Canada Reads 2016

7 books that inspire Tracey Lindberg

Tracey Lindberg has been a reader since she was five years old. "My mom, like Birdie's mom, taught me to spell with the glow of her cigarette tip in the dark," she says. Birdie, Lindberg's debut novel and a contender for Canada Reads 2016, is the moving tale of Bernice "Birdie" Meetoos, a Cree woman haunted by a dark secret. The book will be defended by Bruce Poon Tip.

Below, Lindberg shares the seven books that have shaped her life - but couldn't resist adding a few extra writers to the roster: indigenous feminist blogger Naomi Kwe, poet and 2016 Rhodes scholar Billy-Ray Belcourt, writer Chelsea Vowel, and author Leanne Simpson.

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THE BOOK THAT ONLY GETS WISER IN TIME

The book that changed the way that I think about owning ourselves, our strength as indigenous women and the uselessness of shame is Halfbreed by Maria Campbell. Reading this before I met Maria Campbell (who is now a dear friend) allowed me possibilities. Anger as possible and understandable. Truth as possible medicine. Possible futures. Impossibly beautiful communities. It also taught me the world about impossible people and love. The work has not aged. There is a timelessness to it, and it changes, morphs and enriches me differently each time I read it. It is a gift.

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THE BOOK THAT INSPIRED HER TO EXPERIMENT WITH WRITING

The non-conformity of form, good story telling and piecing together of the intricacies of human interaction and weirdness came to me in the challenging, beautiful and unique House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Prior to reading this, I think I understood that some stories don't fit on the page, some words aren't created yet and that some formats colonize and eviscerate people and experiences. This book, with its spiral, zigzagged, printed, written, song snippets, monologues, articles and ideas, reads like a scrapbook (or a journal, or a pieced together existence). It was fantastically liberating to know that you could make the form - bend the page - to meet you.

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THE BOOK THAT TAUGHT HER TO WRITE ABOUT RACISM

My mentor (and current Dean of Harvard Law School) Martha Minow, got me to read Derrick Bell's, Faces from the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism when I was struggling about how to tell the story of violence against indigenous women in our own voices. I have never forgotten it because it is unforgettable, but also because it opened to me the possibility of the discussion and transference of community through storytelling. In this work, Bell (an academic, the first tenured African-American Professor of Law at Harvard) started to explore notions of kinship and community, responsibility and racialization in words and construction that resonated with me as a 20-some-year-old at an Ivy league school. He had a conversation with the ancestors that was smart, creative and so rich. It moved me and made me confident that our stories house laws. Governance. Truths. Histories. Possible futures.

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THE AUTHOR THAT WAS HER GATEWAY TO WRITING

Judy Blume was my gateway author to writing. Now, I know it is impossible for most adults to or anyone to write with this openness and clarity, especially in that accessible and honest way. Then I thought I would like to be the brown Judy when I grew up, telling our girls and boys that our natural, our regular, is as weird and amazing as anyone else's. I didn't know until years later that Gregory Scofield (The Gathering: Stones for the Medicine Wheel, Love Medicine and One Song, I Knew Two Metis Women) and Marilyn Dumont (A Really Good Brown Girl and The Pemmican Eaters) were already doing it magnificently. Blubber and Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret are my favourites by Judy.

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THE BIOGRAPHY THAT SHE IS ALWAYS IN THE MOOD FOR

My emotional vocabulary has been enriched through the conversation with books. In order to understand the dialogue better, I have continued with a lifelong love of reading biographies and autobiographies. Understanding how people choose to tell and not to tell their stories makes us better able to document our own, or others', I think. Also: I am purely snoopy and want to know the grotty bits without living them, sometimes. Aside from that, there is beauty in the nakedness of revelation, sometimes. There is kindness in giving other the truthgift. Maya Angelou's Gather Together in My Name comes to me in both quiet and noisy times. Her fearlessness grows in those who read her.

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THE BOOK ALL LAW STUDENTS SHOULD READ

Patricia Monture taught many of us about strength, conviction and courage. Her work, I often say, should be required reading for law students. Now, I would add that it should be read by all proponents of justice by and for indigenous peoples. She worked hard to understand and write about inequity, inequality and systemic bars to just relations. What I see now, as I approach the autumn of my time, is the kindness, the love and the commitment she had for and to our peoples. Try Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks to start.

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THE BOOK SHE GOES TO FOR INSPIRATION

Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan: Our Dream Is That Our Peoples Will One Day Be Clearly Recognized as Nations by Harold Cardinal and Walter Hildebrandt reverberates with the words of elders articulating the relationship between indigenous and settler peoples as relatives. A beautifully developed conversation about law, governance, and living together, I use this book like a reference book, referring to it time and time again for the ideas, teachings and honourings they have captured here.

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