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Introducing HEARTDRUM, a new publishing imprint that centers Native storytellers by Cynthia Leitich Smith

As someone who has spent 27+ years buying books for public libraries, I have always been astounded by how hard it is particularly to find titles about and by Native voices. And when you ask people about Native representation that typically refer to Westerns, Little House on the Prairie, or The Indian in the Cupboard, all of which rely on harmful stereotypes and most of which are not in any way, shape or form written by someone who is tribally enrolled in a Native tribe. None of these titles are good representation and many of them are, in fact, harmful representation.

So I was very excited to hear that author Cynthia Leitich Smith would be starting her own publishing imprint called Heartdrum. Smith is herself a Muscogee Creek author and has been long active in the publishing business, so she is the perfect person to head up an initiative like this. I recently got a press release package from Heartdrum and it says that, “the Heartdrum imprint will fully center intertribal voices and visions but also welcome all young readers.” It goes on to say that “the imprint will offer a wide range of heartfelt, innovative, groundbreaking and unexpected stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.”

Today I am excited to share some of their newest and upcoming titles with you.

Ancestor Approved, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher’s Book Description:

A collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featured contributors: Joseph Bruchac, Art Coulson, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth, Dawn Quigley, Carole Lindstrom, Rebecca Roanhorse, David A. Robertson, Andrea L. Rogers, Kim Rogers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Monique Gray Smith, Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle, Erika T. Wurth, and Brian Young. 

Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher’s Book Description:

In this modern take of the popular classic Peter Pan, award-winning author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) brilliantly shifts the focus from the boy who won’t grow up to Native American Lily and English Wendy—stepsisters who must face both dangers and wonders to find their way back to the family they love.

Stepsisters Lily and Wendy embark on a high-flying journey of magic, adventure, and courage—to a fairy-tale island known as Neverland.

Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship?

Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children.

A boy who calls himself Peter Pan.

This book comes out in June of 2021

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Publisher’s Book Description:

The story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.

Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.

But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean? 

This book is out now

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

Publisher’s Book Description:

Brian Young’s debut novel, inspired by Navajo beliefs, features a seemingly ordinary boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and help his uncle suffering from addiction—by discovering his own bravery and boundless love. An outstanding debut from a promising young Navajo author.

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer. Still, he loves spending time with Nali, and with his uncle Jet—though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds something extraordinary. A Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story—a Water Monster—in need of help.

Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to help Uncle Jet heal from his own pain.

This book comes out in May of 2021

Native voices are featured in less than 1% of the kid lit titles published in previous years and are sorely lacking on our library shelves. I have long respected and admired the writing of Smith and she is the perfect person to be leading this initiative. I’m looking forward to reading all of the books!

Comments

  1. Good stuff!

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