Indigenous YA Fiction From Indigenous Authors

November is Native American Heritage Month, which is a great time to recognize and celebrate the rich cultures and contributions of many distinct Native peoples. One such contribution is literary, and the library offers many examples of Native citizens' contributions to juvenile and young adult literature. There is Native representation in so many sub-genres of Young Adult Fiction, including dystopian, romance, paranormal, coming-of-age, historical, crime thrillers, and so many others. Check out some prominent authors, and learn more about their books and tribal affiliations below.

Eric Gansworth

photo of author Eric Gansworth

Eric Gansworth is a member of Eel clan and was born and raised at the Tuscarora Nation.

Gansworth is a writer and visual artist, whose novels focus on the ways that history informs the present, and the influence of entertainment culture on personal development. Seeing a lack of authentic Native voices in the contemporary literary landscape, Gansworth has used his career in an attempt to address this deficit. 

Gansworth's output includes three young adult novels, four books of poetry, and nearly a dozen books in total. He has also published scholarly works, and contributed to fiction anthologies. He's been longlisted for the National Book Award, has received the American Book Award, and the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Award. Gansworth is currently a professor of English and the Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. Learn more about Eric Gansworth's work, including his visual art, at his website.

The Tuscarora Nation occupied much of the North Carolina inner Coastal Plain at the time of the Roanoke Island colonies in the 1580s. They were considered the most powerful and highly developed tribe in what is now eastern North Carolina. 

The Eel Clan is one of the nine "clans" or the Onondaga nation. As clan membership is gained through matrilineal heritage, citizens are proud of their clan because it gives a link to their female ancestors. Clan affiliation is significant in issues of marriage, travel, sickness, and misfortunes.  Today, the Onondaga nation is located near Syracuse, New York.

Eric Gansworth's YA novels
cover for If I Ever Get Out Of Here

If I Ever Get Out Of Here: A Novel With Paintings.  2013.  Seventh-grader Lewis "Shoe" Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and whites--and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.


Give me Some Truth cover image

Give Me Some Truth: A Novel With Paintings.  2018.  In 1980 life is hard on the Tuscarora Reservation in upstate New York, and most of the teenagers feel like they are going nowhere: Carson Mastick dreams of forming a rock band, and Maggi Bokoni longs to create her own conceptual artwork instead of the traditional beadwork that her family sells to tourists--but tensions are rising between the reservation and the surrounding communities, and somehow in the confusion of politics and growing up Carson and Maggi have to make a place for themselves.


apple skin to the core cover image

Apple Skin To The Core:  A Memoir In Words And Pictures.  2020.  "The term "Apple" is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly "red on the outside, white on the inside." Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking." 

cover image for my good man


My Good Man. 2022. When a mysterious assault lands the brother of his mother's late boyfriend in the hospital, Brian, a twenty-something Indigenous reporter, must pick up the threads of a life he's abandoned, returning to the Tuscarora reservation to discover the truth.


Joseph Bruchac 

photo of author Eric Gansworth

Joseph Bruchac is a proud Nulhegan Abenaki citizen and respected elder.

In his forty-year career, Bruchac has written and published over one hundred twenty works that reflect his indigenous heritage and traditions. These predominantly YA novels deal with issues such as history and its influence, survival in or connecting with the land, linguistic connection and linguistic alienation, and so much more. He has won awards for his writing, and also works as a professional storyteller who performs at schools throughout the continent. Bruchac's website includes audio clips of him reading his poetry and other supplemental information.

The Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe is located amongst the lakes, rivers, and forests of Barton, Vermont. They seek the revitalization, preservation, and protection of their heritage, and aim for a larger vision of economic development and communal self-sufficiency.

