Ambe is an Anishnaabe word that means “let’s go” or something very much like it. And I’d like to travel through 2021 with you, via books.
Years ago I was in a mailing list. Our shared interest was the music of the Christian musician Mark Heard, though we generally didn’t talk about his music. We had one conversation about Christmas and how the birth of Jesus was seen differently by Protestants and Catholics and several of us were having a hard time wrapping our heads around the difference in world view so one of the Catholic members suggested reading Catholic authors. Not theology, authors. And that was my first book themed new year’s resolution. For one year I read Catholic authors. I discovered Graham Green and Flannery O’Connor among so many others. And it made a difference.
Since then I’ve done it several times. I’ve read nothing but women. Focused on Black authors. Always looking for who is missing from my bookshelf and then being intentional and immersive and it has made a real difference.
So for 2021 I offer you a list of books. I posted it on Twitter and here it is for you. They are themed and in a kind of order, my hope is that by reading selections in this particular order the later books will take on more significance. Please check back monthly because book lists will be updated as I work to include material by Black and Afro Indigenous authors.
If you are interested in the bookclub, you can sign up below. We’ll meet monthly streaming on twitch which has a chat feature and a closed captioning extension to talk about that month’s theme. I’ll put together a small panel on each topic which, hopefully, will include at least one of the featured authors.
You’ll need to commit to reading at least one of the books in the list, or a reasonable alternative that you’re just dying to get to that I haven’t thought of.
January 20th 7pm EST: Foundations
January panel: Daniel Heath Justice, the author of the Why Indigenous Literatures Matter; Janet Marie Rogers, poet and artist; Joy Henderson, an Afro-Indigenous writer and educator; Ishkenikeyaa Waawaashkesh, an Ansihnaabe activist and educator, Robin McBurney, a settler educator, and Neil Ellis Orts, a settler artist and perpetual student.
Please read Why Indigenous Literatures Matter by Daniel Heath Justice. This overview of a range of Indigenous lit is a good foundation and will set you up for the next 11 months.
This is also the time to pick up poetry. Find the works of Janet Marie Rogers, Tenille Campbell. Cheryl Savageau. Billy Rae Belcourt. Flip through them throughout the year and think about how poetry speaks in each of these months.
February 17 7pm EST: History
February panel: Nick Estes, author; Cheryl Savageau, poet; Tiya Miles, author.
Please read at least one of:
An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States – Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
Our History is the Future – Nick Estes
Heartbeat of Wounded Knee – David Treuer
All Our Relations – Tanya Talaga
The Ties that Bind: The story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom – Tiya Miles
Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country – Tiya Miles
Mother/land by Cheryl Savageau, particularly the piece “I wrote about Indians again today”
Additional reading that is helpful, but not Indigenous, though clearly impacted by Indigenous perspectives and thinkers: 1491 by Charles C Mann and Property and Dispossession by Alan Greer.
March 17 7pm EST: Memoirs are personal history.
Walking in My Own Moccasins
Up From the Ashes
The Tao of Raven
One Native Life
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
April 21 7pm EST. Lessons from plants and animals
Braiding Sweetgrass and Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Badger by Daniel Heath Justice. You can pre order Racoon, also by Daniel, but it doesn’t come out until June of 2021. These two are part of a series by Reaktion Books about animals. Daniel brings an Indigenous lens to his contributions
Undrowned: Black feminist lessons from marine mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumb
May 19 7pm EST. Mothers
Colonialism has given us a gender binary that simply did not exist in Indigenous communities. Although we understood gender, we also understood that it existed in ways that only seem complicated when you insist on a binary. People lived how they lived and they loved how they loved and the focus of Indigenous civilizations was concerned with being human, with being good relatives, with living together.
Many Indigenous languages don’t use gender the way European languages do. For example, in Anishnaabemowin words are animate or inanimate rather than male or female and there was no gender specific pronoun. Me, you, them.
Nevertheless, we live in a colonial world and in May our minds turn to mothers and so the books for this month consider what it means to live in this patriarchal world as a woman, a mother, a person who is not male.
Half breed. (The new edition)
The Beginning and End of Rape
Reproductive Justice: The politics of healthcare for Native American Women.
June 16 7pm EST. Fathers.
Few men have written so deeply about what it means to be human as Richard Wagamese baa and this month we immerse ourselves in his piercing and gentle writing.
Medicine Walk and Starlight by Richard Wagamese baa.
Anything by Richard Wagamese.
This is Richard Wagamese month.
July 21 and August 18 7pm EST. Fiction to read on your vacation or under a tree.
Moccasin Square Gardens
Trail of Lightning
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass
Moon of the Crusted Snow
September 22 7pm EST. Graphic Novels
The Outside Circle,
500 Years of Resistance,
Moonshot: the Indigenous Comics Collection,
A Girl Called Echo.
October 20 7pm EST. Harvest time.
Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People
Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States
November 17 7pm EST. What is it to be Indigenous.
Native American DNA
Seven Fallen Feathers
The Ties That Bind (Afro Indigenous)
How We Go Home
December 15 7pm EST. Sovereignty: A new beginning.
Unsettling Canada/ Reconciliation Manifesto
God is Red (stop when you get to ancient aliens)