British Columbia

Indigenous authors celebrated as readership skyrockets across Canada

The Vancouver Public Library says circulation of its Indigenous collection tripled between 2018 and 2019. Libraries and publishers across Canada say they have seen a similar rise in readership.

Vancouver Public Library says circulation of Indigenous collection has tripled since 2018

The Vancouver Public Library says books by authors Thomas King, Eden Robinson and Drew Hayden Taylor are some of the most popular from its Indigenous collection. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Tahltan author Cole Pauls has been creating graphic novels for 15 years, but he never dreamed he would see his work alongside that of some of his favourite artists and writers. 

"It's really humbling," said Pauls, who lives in Vancouver but is originally from Haines Junction, Yukon.

Pauls, whose work aims in part to revitalize the Southern Tutchone language he grew up with, is one of many authors featured at the Vancouver Public Library's new Indigenous collection at the Central Branch.

The collection includes fiction and non-fiction books, films and music from Indigenous authors, and about Indigenous issues. Most of the books previously existed at the library, but they're now featured in a prominent section near the front entrance of the downtown branch.

The library says it began to introduce Indigenous collections at its smaller branches in 2018 as a contribution toward reconciliation. 

The Indigenous collection at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library is prominently featured on its main floor. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

"It's a collection, but in truth what it really is is a space," said Inness Campbell, manager of collections and technical services at the Vancouver Public Library.

"It's a place for that reconciliation to start to happen, or certainly the learning that you might need to have that reconciliation." 

The launch of the collection comes at a time when Canadian readers have shown a voracious appetite for Indigenous authors and issues.

Campbell says circulation of the collection tripled between 2018 and 2019. Libraries and publishers across Canada say they have seen a similar rise in readership on the subject. 

Top books

At the Toronto Public Library, collections manager Michele Melady says she has noticed a spike in interest for books like The Marrow Thieves by Métis author Cherie Dimaline and Seven Fallen Feathers by Anishinaabe writer Tanya Talaga. 

Anna Comfort O'Keeffe, publisher at Douglas & McIntyre, says eight of her company's top 10 books are written by Indigenous authors like Richard Wagamese. 

Douglas and MacIntyre says Richard Wagamese is one of the publisher's most popular authors. (Yvette Lehmann, Douglas & McIntyre)

"That's what people want to read right now," she said. 

O'Keeffe says there has been such a proliferation of Indigenous writing that BookNet Canada, which serves the book industry, is revising international standards to include new classifications like Indigenous poetry. 

'Building up on each other'

The demand for Indigenous authors is no surprise to graphic novelist Pauls. He says news and current events have covered a lot of Indigenous issues lately, and he thinks people are hungry for authentic voices. 

"With a story coming from a true voice, that makes it way more interesting and way more sincere," he said.  

Cole Pauls says he's honoured to have his books featured alongside some of his favourite authors at the Vancouver Public Library. (Camille Vernet/CBC Arts)

When Pauls started drawing comics 15 years ago, he created work he thought he would have enjoyed as a kid. He says it's reassuring to see that his work resonates with so many people. 

It's also reasssuring for Pauls to see his books placed alongside other Indigenous authors who have chosen to share their culture.

"We're kind of like building up on each other," Pauls said. 

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.