One of the best ways to learn someone’s story is to read it… Happily, in the wake of the Joseph Boyden scandal, more and more Indigenous writers are being published, and their voices and lived experiences are being centred – through incredible fiction, memoir and non-fiction.
My personal top 10 includes:
- Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
- Nisgha by Jordan Bell
- Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
- The True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot
- Gifts of the Land: Lil’wat Nation Botanical Resources
- Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waugbeshig Rice
- There There by Tommy Orange
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
and for a more concerted effort, it feels important that we all read:
21 Things you Didn’t Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph, because it’s mind-numbing to realise all the petty acts of tyranny that First Nations people have been subjected to. AND STILL ARE.
The Pemberton and District Library has also put together a list of #indigenousreads by Canadian Indigenous authors and below are a few to give you a start.
Program director at the Whistler Public Library, Jeanette Bruce, shared (on a “random statutory holiday in July” ;))that for the last four-ish years, she’s been getting requests from community members for a “happy/light-hearted” Indigenous book for the Library’s Book Club selection.
Shares Jeanette: “I’ve always responded by saying yes, I’ll find that book for you, it’s out there. But, I’m finally ready to say: Indigenous authors don’t owe you fluffy beach reads. The books below are a cross-section of what I’ve read by Indigenous authors in recent years, and they contain joy, humour, action, romance, fantasy, and yes, sadness. Every one of these authors is coping with intergenerational trauma in their own way, and if writing for them is as cathartic as I believe it to be, it makes complete sense for that trauma to be tangible in their books. Yes, even for humourists like Thomas King and Eden Robinson.
As Joshua Whitehead wrote in Jonny Appleseed, “when an NDN laughs, it’s because they’re applying a fresh layer of medicine on an open wound.”
As settlers reading these books, we are bearing witness to the stories these authors are sharing with the world.
As I mentioned in my most recent book review, when we read contemporary Indigenous stories (fiction or non), we are seeing the modern repercussions of our country’s atrocities play out in real time. Processing the emotions (sadness, anger, and everyone’s favourite, guilt) that come along with this learning is part of the hard work we are ALL doing right now. I would love to discuss the books below with you, and I have lots more recommendations besides these. They’ll make you laugh, cry, and think.”
📗 Green Grass Running Water by Thomas King
A CBC Canada Reads finalist (2004). The story of five Blackfoot Indians whose existences connect in ways that are at once coincidental, comical and cosmic. This is a rich tale, weaving magical humour, revisionist history, nostalgia and myth into one bright whole. Place a hold here: http://ow.ly/mZT050Fec5I
📙 Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
2021 CBC Canada Reads and Giller Prize winner and GG Awards Finalist, a tour-de-force debut novel about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess who must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve. Place a hold here: http://ow.ly/8c9A50Fec5H
📘 Canadian Geographic Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada
A groundbreaking four-volume atlas that shares the experiences, perspectives, and histories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Place a hold here: https://pemberton.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S49C125365664
📕 Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga
The groundbreaking and multiple award-winning national bestseller work about systemic racism, education, the failure of the policing and justice systems, and Indigenous rights. Place a hold here: https://pemberton.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S49C121002332
Or touch base with Brennan next time you’re in the Pemberton library. He helped facilitate the Sharing Circles that we hosted last year, with Tanina Williams, and has been reading through the canon of Indigenous writers since then, from Eden Robinson, to Thomas King, to Chief Dan George. Coming up, we’ll run a week-long series of Brennan’s reviews.