Canada Reads·Reading List

6 books to read if you loved The Right to Be Cold

The Right to Be Cold was a contender for Canada Reads 2017.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier is one of the world's most recognized environmental, cultural and human rights activists. (CBC)

If you enjoyed Sheila  Watt-Cloutier's memoir, here are six more great books to check out.

The Right to Be Cold was defended by Chantal Kreviazuk during Canada Reads, before being eliminated on Day Three of the debates.

Paddlenorth by Jennifer Kingsley

What it's about: Six friends journey through the unforgiving Canadian wilderness, canoeing on the Back River in the Arctic. Relationships are tested, inner demons are battled and the tundra's dangerous beauty is discovered. A lesson in history, ecology and human dynamics wrapped up into adventure.

If your favourite thing about The Right to Be Cold was: A memoir that draws you close to the writer. Exploring unknown, isolated parts of Canada. A deep appreciation for nature.

From the book: "Finding those animals was a dream come true for me, and it was tempting to imagine a deeper meaning. I had prayed for a caribou to cross my path until I saw how that desire was holding me back from appreciating the rest of the journey. So I let it go, which I hated doing, and then they appeared. It sounds like a lesson from a book of daily meditations — let go and your deepest desires will come true — but it isn't. The tundra cuts a person down to size, disabusing us of new age notions that we are the center of it all. That alone is a good reason to go there."

I Am Woman by Lee Maracle

(Press Gang)

What it's about: Published in 1988, Lee Maracle's seminal book is a harsh condemnation of racism and sexism in Canada. The book, Maracle writes, is a representation of her personal struggle with womanhood and race and brings to light the impact colonialism has had on Indigenous women. At once academic and conversational, the book is also a collection of stories from Maracle's life.

If your favourite thing about The Right to Be Cold was: An Indigenous voice dealing hard truths about issues we should all know more about. Deeply analytical, intelligent and emotional writing. An empowered Indigenous woman, empowering others through storytelling.

From the book: "I used to consider myself a liberated woman. I woke up at the bottom of the mine shaft one morning, darkness above me, screaming, "I'm not like the rest… I'm not an alcoholic… a skid row bum… a stupid Native," ad nauseum. Each time I confronted white colonial society I had to convince them of my validity as a human being. It was the attempt to convince them that made me realize that I was still a slave."

The Caribou Taste Different Now edited by José Gérin-Lajoie, Alain Cuerrier and Laura Siegwart Collier

(Nunavut Arctic College)

What it's about: Inuit elders from Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut document environmental changes they've observed in the Canadian Arctic as climate change progresses. Observations range from increasingly poorer quality harvests (e.g. smaller blueberries due to less rainfall) to creeks that have dried up, to diminishing herds of caribou — a staple of the diet of many northern communities.

If your favourite thing about The Right to Be Cold was: The depiction of climate change's human impact. Greater insight into the life of Canada's northern communities; their traditions, as well as the challenges created by their rapidly changing environment.

From the book"I'm worried about the seasons. I'm worried about our community. […] I'm worried about how the weather is and what is going on in other communities and around the world." —Alice Ayalik​

A Two-Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby with Mary Louisa Plummer

(Ruth Kivilahti)

What it's about: The memoir of an Objibwe-Cree lesbian who grew up in a remote northern Ontario community, Chacaby overcame experiences with abuse and alcohol addiction to become a counsellor and lead Thunder Bay's first gay pride parade. 

If your favourite thing about The Right to Be Cold was: An inspiring true story about overcoming hardships and dedicating your life to advocacy. An authentic Indigenous voice, telling an Indigenous story. An education into an Indigenous community's culture and traditions — (in this case, the Ojibwa and Cree community from Ombabika, Ont.).

From the book: "My kokum explained to me that one night her parents woke her in a rush and told her to hide. She and her brother and another child ran to the canoe and crawled under it. They heard yells and screams from their homes, but they stayed quiet for a very long time, until there was silence. Then they waited even longer, as long as they could. They came out from under the canoe in the morning. The air was filled with smoke, and the teepees had been burnt to the ground. Dead bodies lay everywhere. The children were terrified and hid under the canoe again. In the end, they were discovered by travelling Cree families that were canoeing by the area. My grandmother said that those adults buried the dead in a large mound, and then adopted her and the other two children into their families."

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

(Kourosh Keshiri)

What it's about: Naomi Klein investigates the the truths and myths in the public battle over climate change. In this award-winning book, Klein draws a hard line from capitalism to climate change, shedding light on how our economy is hastening irrevocable environmental disaster. 

If your favourite thing about The Right to Be Cold was: An understanding of the systems — in this case, capitalism — working against climate change advocacy. A case for how bureaucracy and politics hinder progress. A global perspective on the human impact of climate change.

From the book: "Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will hear modern environmentalism compared to virtually every mass-murderous chapter in human history, from the Catholic Inquisition to Nazi Germany to Stalin's Russia. I will learn that Barack Obama's campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was akin to Chairman Mao's scheme to put "a pig iron furnace in everybody's backyard" (the Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels). That climate change is "a stalking horse for National Socialism" (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt, referencing the Nazis). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano again)."

Circling the Midnight Sun by James Raffan

What it's about: Jim Raffan chronicles his journey circumnavigating the globe at 66.5 degrees latitude. Along the way, Raffan documents the Arctic's changing environment and the communities affected by climate change.

If your favourite thing about The Right to Be Cold was: A global exploration of the Arctic, including and beyond Canada. Putting a human face to climate change

From the book"If we are to get closer to understanding the role that the North is playing and will play in our future, if we are to embrace the notion of a peopled Arctic, a different map needs to be etched in public consciousness. This is a map that President Grímsson knows well, the so-called polar projection. It is a view of the earth looking down from the North Star, a map with the North Pole in the centre and the equator at the margin, with the parallels (latitudes) as circles and the meridians (longitudes) as spokes on a wheel. There is a similar map for the South Pole; what sets the two apart is that the austral map shows land surrounded by water, while the boreal map is the opposite. Culturally, the poles are opposites as well: the North is peopled."


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