Book Review: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

Note: I had originally posted this review as part of a round-up of several reviews from last October, but after looking at my blog's front page recently, I realized that it would be much easier for my visitors to find reviews of books they are interested in if I stick to a one-book-per-post-no-matter-how-short-the-review-is policy going forward. That way readers can scan the book covers on my blog's home page as if they were browsing a book store. So I reposted this as a solo book review.  

Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

Publisher: Harper, 2017
Genre: Adult, Mystery
Format: Audiobook (HarperAudio)

Anne Hillerman’s Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito mystery novels continue where her father, Tony Hillerman’s, original Leaphorn & Chee mystery series left off.

The novels are set in the Navajo town of Shiprock and the surrounding areas. The lead detectives, Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mostly retired mentor Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, have a long history together that unfolded over the course of the previous books in this 20+ book series that I haven’t read. For the most part, however, it was no trouble for me to pick up the series at the point where Anne Hillerman begins. I’ve read three of these mysteries now, (Spider Woman’s Daughter, Rock With Wings, and Song of the Lion) and in each one, Hillerman does a great job of unpacking backstory as needed to keep me apprised of events in the past that affect the current mystery.

My main complaint about this series is that as far as I can tell, Anne Hillerman is a white author writing about Navajo culture from the outside looking in. As far as I can tell as a white reader also looking in from the outside, Hillerman is careful to be respectful in her descriptions of Navajo traditions and community dynamics, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m getting a false impression of things. After all, neither Hillerman nor her father are indigenous writers themselves.

Hillerman has peaked my interest in the Native American experience, however, so I’ve added mysteries by indigenous writers Louise Erdich, Thomas King, and Richard Wagamese to my To-Read list. If you are also interested in finding books written by indigenous writers, The First Nations Development Institute has published this online list of essential nonfiction and fiction books about the Native American experience. Happy reading!

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