Whole community reading Motorcycles and Sweetgrass
A book authored by a Curve Lake writer will be the buzz of the Halton Hills community this year. Drew Hayden Taylor’s
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass was chosen as One Book, One Halton Hills. It’s an initiative run by the Halton Hills Public Library, west of Toronto, that aims to foster reading and build community.
The program has run for seven years, with staff picking a new book every year.
To celebrate Canada’s 150th, staff chose a read that would provide a greater understanding of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“We were mirroring our nations focus on reconciliation with Indigenous people,” said Beverly King, adult service librarian at Halton Hills Public Library.
When trying to decide which book to go with, King said Hayden Taylor’s name came up again and again.
With 30 books to choose from, the library went with Motorcycles
and Sweetgrass because it’s approachable.
“We like its humour, it’s warmth and it’s connection to Indigenous Drew Hayden Taylor. themes,” King said.
The Curve Lake author said he was flattered they choose the book, which was published in 2010.
As he was writing it, he wasn’t sure if it would grab people’s interest, or even get published.
The book is set in the sleepy Anishnaabe community of Otter Lake – a thinly veiled Curve Lake, Hayden Taylor said.
The quiet town is turned upside down when a handsome stranger rolls in on a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle.
“It deals with mischief, magic and raccoons,” he said.
Back then, Hayden Taylor wasn’t sure if humour would be accepted in Indigenous literature. Typically Indigenous books have a victim narrative or focus on the side effects of post contact stress disorder or historical narratives, he said.
“Mine was actually humourous. It dealt with a more positive aspect and empowering aspect of the First Nation community.”
The author said he was encouraged to take a humourous approach by an elder on the Blood Reserve in Alberta. The elder told him that he felt humour was the WD40 of healing for native people.
“And I took that to heart, so I try to use a lot of humour in my work as a form of healing,” said Hayden Taylor.
The Curve Lake resident has authored 30 books, penned plays and worked on more than 17 documentaries exploring the Indigenous experience.
He’s currently adapting one of his short stories into a play for young audiences, is in the midst of a new novel and is getting ready for his play to open at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Sir John A Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion was commissioned by the centre and opens Oct. 5.
Before he heads off to Ottawa, Hayden Taylor is making an appearance in Halton Hills on Wednesday. He’ll be at John Elliott Theatre at 7 p.m. to chat about Motorcycles and
Sweetgrass and sign copies of his book. Tickets are $10.
The next day, Hayden Taylor be in Tweed reading excerpts from several of his books at the Tweed Public Library on Metcalfe Street, starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free.