The authors and books that Canada Reads author Michelle Good loved reading
Christian Allaire is defending Five Little Indians by Michelle Good on Canada Reads 2022
Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Her first book, Five Little Indians, won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It was also on the 2020 Writers's Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.
In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie were taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they were very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released and left to contend with the seedy world of eastside Vancouver. Fuelled by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past.
"My father was a real influence in terms of my reading. And so I read everything he was reading," Good told CBC Books. "I was about 12 years old and I was reading Cannery Row, East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath and and those very powerful narrative books"
Here are some of the books and authors Good loved reading.
Daybreak by Joan Baez
"I remember reading Daybreak when I was 13 years old. It is an early autobiography of Joan Baez.
"It introduced me to activism and pacifism. It was very important."
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
"This was a real turning point for me when this book came out.
"It is about the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the 19th century."
Dance Me Outside by W.P. Kinsella
"This was a very interesting book for me to read because there's been tremendous controversy about this non-Indigenous man writing as though from an Indigenous perspective.
It was the first time I ran into the notion of cultural appropriation in literature.
"It was the first time I ran into the notion of cultural appropriation in literature. His representation of an Indigenous medicine woman as a drunk infuriated me. It also inspired me to think that there is a place that must be opened for Indigenous authors so that we can tell the stories the way we want to tell our stories."
Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson
"The Swamp Angel was the first 'CanLit' book I ever read. It just hit me like a ton of bricks to see land that I'm tremendously familiar with landscapes, both geographical and emotional, that were distinctly Canadian.
"And I read everything she wrote."
"Following reading Ethel Wilson was Margaret Laurence — in particular The Diviners, The Stone Angel and A Jest of God — also Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women and Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You.
These are amazing women and Canadian writers that wrote with such a phenomenally unique style.
"These are amazing women and Canadian writers that wrote with such a phenomenally unique style. It just lit a fire in me that I think is still burning."
I read everything by Louise Erdrich. I haven't had an opportunity to read her newest book The Sentence but The Night Watchman was just phenomenal. And I'm going back again to Love Medicine as I'm really into her unique style. She's technically American, but for Indigenous people, there is no border. She is probably related to people in Ontario even though she's in Minnesota.
Michelle Good's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
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