Historical Fiction – Focus on: Native American and First Nations People

Focus on: Native American and First Nations People
The Redemption of Oscar Wolf
by James Bartleman

When impulsive actions fueled by rage lead to family tragedy, 13-year-old Oscar Wolf of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in Ontario, flees to the United States. There, his attempts to atone bring him considerable worldly success, yet leave him culturally and spiritually adrift. He embarks on a series of transformations — from Depression-era prizefighter to decorated World War II veteran to university scholar-athlete to diplomat — only to come to the realization that he must come to terms with the past before he can fully live in the present.

The Orenda
by Joseph Boyden

Set in 17th-century Ontario during the French conquest of Canada, this sweeping, richly detailed historical epic unfolds through the eyes of three individuals: Huron (Wyandot) warrior Bird, his Iroquois captive Snow Falls, and Jesuit Missionary Père Christophe. As the French exploit long-standing conflicts between the Huron and the Iroquois to gain control of their respective territories, shifting alliances between all three groups irrevocably alter the landscape of North America and the lives of its indigenous people. For those interested in Canadian history, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, though more focused on the experiences of European colonizers, also explores this period and setting.

The Plague of Doves
by Louise Erdrich

In 1911, the murder of a white farming family in Pluto, North Dakota leads to the lynching of three Ojibwe men, an event that casts a long shadow over the descendants of both the (wrongly accused) men and the lynch mob. Evelina Harp, a part-Ojibwe, part-white girl growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, learns the story from her Mooshum (grandfather), widely known as a repository of family and tribal history whose personal connection to the tragedy has made him who he is. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 2008, The Plague of Doves is part of a loose trilogy along with The Round House and the recently published LaRose.

People of the Longhouse
by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

When Yellowtail Village is raided by the enemy warriors, 11-year-old Odion and his sister Tutelo are taken captive and delivered to Gannajero the Trader, a woman rumored to use children’s bodies in the practice of witchcraft. As the siblings endure slavery, their parents, War Chief Koracoo and Deputy Gonda, search for them. Set among the Northern Iroquois tribes of 15th-century North America, People of the Longhouse is the 1st book in a four-volume series that focuses on the lives of Iroquois Confederacy founders Dekanawida, Hiyawento (Hiawatha), and Jigonsaseh; it continues with The Dawn Children, followed by The Broken Land and People of the Black Sun.

House of Purple Cedar
by Tim Tingle

For 11-year-old Rose Goode, growing up in Skullyville’s Choctaw community in pre-statehood Oklahoma, 1896 is a bad year: first, an arsonist burns down her school, killing 20 of her classmates; later, Amafo, her beloved grandfather, is severely beaten by the town Marshal, an event with far-reaching consequences. As conflict between Skullyville residents and land-grabbing nahullos (white men) escalates, Rose and her family fear for their survival, while clinging to the hope that better times will come. For another novel featuring Native American communities in what is now Oklahoma, check out Margaret Verble’sMaud’s Line, about a 1930s Cherokee woman who longs to escape her hardscrabble life on a government allotment.

List created 7/25/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Fiction – Focus on: The 1970s

Focus on: The 1970s
A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James

Inspired by the attempted assassination of musician Bob Marley on December 3, 1976, this Man Booker Prize-winning novel explores Jamaica’s turbulent history through multiple intersecting narratives that introduce more than a dozen characters. Framed as an oral history, A Brief History of Seven Killings features a diverse cast, an evocative and richly detailed setting, and a sprawling story told by a chorus of distinct voices in pitch-perfect dialogue.

The Flamethrowers: A Novel
by Rachel Kushner

This complex tale, which weaves together themes of art, oppression, politics, and creativity, follows Reno, a young woman who loves making art and racing her motorcycle — usually at the same time. More naive than she at first appears, Reno moves from Nevada to New York in 1975 to join the thriving avant garde art scene, where she gets involved with a successful older artist, Sandro Valera. The Valera family is responsible for the Moto Valera, a popular motorcycle, and Reno wins the chance to race with the company in Italy. It is there, with a reluctant Sandro, that Reno falls in with the radical movement. For a realistic depiction of the turbulent ’70s, you won’t go wrong with The Flamethrowers.

