Day: May 18, 2024

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Return of the Thunders

Return of the Thunders 

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the  Teachings of Plants: 9781571313560: Kimmerer, Robin Wall: Books -

As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Flowers, along with allergies, are in full bloom around Manhattan. May also brings the return of thunderstorms, and as this last week has shown us, it is definitely spring in Kansas, tornados and all. For Indigenous folks around the country, spring is signified by the return of the thunders. It is a time in which we put away our winter stories and prepare for spring ceremonies. Spring ceremonies honor our lives and our ancestors, celebrating healing and creation while remembering the sacrifices made. Our winter stories present cautionary tales and pass down generational knowledge. In the spring we learn about heart berries. In the winter we learn why we shouldn’t whistle at night.

In many Indigenous communities the spring brings strawberries. Strawberries, O-day’-min in Anishinaabe, symbolize the heart and carry our origin stories. “Heart Berries” written by Terese Marie Mailhot is a memoir of a woman’s coming of age in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized, this is a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a story of reconciliation with her father, and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone. Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept.

In Robin Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass,” we are given the tools to start our own reflection and begin healing. Kimmerer weaves indigenous knowledge, plant science, and personal narrative together to define what it means to see humans as “the younger brothers of creation.” She skillfully directs us towards her argument that “the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the world.” Kimmerer argues that only once we begin to listen for the languages of others can we begin to understand. Since the debut of her work in 2015 Kimmerer has published a young adult version of the book, “Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults,” which came out in 2022.

Matika Wilbur’s “Project 562” started out as a blog that quickly morphed into a book. Wilbur spent several years traveling across the country photographing and telling the stories of federally recognized tribes, urban Native communities, tribes fighting for federal recognition, and Indigenous role models. Keep an eye out; you might see several of Kansas’s very own Red Corn family featured in these works. Wilbur wanted to showcase positive indigenous role models from this century and from across the nations. Her completed work is a beautiful tapestry of Native people, life, and stories.

Heart Berries, Braiding Sweetgrass, and Project 562 are just a few examples of the sorts of things I spent the springs and summers learning about and now spend the same seasons teaching my girls about. Along with attending games of lacrosse and ceremonies across the midwest I learned about life, my ancestors, and eagerly awaited the first snows. Winter is the perfect time to tell stories. We tell stories in the winter to teach our younger generations about trickster, about not calling trouble, and about what is just past the circle of light…waiting.

Stephen Graham Jones’s “The Only Good Indians” follows the story of four Indigenous men as they face the consequences of an elk hunt, turned massacre, during their youth. Despite being introduced to their culture, they’d never really identified with it or believed in its power. Ten years after the hunt, the men are tracked by a spirit bent on revenge. The childhood friends now find themselves helpless as the culture and traditions they left catch up to them in violent and cruel ways. Jones’s novel is truly a cautionary tale: a reminder to honor your promises to the ancestors and to the creatures we hunt.

Stealing” by Margaret Verble delivers a story wrapped in grief, heartache, and plotting. Since her mother’s death, Kit Crockett has lived with her grief-stricken father, spending lonely days out in the country where malice lurks near their quiet bayou. Kit suddenly finds herself at the center of a tragic, fatal crime. She is taken from her home and family and sent to a religious boarding school. Along with the other Native students, Kit is stripped of her heritage, forced religious indoctrination, and abused. As strong-willed and shrewd as ever, she secretly keeps a journal recounting what she remembers. Over the course of “Stealing,” she unravels the truth of how she ended up at the school and devises a way out.

Never Whistle at Night” edited by Shane Hawk & Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. is a collection of stories meant to unsettle. Twenty-five Indigenous authors from across the nation come together in the anthology with stories of horror, true crime, and science fiction. Many Indigenous people believe that one should never whistle at night; This belief ranges far and wide and takes many forms. What all these legends hold in common is the certainty that whistling at night causes evil spirits to appear—and even follow you home. This collection includes works by bestselling and award-winning authors Tommy Orange, Rebecca Roanhorse, Cherie Dimaline, Waubgeshig Rice, and Mona Susan Power. These stories are a celebration of Indigenous peoples’ survival and imagination, and “a glorious reveling in all the things an ill-advised whistle might summon”.

I hope to see you wandering about our stacks looking for these and other amazing works by Indigenous authors. Learning how to heal, how to cook, how to overcome and triumph, and most importantly how to not call unwelcome things to you. Remember strawberries are our heart and you never whistle at night.

All information for these titles has been taken from our catalog. Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Learn more at


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Audrey Swartz, Adult Services and Readers’ Advisory Librarian