Summer Reads: Elder Etiquette, War Stories and Burning Questions!

The sixth and final installment of our series of must-read recommendations from independent booksellers. This week: Birchbark Books in Minneapolis

By Julianne Hing Sep 06, 2013

We’ve surveyed a number of independent bookstores to ask, ‘What should we be reading this summer?’ Check out all of the recommendations in our summer reading series.

Owned by Native American author and National Book Award winner Louise Erdrich, Birchbark is a general bookstore in Minneapolis with a special focus on works by Native authors. Here, manager Susan White selects titles that "anyone in America can read and be profoundly informed." 

1. "Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads With an Indian Elder" by Kent Nerburn (New World Library, 2002)

"This book is so lively and we’ve carried it for years. Kent Nerburn is not Native. He lives in Northern Minnesota and has worked with Lakota and Ojibwe people for many decades. This book allows [people] outside of this world of knowledge to gain insight into how to be as a non-Native person with a Native person. In the book Nerburn learns how to listen. At first he’s a guy with a million questions, [but] he learns that he needs to just pay attention. Stopping and listening is so outside a European paradigm."

2. "Three Day Road" by Joseph Boyden (Penguin Books, 2006)

"’Three Day Road’ is the story of two friends from First Nations in Canada who, during World War I, are sent to the front lines in France. The title references the the time it takes [one of the protagonist’s] auntie to paddle to get him from the train station when he returns home. He’s going through a morphine withdrawal and is in a hallucinatory state during which recalls a lot of what happened with his friend. It’s a profound statement on war."

3. "Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask" by Anton Treuer (Borealis Books, 2012)

 "Anton was raised on the Leech Lake reservation in northern Minnesota and he is a scholar of the Anishinaabe language. With this, his latest book, he gives non-Native people permission to ask questions that we may think are embarrassing or inappropriate. Questions include, ‘Why does getting the Christopher Columbus story right matter?’ and ‘It seems like Indians have a deeper spiritual connection than others in many spiritual traditions. Is that true?’ It covers federal boarding schools, casinos and many other topics. The book is so interesting and of such value that I highly recommend it to people, Native and non-Native alike."