The best coming-of-age novels by Indigenous authors

The Books I Picked & Why

The Lesser Blessed

By Richard Van Camp

Book cover of The Lesser Blessed

Why this book?

This coming-of-age novel is beautifully written, tragic, and deeply poetic, following Tłı̨chǫ teenager Larry Sole as he befriends newcomer Johnny Beck, and falls for his crush, Juliet Hope. It’s gritty and real and heartbreaking, but full of love and hope. Van Camp is a Dogrib Tłı̨chǫ writer of the Dene Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and he’s written 26 books. This is his debut novel, it's gorgeous and absolutely unflinching. 


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Son of a Trickster

By Eden Robinson

Book cover of Son of a Trickster

Why this book?

I’m sneakily recommending a trilogy here, of which this is the first book. By turns funny, gritty, dark, difficult, and magical, this book by Eden Robinson, who is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations from the Pacific Northwest, is another coming-of-age novel that dives into the gritty realism of life on a reservation, as well as the deep, magical roots of Haisla mythology. 


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Fire Song

By Adam Garnet Jones

Book cover of Fire Song

Why this book?

This was one of my favourite books of 2018. This one deals with the impact of suicide on a tight-knit community, while quietly following Shane as he discovers his sexual identity and love for his best friend, David. The author, Adam Garnet Jones, is an Indigiqueer screenwriter, director, bead-worker, and novelist from Edmonton Alberta. While his Indigenous identity includes Cree, Métis, and Kahnawake

Mohawk, his traditional ancestry is complicated by the fact that his home reserve no longer exists. The land and community were forcibly enfranchised by the Canadian government in 1958.


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The Marrow Thieves

By Cherie Dimaline

Book cover of The Marrow Thieves

Why this book?

The Marrow Thieves was a smash hit in its publication year and explores the continued colonial exploitation of Indigenous people. It may be the most well-known of the post-apocalyptic Indigenous speculative fiction novels that have come out recently, setting Indigenous peoples in a not-so-distant future where traditional knowledge is the key to their survival. The author, Cherie Dimaline, is from the Georgian Bay Métis Nation, a part of the Métis Nation of Ontario. 


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Just Lucky

By Melanie Florence

Book cover of Just Lucky

Why this book?

Author Melanie Florence draws together many contemporary issues faced by Indigenous kids in this gripping and sometimes harrowing novel about Lucky, a young girl thrown into the foster care system after losing her caregiver grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease. Lucky is of Cree ancestry, and the author is of mixed Cree and Scottish heritage. It’s a fast-paced and easy-to-read novel that will entertain and uplift, while it remains unflinching in its depiction of the realities faced by kids in foster care.


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