Sunday November 26, 2017

New subscription company connects readers with books by Indigenous authors

Raven Reads is a subscription service that delivers Indigenous books and gifts every three months.

Raven Reads is a subscription service that delivers Indigenous books and gifts every three months.

Listen 6:29

Nicole McLaren didn't launch her business as a reconciliation project, but that's what Raven Reads is morphing into.

The company, which launched in September 2017, sends subscribers a new book by an Indigenous author every three months. The package also includes art, crafts, jewelry, skin care, or other gifts or products made by Indigenous artisans. 

"The reaction has been great," she said. 

Nicole McLaren

Nicole McLaren (Supplied)

Raven Reads evolved from a book club McLaren started several years ago with her co-workers at a mining company. McLaren, who has M├ętis, Cree and European heritage, chose Indigenous writers for their club. 

"I noticed there was still quite a disconnect between broader society in Canada and their understanding of our collective past. And so I've been trying to think, 'What is my role, what can I do day-by-day,' and then I just let that organically grow over time," said McLaren, 37, who lives in Vancouver. 

Almost none of the women in her book club at work had contact with Indigenous communities, so reading about Indigenous experiences created better understanding, she said.

For her first mail out, McLaren chose Seven Fallen Feathers; Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Toronto Star journalist Tanya Talaga. The non-fiction work follows the stories of seven Indigenous teenagers who all died in Thunder Bay after moving to the northwestern Ontario city for school. 

Raven Reads

Raven Reads boxes contain a book by an Indigenous author and gifts and products from Indigenous-owned companies. (Supplied)

"It's an emerging story that perhaps not all Canadians were aware of. I thought it was something contemporary ... it was something that was happening still now, and something that people could still play an active role and still have a discussion about," McLaren said.

Reading books by Indigenous authors is also an accessible and valuable way for anybody to explore ideas of reconciliation, she said.

"There's something safer about reading. People can do it from the comfort of their own home," she explained. "They have time to think and ask questions through other forms rather than trying to have a face-to-face [conversation] where personalities or biases can get in the way."

Reading is a great way to start the conversation, McLaren said.

In the future, Raven Reads will also include fiction and non-fiction books by Indigenous authors from around the world. There are several subscription options and the service currently has subscribers across North America.