Indigenous writers recommend books to read during Indigenous Book Club Month
Every day during Indigenous Book Club Month, CBC Books published a recommendation from an Indigenous writer to read a book by another Indigenous writer. Check out all the recommendations below!
Daniel Heath Justice says: "I was a graduate student just coming out of the silence of cultural shame into a deeper sense of belonging when I first read Writing As Witness. This slim volume remains a touchstone text in my personal library."
Richard Van Camp says: "Jennifer Storm came out with Deadly Loyalties, published by Theytus Books, when she was 16. This story is about a young Indigenous woman who wants very much to join a gang in Manitoba so she'll have respect and protection."
Alicia Elliott says: "The Stone Collection explores the lives and loves of Anishinaabe people with so much care it made me openly and very awkwardly weep basically every place I read it — but it also made me laugh, think and hope."
Gord Grisenthwaite says: "King's 2005 story collection, A Short History of Indians in Canada, remains important to me as the first 'real' evidence I had that Natives wrote and published in Canada. It is also a stellar example of CanLit."
Gloria Mehlmann says: "Stephen Hawking once likened an alien invasion of Earth to the time Europeans arrived and how Native Americans were treated. Harold LeRat's Treaty Promises, Indian Reality: Life on a Reserve, published in 2005, outlines the alien method in stunning detail."
Tanya Roach says: "Life Among the Qallunaat is a book about Mini Aodla Freeman's journey from her small hometown to a big city for a job. The cultural transition from traditional Inuit lifestyle to modernized cities was interesting, humorous, difficult and downright honest."
Daniel David Moses says: "That her subject matter is the now more familiar and familial damage of residential schools, that she renders it in language both simple and deep and enthralling, brings more of the world into our literature and makes it a better place. Burning in this Midnight Dream is a thrilling achievement."
Dawn Dumont says: "Merasty depicts the [residential school] abuse gently, as if trying to protect the reader. It worries me that sharing it hurt him and that he had no one there to protect him from this second level of abuse. Merasty made huge sacrifices to write The Education of Augie Merasty, and I believe Canada owes him the obligation to read and learn from it."
Monique Gray Smith says: "Each and every story in Islands of Decolonial Love stirred something deep within me. Depending on the story, Leanne's words are either like a healing salve gathered and prepared by a loving Auntie or like ocean water slowly dropped on an open wound."
Harold R. Johnson says: "Eden Robinson's Son of a Trickster... employs word craft so precise that every word bead is sewn in the exact right position to create a piece of art that allows me to see as well as feel the story."
Cherie Dimaline says: "In Witness, I Am, Scofield gives us ceremony in his words, love in his images, belonging in his ache... I am grateful every time I hear Gregory speak or read the genius in his poems, because each time I remember how privileged I am to be Indigenous, to be Métis, to be a part of the community he refuses to compromise on, that he carries with him through each word and every line."
Francine Cunningham says: "Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson is a thrilling young adult dystopian novel that explores the ideas behind blood quantum, Métis identity and the future of our planet where the supernatural come out to play."
Rita Bouvier says: "A Really Good Brown Girl by Marilyn Dumont, published in 1996, winner of the Gerald Lampert Award, is a seminal work that should be read by every Canadian. In 2017, the poems still resonate with a life lived in a context and the fallout of a colonialized, racialized and sexualized world."
Billy-Ray Belcourt says: "In Passage, Benaway takes to nature imagery because she knows that to think with the trees, the clouds and the lake is to think the thorny cages of the semantic. She knows that we are all at the mercy of the sky, for better or for worse."
Jessie MacKenzie says: "Walking The Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction is a must-read for those who wish to explore far-off galaxies and alternate histories. These powerful stories provide vital life lessons in the age of reconciliation and technocracy. Canada, prepare yourself for a metaphysical experience that is out of this world."
Carol Rose Daniels says: "I remember reading one of Richard's short stories while in flight from Yellowknife to Edmonton a few years ago... I started sobbing on the airplane. Angel Wing Splash Pattern is beautifully written. The depth of Richard's writing is phenomenal."
Patti LaBoucane-Benson recommends Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan by Harold Cardinal and Walter Hildebrandt
Patti LaBoucane-Benson says: "At the core of Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan are instructions for being a good human — a guide to seeking miyo-pimatisiwin (the good, healthy life) — and the cornerstones to truth and reconciliation."
Carleigh Baker says: "A Two-Spirit Journey is a story about resilience, told with striking honesty and unadorned simplicity. The particulars of Chacaby's life, as well as the social and cultural context she provides, gives readers a nuanced look into Canada's recent past."
Niigaanwewidam Sinclair says: "If you want a primer on Indigenous cultural expressions, Read, Listen, Tell: Indigenous Stories From Turtle Island is for you. If you want deft, detailed stories in Indigenous written, oral and graphic traditions, these will expand your thinking."
Chantal Fiola says: "In Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours), Johnson, a Crown prosecutor, uses conversational narrative, Trickster stories, research and statistics to discuss the relationship between the Cree and alcohol — and how that story can be changed."
Janet Rogers says: "In Burning in This Midnight Dream, Halfe shares with us her bravest work to date. She has dug out, from deep inside herself, the cancerous and disturbing tissue from where her dysfunctional realities are born."
Waubgeshig Rice says: "When I first read it, Richard Van Camp's The Lesser Blessed struck me as a quintessential telling of the young Indigenous experience. All these years later, I still believe that."
Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm says: "The Way of Thorn and Thunder cleverly confronts and deconstructs the fantasy genre to tell an action-packed story of exploration and dislocation from the perspective of the Kyn, the Indigenous peoples of this lush and balanced world whose lives and homelands are threatened with conquest and exploitation."
David Alexander Robertson says: "In Search of April Raintree is one of the most iconic books in Canadian literature, let alone Indigenous literature. It is powerful, timeless and more relevant today than ever."
Cliff Cardinal says: "Reading Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters is like listening to your Kohkum speak Cree to you. It bounces in your body like water hitting rocks, tickling your ribs and poking you in the solar plexus."
Liz Howard says: "In indigena awry, annharte troubles the outside of mixed-race identity, poverty and 'experimental writing' into a seemingly ever-expanding interstice that makes my spiritmind want to live."
Adler couldn't pick just one book — see all his recommendations here.
Jay Odjick says: "Werewolves may not be real — but the characters in Mongrels are as real as any people you will meet in our world. Give it a read during the next full moon and howl to your friends — Mongrels is a modern classic and a must read."