Dalhousie students encouraged to read Mi'kmaw poet's autobiography
Copies of Song of Rita Joe can be picked up from the university library as part of the Dal Reads program
First-year students at Halifax's Dalhousie University are getting the opportunity to read Rita Joe's autobiography.
Known as the poet laureate of the Mi'kmaw people, Joe died in March 2007 at the age of 75.
Song of Rita Joe follows the life of the Cape Breton poet and was chosen as this year's Dal Reads book.
Dal Reads started in 2009 and aims to bring the university community closer together through reading the same book.
Marlo MacKay is the chair of the Dal Reads steering committee. She said the committee thought Rita Joe's story is important for people from Nova Scotia and those studying here to learn more about the Mi'kmaq.
"Reconciliation is such an important topic right now in Canada," said MacKay. "It's a very good way of putting some of those stories into a first-person context."
Dalhousie typically holds multiple events relating to their Dal Reads title book throughout the year. A grandson of Joe's is attending law school at Dalhousie and has read one of his grandmother's poems to students and staff.
Ronald Caplan is the publisher for Cape Breton Books and published Song of Rita Joe. He said the book is a great choice for relating Joe's experience to the current Canadian political climate.
"It speaks so clearly to issues that we're we're all talking about today regarding Canadian diversity and opportunities of making your own way in the world and standing up for what you think is right," said Caplan.
Joe wanted to 'encourage' young people
He said Joe was quiet and contained, but determined to use her examples to help others.
"She wanted to leave behind something people could use to build on, she wanted to encourage the young to go out there and continue writing," said Caplan. "It's just wonderful."
The Dal Reads program is aimed at first-year students, but any student can get a copy of Song of Rita Joe. Copies can be picked up as a hard copy or an e-book from the university library.