Non-Fiction November/Native American Heritage Month Wrap-Up

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December is here!

It’s my favourite time of year. Cold weather, thick coats, woollen hats, winter boots, hot chocolate, Christmas lights, warm fireplaces. I love it.

Having said that, I now live in Singapore where none of that is happening. It’s 33°C, people are still wandering around in shorts and flip-flops, and winter is just a vague foreign concept. The Starbucks Christmas drinks have been available since mid-October but the only way people are ordering them are frappe style. Christmas decorations are up but the heat makes it hard to get into the holiday spirit.

Nevertheless, I only have one more week of work before flying home to Wales to spend the rest of the year with my family. No doubt I’ll be craving that sunshine in no time. 😀

Moving on to the subject at hand, November is over, which also means it’s time to take a look at the books I managed to read for Non-Fiction November and Native American Heritage Month.

I originally started these reading challenges with a TBR. Well, I didn’t exactly stick to it but I still got a lot of reading done with a total of eight books completed.

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Boy by Road Dahl

This was a re-read for me. The first time I read it was in Year 7 at school. I grew up reading Roald Dahl’s books; Matilda was probably my favourite though I also loved The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Boy is the first of Roald Dahl’s autobiographical writing, focusing on stories from his childhood. One of the best things about this book is that it’s written very much in the same style as his fictional children’s books, like MatildaThe Witches and James and the Giant Peach, which makes it really accessible and a fun read for people of all ages.

I think I enjoyed it more this time around than I had as a child. It was fun to recognise the places in Wales Dahl grew up. It was also fun to see which of his boyhood experiences helped influence his writing. Overall, a really nice read and revisit to childhood in Wales.

Indian Boyhood by Charles Alexander Eastman

This is also the first in Eastman’s memoirs and focuses on his childhood, living a traditional nomadic Sioux life with his grandmother and uncle in South Dakota and Canada.

While Eastman’s later writings talk about the forced assimilation he faced, being sent east for school, Indian Boyhood covers his traditional childhood raised away from white people, surrounded by warriors, hunters, and medicine men as role models.

I enjoyed this book because it taught me a lot about the old traditions of the Sioux nation when it came to boys. I’d previously read Mary Crow Dog’s Lakota Woman and learned a bit about growing up as a Sioux girl. It was interesting to get a different perspective this time around.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

I don’t want to go into too much detail here about this because I want to make a separate review for it.

This is, by far, one of my favourite books of the year. I went through a whole wave of emotions as Alexie examined the complicated relationship between his mother and himself. It was superbly written in a raw and harrowing way that stayed with me for weeks after I’d finished it.

Look out for the full review on this.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

This was another re-read for me. One of my personal reading goals this year has been to read all of Carrie’s books as a tribute to her.

I’d already read most of them before her passing last year but I wanted to revisit them anyway.

If anyone knows anything about Carrie’s life or has read her fiction, nothing in Wishful Drinking will be new to you. Having said that, her sharp wit is in full effect in this book so it’s a great introduction to the kind of clever humour Carrie will be remembered for.

How to Say I Love You in Indian by Gyasi Ross

I picked this up after recently subscribing to Ross’ podcast, Breakdances with Wolves. I like the way Ross gets his points of view across and wanted to dive a little deeper into his body of work.

HTSILYII is a collection of love-themed short stories. But don’t be fooled – this is no romance book. Ross’ tales instead focus on the love between native families, friends, and community. This is a really enjoyable and, oftentimes, moving collection. Ross has a strong voice that commands attention but never feels overbearing. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his other book.

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

Another Carrie book! Of course! This one was new to me and focuses on the author’s experiences with shock treatment.

Carrie was known to be very open with her addiction struggles and battle with bipolar disorder. But her having used this form of treatment was something new to me.

A large part of the book also focuses on her (largely estranged) relationship with her father, which was poignant but also, once again, full of Fisher’s trademark humour.

I loved it. I just love Carrie Fisher’s voice. You can’t go wrong with it.

Old Indian Legends by Zitkala-Sa

I read Zitkala-Sa’s autobiographical stories earlier this year, about being sent to a boarding school where her heritage was forcibly stripped from her.

This collection of oral Sioux tales, however, come from generations back, all holding important lessons. These have been compared to Aesop’s Fables by some reviewers and I could actually imagine reading them out to my younger students during storytime. A really lovely (and important) collection.

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Where do I even start? Well, I’ll be writing a full review of this book at some point too so, again, I don’t want to say too much here but oh my god. This book was incredible.

Ceremony follows a young man returning back to his reservation after fighting in World War II. Suffering from severe PTSD, the book takes us with him on his journey to try and reclaim his life.

I have so many feelings about this book. This is why I need to write an individual review. I can’t just sum it up in a few words. The writing was incredible – like nothing I’ve ever read before – and the story itself was so multilayered and profound and moving and heartbreaking at the same time.

There aren’t any chapters and, at first glance, the layout of this book seems very similar to the original scroll of On the Road so I was quite intimidated going into it. However, this is actually very easy to read and one you get sucked into very quickly.

Another favourite of the year.

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And that’s it for my November reading wrap-up. Out of eight books, five were non-fiction and five were written by Native American writers, so I’d say I did pretty well.

How did you do with your reading in November?

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