s cartoons and comic strips are liberally sprinkled throughout the book and done daringly well by illustrator Ellen Forney. Readers who have already read True Diary and are anxiously awaiting the promised sequel, might want to try Alexie’s adult novel, Flight. This realistic/ fantasy hybrid deals with a troubled teenager in foster care who, in the midst of a planned shooting, is suddenly whisked out of time and into the bodies of several people, among them an FBI agent from the 1970s, a young Indian boy in the 1800s, and even his own absentee father.
In addition to being an award-winning young adult novelist, Sherman Alexie is a filmmaker, stand-up comedian and a writer of poetry, short stories and novels. Visit his website here to read his blog, find out about his movies and snicker over his FAQ’s under “publicity”.
Like suspense and eerie, supernatural books? How about historical fiction? Joseph Bruchac has tackled both genres in his young adult books. In The Dark Pond, loner Armie is inexplicably drawn to a forest pond that may hold an underwater monster from Native American lore. Read this with the lights on! For fans of historical fiction, Bruchac has documented the critical role Navajo soldiers in World War II played in his historical fiction novel, Code Talker. The story follows the life of Ned Begay as he relates his years at a boarding school where his Navajo language was forbidden, to his work as a Marine where his native language proved to be the only unbreakable code during World War II. Insightful and inspiring, Code Talker sheds an important light on these patriotic Native Americans whose work saved lives and contributed to the Allied Forces victory in WWII.
Joseph Bruchac is an accomplished storyteller and musician as well as the author of over 120 books for children and adults. He has written anthologies, short stories, novels and poetry. Visit his website to hear him recite a selection of his poems, see a list of his books and listen to his new song!