Joseph Bruchac's YA novels
book cover of Code Talker

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two.  2005.  After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay and other Navajo men are recruited by the Marines to become Code Talkers, sending messages during World War II in their native tongue.

book cover of Whisper In The Dark


Whisper In The Dark.  2005.  An ancient and terrifying Narragansett native-American legend begins to come true for a teenage long-distance runner, whose recovery from the accident that killed her parents has stunned everyone, including her guardian aunt in Providence, Rhode Island.

book cover of Killer of Enemies


Killer Of Enemies.  2013.  In a world that has barely survived an apocalypse that leaves it with pre-twentieth century technology, Lozen is a monster hunter for four tyrants who are holding her family hostage

book cover of Brothers of the Buffalo


Brothers Of The Buffalo: A Novel Of The Red River War.  (2016).  In 1874, the U.S. Army sent troops to subdue and move the Native Americans of the Southern plains to Indian reservations, and this chronicles the brief and brutal war that followed. Told from the viewpoint of two youths from opposite sides of the fight, this is a tale of conflict and unlikely friendship in the Wild West


book cover of Found

Found. 2020. A teenage survival expert finds all his skills tested as he's pursued through the Canadian wilderness by men determined to silence him. On his way to teach at Camp Seven Generations, a Native outdoor school, Nick witnesses a murder and then is thrown off a train. Remembering and using the teachings of his Abenaki Elders will prove to be the difference between life and death for him. Although his pursuers have modern technology to help them, Nick has something even more useful. In addition to the skills he's learned, he has an ally in the natural world around him. Found, like the famous story "The Most Dangerous Game," is a tale that focuses on being hunted until a way can be found to become the hunter.

Cynthia Leitich Smith

headshot of Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Leitich Smith is an author of fiction for children and young adults, and her writing is centered on the lives of modern-day Native Americans. Her novels alternate between paranormal and traditional coming of age narratives. She also publishes picture books, has lived in Kansas and Texas, and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Learn more about her books and watch her opining in posted interviews at her website.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is a self-governed Native American tribe located in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. MCN is the fourth largest tribe in the U.S. with 97,000 citizens. Due in part to concentrated rebuilding efforts, the culture, language, hymns, medicine songs, and other traditions of the Muscogee Nation are still enjoyed today.

Cynthia Leitich Smith's YA novels
book cover of Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Rain Is Not My Indian Name.  2001.  Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn't know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his. It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white Midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again -- at least through the lens of her camera. Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved she wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?


book cover of Tantalize

Tantalize.  2010.  Tantalize Series Book 1.  When multiple murders in Austin, Texas, threaten the grand re-opening of her family's vampire-themed restaurant, seventeen-year-old, orphaned Quincie worries that her best friend-turned-love interest, Keiren, a werewolf-in-training, may be the prime suspect.

book cover of Eternal


Eternal.  2010.  Tantalize Series Book 2.  When Miranda's guardian angel Zachary recklessly saves her from falling into an open grave and dying, the result is that she turns into a vampire and he is left to try to reinstate his reputation by finally doing the right thing.

book cover of Blessed


Blessed.  2011. Tantalize Series Book 3. Even as teenaged Quincie Morris adjusts to her appetites as a neophyte vampire, she must clear her true love, the hybrid-werewolf Kieren, of murder charges; thwart the apocalyptic ambitions of Bradley Sanguini, the vampire-chef who "blessed" her; and keep her dead parents' restaurant up and running before she loses her own soul.

book cover of Feral Nights


Feral Nights.  2013. Feral Series Book 1. Tracking his sister to Austin only to discover that she is a key suspect in a murder case, werecat Yoshi embarks on a search for answers, while werepossum Clyde and Aimee pursue their own investigation in an effort to avenge the killing.

book cover of Feral Curse


Feral Curse.  2014. Feral Series Book 2. Suffering a tragedy after revealing her werecat nature to her adoptive human family, Kayla resolves to embrace her true heritage and is supported by two friends and attractive male werecat Yoshi, with whom she investigates a mystery surrounding a haunted antique carousel.


book cover of Feral Pride

Feral Pride.  2015. Feral Series Book 3. Anti-shifter sentiment is at an all-time high when Kayla's transformation to werecat is captured on video and uploaded for the world to see. Suddenly she becomes a symbol of the werebeast threat and--along with fellow cat Yoshi, lion-possum Clyde, and human Aimee--a hunted fugitive. Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed weresnake has kidnapped the governor of Texas and hit the airwaves with a message of war. In retaliation, werepeople are targeted by law enforcement, threatened with a shift-suppressing vaccine, terrorized by corporate conspiracy, and enslaved by a top-secret, intelligent Cryptid species. Can Clyde rally his inner lion king to lead his friends--new and old--into battle against ruthless, media-savvy foes? A rousing blend of suspense, paranormal romance, humor, and high action.

book cover of Hearts Unbroken


Hearts Unbroken.  2018.  Breaking up with her first real boyfriend when he makes racist remarks about her Native American heritage, high school senior Louise Wolfe teams up with a fellow school newspaper editor to cover a multicultural casting of the school play and the racial hostilities it has exposed.

