Cel­e­brat­ing In­dige­nous lit­er­a­ture

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - Fiona Wat­son is the youth ser­vices li­brar­ian with the Cum­ber­land Pub­lic Li­braries.

This year In­dige­nous Ser­vices Canada-At­lantic Re­gion do­nated many new books to our col­lec­tion in hon­our and cel­e­bra­tion of Na­tional In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day (June 21).

I am a big fan of First Na­tions, Métis, and Inuit lit­er­a­tures, and was very ex­cited to have an op­por­tu­nity to bol­ster our col­lec­tion.

Al­though I haven’t read as many of the in­com­ing books as I would have liked yet (is there any­one who ac­tu­ally keeps up with their read­ing list?), I al­ready know a cou­ple of them are go­ing to make it on my top five favourite reads list for 2018.

One book that re­ally caught my at­ten­tion was Jonny Ap­ple­seed. The au­thor, Joshua White­head, is a Two-Spirit, Oji-Cree mem­ber of the Peguis First Na­tion in Man­i­toba. This book is not for the faint of heart—the pro­tag­o­nist, Jonny, is an In­ter­net sex-worker es­tranged from his life on the re­serve. Jonny spends most of his time sched­ul­ing and meet­ing clients in a fren­zied at­tempt to keep food on the ta­ble, pay the rent, and find cab money. De­spite this, Jonny’s life – and the book it­self—is vi­brant and re­silient. White­head’s disjointed nar­ra­tive weaves a beau­ti­ful, po­etic, and sex-pos­i­tive pic­ture of a life filled with love, loss, and rec­on­cil­ing with the past.

The Mar­row Thieves by Cherie Di­ma­line, a mem­ber of the Ge­or­gian Bay Métis Na­tion, has been get­ting a lot of buzz; it won both the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Award for Chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture and Kirkus Prize in 2017 and was fea­tured on CBC’s Canada Reads com­pe­ti­tion this year. It is a dystopian novel that has merit well be­yond the pop­u­lar YA troupe, adding a strong, ac­ces­si­ble voice to colo­nial crit­i­cism. The story fol­lows Frenchie who is on the run from “re­cruiters.” These gov­ern­ment agents are sent to col­lect In­dige­nous North Amer­i­cans and rob them of a valu­able sub­stance that holds the key to the rest of the world’s lost abil­ity to dream: their bones. Di­ma­line’s writ­ing and char­ac­ters are cap­ti­vat­ing and ex­pertly echo the real atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against North Amer­ica Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples.

Now, I couldn’t pos­si­bly make it through a rec­om­mended reads list with­out touch­ing on my favourite lit­er­ary for­mat: graphic nov­els. I’ll spare you the lengthy, flour­ished, de­scrip­tion of the value of the art form and sim­ply say that if you’re not into graphic nov­els and you’re not into First Na­tions, Metis, and Inuit lit­er­a­tures, now is your chance to start with both! Fire Starters by Jenn Storm, il­lus­trated by Scott B. Hen­der­son, and Pem­mi­can Wars (A Girl Called Echo) by Kather­ena Ver­mette are both small morsels of ed­u­ca­tional good­ness that cham­pion the for­mats “show, don’t tell” at­ti­tude. Moon­shot: The In­dige­nous Comics Col­lec­tion, edited by Hope Lar­son, on the other hand, is a hardy as­sort­ment of short sto­ries from some of the most bril­liant First Na­tion, Inuit, and Métis au­thors and artists you may not have heard of yet. The Out­side Cir­cle, writ­ten by Patti La­cou­cane-Ben­son and il­lus­trated by Kelly Mellings, is an­other favourite that will no doubt cause heavy sob­bing.

The col­lec­tion doesn’t stop there: if it’s pic­ture books you’re af­ter, I’d rec­om­mend look­ing into Julie Flett - a Cree-Metis il­lus­tra­tor who I had the hon­our of tak­ing a class with at UBC. She uses del­i­cate pa­per cutouts to tell gen­tle sto­ries about love and fam­ily. If you have an older child, try the work Ni­cola I. Camp­bell and Kim LaFave have done to­gether.

I have barely scratched the sur­face of our col­lec­tion in my read­ing and rec­om­mend­ing and you may no­tice that I skew to­wards west­ern au­thors, this is be­cause I only re­cently moved back from study­ing in British Columbia. I am ea­gerly ac­cept­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of Mi’kmaq au­thors for my never-end­ing read­ing list which in­cludes: The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp, No One Cries at Bingo by Dawn Du­mont, Mon­key Beach and Son of a Trick­ster by Eden Robin­son, Trail of Light­ning by Re­becca Roan­horse, Strangers and The Evo­lu­tion of Alice by David Alexan­der Robert­son, The Break by Kather­ena Ver­mette, and Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq John­son.

For these books and oth­ers, check out your lo­cal li­brary and our web­site, www.cum­ber­land­pub­li­cli­braries.ca. And, of course, don’t for­get you can come to the li­brary and get your child a li­brary card at any age!

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