Books·My Life in Books

Seven Fallen Feathers author Tanya Talaga shares her 6 favourite books

The author of All Our Relations and Seven Fallen Feathers shares six of her all-time favourite books.
Tanya Talaga is a journalist and author of the books Seven Fallen Feathers and All Our Relations. (Vancouver Writers Festival)

Tanya Talaga is an award-winning author and journalist who lives in Toronto. All Our Relationsthe book companion to her 2018 CBC Massey Lectures, is an eye-opening look at the suicide epidemic in Indigenous communities. It's one of five books nominated for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. The winner will be announced on Nov. 5, 2019.

The Toronto Star reporter also wrote the book Seven Fallen Feathers, telling the story of seven Indigenous high school students who died in Thunder Bay, Ont. The book won the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize.

Talaga is a guest at the Vancouver Writers Festival this week. Check out all her events on the festival's website.

Talaga shared her six favourite books with CBC Books.

The Truth About Stories by Thomas King

Thomas King won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 2014 for his book The Back of The Turtle. (House of Anansi)

"I have read this book over and over again. King is a storyteller who holds your attention from the first page to the last, with his humour, his keen eye and his ability to get under our skin and bash around what it means to be an Indigenous person, what it means to be human and the moral and spiritual responsibilities we carry. The use of this one particular line at the end of his chapters is brilliant and haunting. It inspired me during my own Massey Lectures: 'Don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You've heard it now.'"

Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

Tomson Highway is a celebrated playwright, novelist and children's author. (Doubleday Canada/Facebook)

"I first read this book nearly 20 years ago and it left a gaping, emotional hole in me. This is a novel about the bond we share with our closest relations — our siblings. It is about our relationship with the land and what calls us home. You feel the characters struggle to belong in two worlds — in the cities and out in the bush. And you feel the irreparable devastation caused by Indian residential schools, the lasting insidious impact. Saying all of that, it is a book about love. It will leave you hollow."

In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Mosionier

Beatrice Mosionier's book, April Raintree, is the second book in Unreserved's Indigenous Reads book club. (Madison Thomas/CBC)

"Sometime in the early or mid-1980s, I found this book in my mother's room. It had a plain black cover with white letters, and I remember being instantly drawn to it. The story is about two Métis sisters who grew up separated in the foster care system. They had two very different lives, one child was raised Métis and the other was not. This book is raw. It is clear in its devastation, violence and sense of loss."

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (Associated Press, HarperCollins)

"This book introduced me to fantasy, to escapism and it opened up a part of my imagination I didn't know existed when I read it as a girl. This is a book about the fight between good and evil, darkness and light, it's a book about temptation — Turkish Delight — about fawns, friendship and what it is like to live in the frozen land of Narnia. A classic before the Harry Potters of this world."

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk, pictured above in 2012, is the author of the novel Snow. (Jacquues Brinon/AP/Canadian Press, Vintage)

"This is a story about a poet named Ka who goes home to his small Turkish village for his mother's funeral after spending years in exile in Germany. It is a political thriller with many arcs and intersecting themes about love, division and faith, set against the backdrop of the struggle within Turkey, the battle between secularism and Islamic fundamentalism and the existence of God. This is an incredible work of fiction by Pamuk, who previously won the Nobel Prize for literature. Snow takes you in and buries you. You'll become a lifelong fan of Pamuk's work."

Freedom is A Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis

Freedom is a Constant Struggle is a nonfiction book by Angela Y. Davis, pictured above in 2015. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images, Haymarket Books)

"The first time I read this book, I remember being on a plane, yelling out 'YES!!!' a number of times. Davis introduced me to so much I did not see before. As Cornel West describes Davis in the foreword, she is one of the 'few great long-distance intellectual freedom fighters in the world.' My friend Michael Kirlew told me to read this book, he was right and I will be forever grateful. She writes of America's history of violence, patriarchy, race, power and imperialism. Davis is a treasure, a needed and persistent voice."

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