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Earlier this year, I joined the Erin and Dani’s Book Club, an indigenous-led initiative that focuses on reading indigenous memoirs. Many of their selections are available in audio, and I loved hearing these tracks, each with their own unique perspective on Native American lives of late.
Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod, Narrated by William C. Wikcemna Yamni ake Wanzi
Cree writer Darrel J. McLeod tells the story of his childhood growing up as a young queer boy in Canada. He includes stories from his family’s past told to him by his mother and connects his own story to his family’s history. William C. Wikcemna Yamni ake Wanzi’s tale perfectly captures McLeod’s narrative voice and makes the audience feel like they are sitting across from the author as he tells his story.
In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience by Helen Knott, narrated by the author
Helen Knott begins her devotion: “My truth is all I have. Truth is my offer. This is for the women who can’t remember and for those who choose not to. ”In My Own Moccasins, she shares her experiences with the aftermath of sexual assault. Knott plays her own audiobook, which makes her very personal memoir that much more intimate.
Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot, told by Rainy Fields
In her critically acclaimed memoir Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot tells her story, including her experiences in a mental health facility and how her writing helped her come to terms with her past. That narrow volume covers so many things so well, illustrating Mailhot’s ability to communicate details about an entire event in just a few pages. Rainy Fields reads the audio book edition with a brilliant grasp of how the story should be played.
One Native Life by Richard Wagamese, told by Christian Baskous
Structured in a series of vignettes, One Native Life follows Wagamese’s childhood as he moves from nursing home to nursing home and loses his connection with his Native American heritage. As an adult in his twenties, Wagamese finds his birth family and reconnects with his culture, slowly forgetting the harmful effects of colonization on his own perception of his indigenous identity.
Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo, told by the author
Our current United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is perhaps better known for her verse, but her memoirs show just as much skill and understanding of prose. In the audio output, she describes how much music influences her writing, often singing parts of the book. Christian Baskous was the perfect choice to tell these memoirs as he gives this book an intimate atmosphere that fosters the personal connection between the listener and the author.
This wound is a world by Billy-Ray Belcourt, told by the author
Part poetry, part memoir, This Wound Is a World reads as a kind of manifesto about the author’s perspective on decolonization and queerness. I love when poets tell their poetry so this collection was a brilliant listen. The performance and the depth of emotion Belcourt brings to his performance make this audio book incredibly special.
Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog, as told by Emily Durante
Mary Crow Dog joined the burgeoning Indian movement in the 1960s and 1970s and eventually married a man who helped revive the outlawed ghost dance. Her memoirs give the listener a glimpse into that pivotal moment in Native American history, and Crow Dog’s writing recounts moments from the author’s life. Emily Durante tells the audio book skillfully and emotionally.
They called me number one: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars, author’s story
In They Called Me Number One, Bev Sellars shares the experiences of three generations of indigenous women forced to attend boarding school in British Columbia, Canada. Sellars’ story describes the decades of abuse that generations of local children have endured by the Catholic-run facility, and also illustrates the resilience of the children who led a life of their own after leaving school. Sellars performs the audio book himself, which reinforces the depth and resonance of her statement.
To find out more about Erin and Dani’s Book Club, find them on Instagram or on their Patreon page.