Self-Determined Stories

The Indigenous Reinvention of Young Adult Literature


The first book of its kind, Self-Determined Stories: The Indigenous Reinvention of Young Adult Literature reads Indigenous-authored YA—from school stories to speculative fiction—not only as a vital challenge to stereotypes but also as a rich intellectual resource for theorizing Indigenous sovereignty in the contemporary era.

Building on scholarship from Indigenous studies, children's literature, and cultural studies, Suhr-Sytsma delves deep into close readings of works by Sherman Alexie, Jeannette Armstrong, Joseph Bruchac, Drew Hayden Taylor, Susan Power, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. Together, Suhr-Sytsma contends, these works constitute a unique Indigenous YA genre. This genre radically revises typical YA conventions while offering a portrayal of Indigenous self-determination and a fresh critique of multiculturalism, heteropatriarchy, and hybridity. This literature, moreover, imagines compelling alternative ways to navigate cultural dynamism, intersectionality, and alliance-formation.

Self-Determined Stories invites readers from a range of contexts to engage with Indigenous YA and convincingly demonstrates the centrality of Indigenous stories, Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous people to the flourishing of everyone in every place.

About the Author

Mandy Suhr-Sytsma teaches in the Department of English and directs the Emory Writing Center at Emory University in Atlanta.

Table of Contents


Ch 1. A Rebel with a Community, Not Just Cause: Revising YA Power Dynamics and Uniquely Representing Indigenous Sovereignty in Jeannette Armstrong’s Slash

Ch 2. Indigenous School Stories: Alternatives to Multiculturalism in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Joseph Bruchac’s The Heart of a Chief

Ch 3. Not Your Father’s Pocahontas: Cynthia Leitich Smith’s and Susan Power’s Resistive Romance

Ch 4 T.hat’s One Story: Reworking Hybridity through Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel’s and Drew Hayden Taylor’s Speculative Fiction

Coda: Alexie’s Flight, Zobel’s Wabanaki Blues, and the Future of Indigenous YA Literature