Book store owner helps get Native books to Native people

Apr. 21—Heather Hall is on a mission to make sure books get to where they are needed most, to the people they are about and represent.

And Hall did just that when she delivered 100 books by Oklahoma-born author Venessa Lillie, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to the NDN Girls Book Club so they could hand them out at Indigenous Pop Culture Expo last weekend in Oklahoma City.

NDN Girls Book Club is a literary nonprofit that hosts community workshops for Native people, especially Native youth and girls, in poetry, zine-making, editing, fiction, nonfiction and Native literature talks. According to its website, it aims to make accessibility to quality Indigenous literature a reality for all ages.

"She reached out to me and said NDN Girls Book club is going to be in Oklahoma," Hall said. "She wasn't in the state but wanted to order some of her book, 'Blood Sisters' to get to them and I told her I would deliver them for her."

So Hall packed up the books and headed to Oklahoma City to make sure the Club had the books they needed to hand out to the kids at the Con.

"It was so exciting to get to take these out and deliver them," Hall said. "And then I get to talk to people about Indigenous stories."

It's all a part of a bigger mission for Hall, who owns Green Feather Book Company, to make sure Indigenous stories are prevalent across the board in her store and available to all who want to read them.

"I have an interest in bringing the weird, somewhat unknown titles into things," Hall said. "I have a really great Native people and Native stories section, which is fiction and non-fiction. But it is critical for me to have those books in general fiction, in science fiction and in horror. I need Indigenous stories in all of the sections of my store."

It's that representation that is not only important to Hall but to an entire population of Oklahomans,

"Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma, I knew I was Chickasaw," Hall said. "But the stories I was told growing up were this very Hollywoodization and monolith story that did not represent any of my family history as far as I knew, and as far as I understood at the time."

"When my kids were little and growing up, they had so few [books]. They were a little too old when 'Fry Bread' was published but that was one of the first books that was a truly Native story that had my family represented."

Vanessa Lillie, who donated her books to the NDN Girls Book Club, agrees there is a need for more Indigenous representation in books and mass media, in general.

"Growing up I don't see a lot go Indigenous-authored books," Lillie said. "I am very honored with just the idea that I could share a book and someone who is Indigenous could pick it up and have themes that they find familiar or places that they know. I think when we can see ourselves in books it can be very powerful and transformative."

Although, Lillie says the number of Indigenous authors and Native representation is on the rise in publishing and other forms of media.

"I think the past few years we have seen more and more Indigenous voices in publishing," Lillie said. "And I think it is a really exciting time to be an Indigenous author. A lot of people are not aware that there are so many books by Indigenous authors out there."

And as those numbers grow, Hall sees a need being filled for Native kids and adults alike.

"There is such a thirst for it, I got to work with Indian education and I got to help them send like 150 Indigenous books to the middle schools and the kids were so excited," Hall said. "And I was explaining to one of the people, that we are going to have some of thees picture books, too. And when these kids get home with these books, their parents are going to be shocked that these books exist."

Hall says as long as the books and stories are being told, she will continue to do what it takes to get them into the hands of the people they represent.

"It's so amazing to be a bookseller at this time when Indigenous stories are being told at an unprecedented rate," Hall said.