Books·Why I Write

2021 Indspire Awards recipient Drew Hayden Taylor wants to expand how we define Indigenous literature

In this special CBC Books video series, Canadian authors talk about what literature means to them.

'Indigenous writers are as interested, as talented and as curious about writing genre fiction'

CBC Books (Why I Write): Drew Hayden Taylor

CBC Books

3 years ago
2:40
In this CBC Books video series, author Drew Hayden Taylor discusses the power of Indigenous literature. 2:40

Drew Hayden Taylor is an Ojibway playwright, author and journalist from Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario. He has worked on over 17 documentaries examining Indigenous experiences and served as the artistic director of Canada's premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts.

In 2007, Taylor debuted with the YA novel The Night WandererHis other books include the novels Motorcycles & Sweetgrass and Chasing Painted Horses and Take Us to Your Chief, a collection of Indigenous science fiction short stories.

Taylor is a recipient of a 2021 Indspire Award in the arts category. The Indspire Awards recognize Indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding career achievement on a national level in a variety of fields.

The 2021 Indspire Awards will broadcast nationwide on Tuesday, June 22 at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NT) on CBC TV, CBC GemCBC Radio One, the CBC Listen app and APTN. 

CBC Books talked to Taylor for the latest instalment of the Why I Write series.

Indigenous science fiction

"I'm a big fan of science fiction. What's interesting is that if you go into the traditional teachings and stories of many Indigenous cultures across Canada, you will find stories of 'star people' coming down and interacting with people on earth or people from Earth going up into the stars.

What people in North America have a better understanding of technologically advanced strangers suddenly showing up and taking over everything?

"If you look at pictographs and petroglyphs to see what could be imagery of aliens. On a more of a satiric level, what people in North America have a better understanding of technologically advanced strangers suddenly showing up and taking over everything?

No limits

"I'm interested as a First Nations writer in expanding the boundaries of what is considered Indigenous literature.

I'm a firm believer that Indigenous writers are as interested, as talented and as curious about writing genre fiction.

"Traditionally, this type of literature was highlighted by historical narratives or victim narratives, by-products to what I refer to as post-contact stress disorders. I always want to write literature that goes outside of those themes: I've written comedies, a vampire novel and a magic realism novel. I'm presently working on an horror novel with Indigenous elements. I'm a firm believer that Indigenous writers are as interested, as talented and as curious about writing genre fiction."

CBC Books's Why I Write series features authors speaking on what literature means to them. Shot on location at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre during the 2018 Canadian Writers' Summit. See episode one with author Catherine Hernandez and episode two with Shyam Selvadurai.

Drew Hayden Taylor's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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