July 01, 2008

Best Native fiction wanted

We get e-mail:Hey Rob,

I came across your page of the best Indian books. I want to recommend a book to a friend. She mainly likes stories as opposed to non-fiction. Do you think The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie would that "one" book that might pique her interest in this topic? Or is there a book that you would personally suggest? Thanks for any help.

My response:

By "this topic," I presume you mean Native fiction.

Does it have to be by a Native author? I'm not a snob about these things. I think non-Native authors often do as good a job as Native authors. If a non-Native author doesn't know a culture as well but is a better writer, it's a wash.

It's been a long time since I read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The voters may have thought it was the best Native fiction, but I didn't. If you want Native fiction by a Native author, I'd probably recommend The Grass Dancer or The Indian Lawyer. If you allow non-Native authors, I'd recommend Pigs in Heaven, Coyote Blue, or Hunting Badger.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the books you suggested...but please, can I recommend someone too?

If you're looking for Native authors, I would add Richard Van Camp (Dogrib); he's sometimes called "the Canadian Sherman Alexie," although I think that generally says more about the dearth of comparisons than about his writing. His book "The Lesser Blessed" is especially good if your friend is younger, as it's set among high school kids.

Eden Robinson (Haisla) is also an extraordinary writer; her novel "Monkey Beach" just blew me away, and would probably get someone interested in Native literature more generally.

If you're looking specifically for short story collections like "Lone Ranger and Tonto...", you might look for Thomas King's collections - like "One Good Story, That One," or "A Short History of Indians in Canada." Eden Robinson also has a short story collection but I haven't gotten to read it yet so I hesitate to recommend it, even though I can't imagine it not being good.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
And writerfella would recommend DARKNESS IN ST. LOUIS BEARHEART by Gerald Vizenor, Truck Press 1978. If there ever could be anything called 'Native New Wave' fiction, BEARHEART is that book. In fact, "Outwitting The Evil Gambler" gave some small inspiration to writerfella for ANASAZI The Screenplay...
All Best
Russ Bates