Monique Gray Smith, Cindy Blackstock awarded PMC Indigenous Literature Awards

Tilly and the Crazy Eights and Spirit Bear: Fishing for Knowledge, Catching Dreams were chosen by a jury of Indigenous librarians as part of the 2019-2020 First Nations Communities READ program.
Monique Gray Smith (left) and Cindy Blackstock are the recipients of this year's PMC Indigenous Literature Awards. (Centric Photography, CBC)

Novelist Monique Gray Smith and picture book author Cindy Blackstock have been chosen as the winners of the PMC Indigenous Literature Awards and will each receive $3,000.

Their books, Tilly and the Crazy Eights and Spirit Bear: Fishing for Knowledge, Catching Dreams, were chosen by a jury of Indigenous librarians in Ontario as part of the 2019-2020 First Nations Communities READ program.

Gray Smith's novel follows a woman named Tilly, who agrees to drive eight elders on an "ultimate bucket list road trip" to the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in New Mexico. The trip will prove to be life-changing for Tilly and her passengers.

Gray Smith is a mixed-heritage author — Cree, Lakota and Scottish — who often writes and speaks about the resilience of Indigenous communities in Canada. Her book Speaking Our Truth was a finalist for the 2018 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.

Blackstock's picture book, Spirit Bear: Fishing for Knowledge, Catching Dreams illustrated by Amanda Strong, follows the titular character Spirit Bear as he visits his Uncle Huckleberry to take in traditional knowledge and learn about the residential school system.

Blackstock is a member of Gitxsan First Nation. She is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and a professor at McGill University.

Free copies of Gray Smith and Blackstock's books will be handed out at Toronto's Word on the Street Festival on Sept. 22, 2019. The two authors will receive their prize at an award ceremony in November.


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