The Danger of a Single Story: At the 2018 American Library Association Annual Conference & Exhibit, a session entitled "Native YA Today: Contemporary Indigenous Voices and Heroes for the 21st Century & Beyond" featured a panel of Indigenous authors: Cynthia Smith, Eric Gansworth, Dawn Quigley, and Joseph Bruchac. When asked by an audience member how individuals can better identify American Indian stereotypes and problematic issues in children's/YA books, the panel responded with the advice to read 100 books written by indigenous authors. We highly encourage educators to begin the 100 book challenge for themselves, and for everyone to incorporate as many books with positive and accurate representation of American Indians as possible into their classrooms and homes.
With only 1% of the children's books published in 2018 having American Indian characters depicted in them, it is the goal of this page to gather as many of these titles as possible. The books listed on this guide are either written/illustrated by American Indian creators, recommended by the American Indians in Children's Literature blog, or have won American Indian literature awards. It is also important to note that not all representation of American Indians in youth literature is positive, and many books that reference American Indians (text or visuals) contain negative stereotypes and perpetuate harmful biases for young people; this often includes books that are labeled as classics or hold personal nostalgia for readers. In order to truly understand the issue of accurate representation of American Indians in children's/YA literature, it is highly recommended to regularly follow the work of Debbie Reese and her associates at American Indians in Children's Literature. This TDRL guide would not have been possible without her work and advocacy, and we are grateful for her diligence in bringing awareness to this issue.
NOTE: This guide uses the term "American Indian" based off of the American Indian Library Association. Readers should understand that this is an all encompassing term for the many different American Indian tribes, nations, and communities that have existed and continue to exist to today. When discussing American Indian children's/YA books and authors, it is critical to refer to characters, authors, and communities by their specific tribal names (ex. “Shanyaak’utlaax: Salmon Boy is a Tlingit children’s book” is preferred over “Shanyaak’utlaax: Salmon Boy is a Native American children’s book"). Additionally, when evaluating American Indian materials for young readers, please note that differences between these groups of people exist and just because a work's creator is American Indian, that does not automatically make it an #ownvoice book.