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng

It is easy enough to identify the biggest problem the Chinese-American Lee family has in this moving tale of tragedies big and small — their lack of communication is evident even in the title. Though there is more than enough love, their expectations for each other and for themselves stifle their relationships. And the fallout — especially after the death of favorite daughter Lydia — is shattering. Their complex dynamic (incorporating an interracial marriage, which sticks out in their 1970s Ohio town, and dreams long deferred) is told in a devastating, and mesmerizing, manner.

Man at the Helm: A Novel
by Nina Stibbe

Her charmed life thrown into chaos when her father abandons their family, Lizzie takes it upon herself to find a new man for her mother when their new home — a tiny, gossipy English village — shuns them for not having a “man at the helm.” Charismatic nine-year-old Lizzie makes this a good read for fans of the admittedly all-American, modern-day Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, while the dry English wit and eccentric characters (along with Lizzie herself) will engage fans of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries. (Also, look for Lizzie’s on-going adventures in Paradise Lodge, newly published this month!)

The Silver Star: A Novel
by Jeannette Walls

In 1970, when their mother abandons them (and not for the first time), 12-year-old Bean and her older sister, Liz, flee the threat of California’s foster system and make their way across the country to relatives they’ve never met. In Virginia they find a home with a reluctant uncle, as well as a community struggling with desegregation and the effects of the Vietnam War. Their haphazard childhood has made them both resilient and remarkably naive, and while Bean assimilates relatively easily, it’s not quite the same for smart, quirky Liz. Their story, narrated by Bean, is a “captivating, read-in-one-sitting, coming-of-age adventure” (Booklist).

List created 7/18/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Historical Fiction – Vikings

The Last Kingdom: A Novel
by Bernard Cornwell

When Danish raiders kill his family, ten-year-old Uhtred becomes the captive, and later the adopted son, of Viking warlord Ragnar, who has conquered three out of the four existing Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (including Uhtred’s home of Northumbria). Yet despite his admiration and affection for Ragnar, Uhtred longs to reclaim his rightful lands and title as the Earl of Bebbanburg. His conflicting loyalties come to the fore when he encounters Alfred of Wessex, the future King Alfred the Great. Set in ninth-century England, The Last Kingdom is the 1st book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series, which continues with The Pale Horseman.

People of the Songtrail: A Novel of North America’s Forgotten Past
by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

This latest novel by the Gears, the popular husband-and-wife team of archaeologist-authors, focuses on the Norse colonization of the Americas. In the year 1000 CE, Vikings arrive in what is now Northeastern Canada and establish a settlement, setting the stage for violent clashes with the “skrælings,” the newcomers’ term for the indigenous people of the region. Although People of the Songtrail is the 10th book in the First North Americans series, this novel easily stands on its own with its strong sense of place, well-researched historical details, and vivid rendering of cross-cultural conflict.

The Witches’ Kitchen
by Cecelia Holland

Once an Irish lad who dedicated his life to seeking revenge on the Vikings that slaughtered his family, Corban Loosestrife is now an older and wiser man, living peacefully in Vinland with his wife and family. He’s happy fishing and farming far away from the power struggles of the Norsemen who have conquered his homeland. But Corban’s past is about to catch up with him. Fans of the television series Vikings will be thrilled by the raiding, trading, and invading that shape this 2nd stand-alone installment of the The Life and Times of Corban Loosestrife, afterThe Soul Thief.

Odin’s Wolves: A Novel
by Giles Kristian

Having carved a bloody swathe through central Europe, Sigurd the Lucky’s band of Norsemen set their sights on Miklagard, the “Great City” of the East better known known as Constantinople, the wealthy seat of the Byzantine Empire. As his comrades prepare for conquest, seer Raven — heartbroken over losing the woman he loves — hopes that fortune and glory will be enough to restore his wounded spirit. AlthoughOdin’s Wolves stands on its own, readers who want to start at the very beginning should check out Blood Eye and Sons of Thunder. Those seeking even more Viking action should try Robert Low’s Oathsworn novels, beginning with The Whale Road.

List created 7/7/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.