Indigenous summer reading: 3 top picks by Lisa Charleyboy

CBC Aboriginal continues our summer reading series with three recommendations by Lisa Charleyboy, host of New Fire, on CBC Radio One.

New Fire host shares her recommendations, including books by Lee Maracle and John Ralston Saul

New Fire host, Lisa Charleyboy, recommends reading Tsawalk by Umeek. 'The reader is asked to strip away the way they may have been taught to look at their environment, and embrace another way of seeing the world.' (CBC)

CBC Aboriginal asked some of our favourite people to recommend some holiday reading suggestions.

In this on-going summer series authors, celebrities and CBC personalities share their favourite books, the ones they want to read this summer and the ones they think everyone should read. 

Here is Lisa Charleyboy, the host of CBC Radio One's summer radio series New Fire.

Hope to read: First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style by Lee Maracle

'This poignant and powerful collection of short stories provides revealing glimpses into the life experiences of an aboriginal woman, a university professor, an activist and a single mother.' - (Theytus Books)
Whether I'm at a cottage by the lake, or at a park in the city, I love delving into lighter books during the summer season. I put away my meaty reads and go for something that feels more like a salad, but that doesn't mean it can't be chock full of savoury bites.

First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style is the perfect paperback that I'll be packing around with me throughout the summer. This book looks like a classic summer "beach" read, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Anyone familiar with Sto:lo author, academic, and activist Lee Maracle will anticipate great insight and depth within this collection of ten short stories.

In these stories readers meet aboriginal women who have a variety of life experiences and social stratifications — from professor to single mother. Within these pages, indigenous female sexuality is revealed from varied positions, of both privilege and permission. Now that sounds like a lot more to digest than any kind of book with only shades of grey. 

A fave: Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth-Worldview by Umeek

'Tsawalk offers a revitalizing and thoughtful complement to Western scientific worldviews.' - (UBC Press)
Last fall I took a philosophy class where my textbook was Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth-Worldview by Umeek (E. Richard Atleo). I was very excited to read this book as I spent some time last summer in Nuu-chah-nulth territory and felt a deep connection to the land on the west side of Vancouver Island. Little did I know that this book was going to change the way I saw myself and the world. 

Through a collection of seven traditional stories, Atleo weaves together an understanding for the reader to grasp the importance and relevance of traditional indigenous storytelling for societal structure. While that sounds like a lot to take in for a summer read, keep in mind that you are reading stories that you may have heard before, but will walk away with an entirely new understanding of how traditional teachings are rooted in these seemingly simple stories. 

The essential takeaway is gleaned from the title Tsawalk, which translates to "everything is one." This means that we are one within both the physical and spiritual world and that there are deep connections that should be examined and honoured.

The reader is asked to strip away the way they may have been taught to look at their environment, and embrace another way of seeing the world.

This Nuu-chah-nulth world view is a lens that you might have difficulty ever forgetting. 

A recommendation: The Comeback by John Ralston Saul

Historic moments are always uncomfortable, Saul writes in this impassioned argument, calling on all of us to embrace and support the comeback of Aboriginal Peoples. - Penguin Random House Canada. (Penguin Random House Canada)
Every once in a while I come across a book and wonder why I haven't read this before, and why these words haven't come together prior to its publishing date. 

John Ralston Saul's book The Comeback is one that fits this bill. Celebrated author and public intellectual John Ralston Saul details the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and describes ways in which we might be able to move forward together. In this era of romanticism about reconciliation, it is certainly time to really reveal some strategies for realizing what that might mean. 

After reading this book, I was energized to take responsibility in my role as a bridge builder and to create understanding between Indigenous Peoples and non-indigenous Canadians. Without understanding, we cannot truly move forward in a good way.

This book is one that I hope each and every single Canadian will take the time to read, and to reflect on their responsibility in creating a better future for this country.


Lisa Charleyboy is a storyteller and a social media entrepreneur. She's been named by Huffington Post as one of three Aboriginal Millennials to watch, and has been selected as a DiverseCity Fellow for 2013-2014. She is a widely published writer, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Urban Native Magazine. @UrbanNativeGirl