Angeline Boulley

photo of author Angeline Boulley

Angeline Boulley is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Angeline Boulley's debut novel, Firekeeper's Daughter, won the 2022 Printz Award for Young Adult Literature and was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 best young adult books of all time. Recently, Boulley served as Director for the Office of Indian Education (OIE) at the U.S. Department of Education, but is now able to write full-time. Boulley was able to personally receive training from the FBI to add authenticity to her novel's motifs of drug culture and the law.

Members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians are descended from the Anishinaabeg, a people who have lived in the Great Lakes Basin for over a thousand years. In that time, their activities included hunting, fishing, gathering, and preservation of food for the winter. They had ceremonies for good health, thanksgiving, war, funerals, and many other things, and lived this way until the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s. The Anishinaabeg dealt first with the French, then the English, then the United States. The Anishinaabeg way of life began to deteriorate as the people were placed on reservations, along with other attempts to consolidate them into American society.

In the early 1970s, the leaders of the Original Bands of Chippewa Indians traveled to Washington and successfully lobbied to be granted federal status. Once recognized, the Original Bands became the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Today the Sault Tribe is 44,000 strong.

Angeline Boulley's YA novel
book cover of Firekeeper's Daughter

Firekeeper's Daughter.  2021.  Reeling after the death of her uncle, Daunis is trying to adjust to her new normal, a challenge at the best of times in her gossip-prone town, especially when her scandalous origins leave her caught between two worlds: Ojibwe on her father's side, but not officially enrolled as a member of the tribe, and French, dating back to fur traders, on the side of her mother, who considers the other half of Daunis' heritage a defect. When she witnesses a murder at the hands of someone who is addicted to meth and from a prominent family of her tribe, she has a choice: let the cycle of pain continue or protect her community.

Darcie Little Badger

photo of author Darcie Little Badger

Darcie Little Badger is a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.

As an author, Darcie Little Badger specializes in speculative fiction, especially horror, science fiction and fantasy. She develops her stories with Apache characters and themes. She holds a PhD in Oceanography. In her writing career Little Badger has been awarded both the Locus and Nebula Awards. As there are hundreds of distinct indigenous tribes/nations in the United States, she prefers to be called a “Lipan Apache writer” or “Apache writer” instead of “Native American writer.”

A millennium ago, the Apache people settled in the areas known as Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Mexico. These groups separated into separate tribes called the Navajo Nation, the Chiricahua Apache, the Mescalero Apache, the Jicarilla Apache, and the Plains Apache. The Lipan Apache, which is the tribe of which Darcie Little Badger is a member, claimed the land farthest east of all the Apache tribes.

Over the course of American history, Lipan Apache have served the United States in military conflict as scouts for the U.S. Army in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They also fought in modern wars such as Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many currently serve in the military.

Today, the Lipan Apache Tribe continues to be a sovereign tribe in the State of Texas. Their governing body seeks to serve the general welfare and justice for the Lipan Apache people.  They seek to acquire resources for the benefit of the people, and also to protect their heritage, which includes ceremonies, language, and sacred history.

Darcie Little Badger's YA novels
book cover of Elatsoe

Elatsoe.  2020.Imagine an America very similar to our own. It's got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day. Seventeen-year-old Elatsoe ("Ellie" for short) lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect façade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.


book cover of A Snake Falls To Earth

A Snake Falls To Earth.  2021.  Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She's always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories. Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he's been cast from home. He's found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake. Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli's best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven't been in centuries. And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

Author and book descriptions have been adapted from the publishers and related websites.
By LaurelC on November 13, 2022