Curl up with 3 Indigenous book recommendations from author Richard Van Camp

Author Richard Van Camp reads a lot — and it was tough for him to narrow his choices down to three — but here are a few of his favourites from the year.
Richard Van Camp talks about his latest book, "Moccasin Square Gardens," as well as three of his favourite books by Indigenous authors this year. (William Au/D&M Publishers)

The year's coming to an end and the holiday season is here. What better time to share a few of the best books from 2019? 

Author Richard Van Camp writes a lot. His 15th book, Moccasin Square Gardens, is a collection of short stories that Van Camp says pokes fun at everything and everyone, including what he calls "man-babies," bad leaders, and even himself.
Moccasin Square Gardens.

"I felt that this was really the time to shine and laugh," Van Camp said. "If you're making fun of yourself, it actually is the perfect welcome to any reader to see themselves in that." 

But Van Camp also reads a lot — specifically, he reads a lot of Indigenous literature. "I've devoted my life to honouring and reading as much as I can," Van Camp said "It is impossible to keep up, and that's great. I'm fine with that. I've made peace with that."

Van Camp worked extremely hard to pick three of his favourite books by Indigenous authors to share with Unreserved this year.

In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

In My Own Moccasins.
Van Camp's first pick, In My Own Moccasins, is an unflinching window into author Helen Knott's own experiences with addiction and intergenerational trauma. 

He calls the book a "self-damning memoir," one that details many of the struggles Knott faced. But the story, though harrowing, is a powerful one, full of redemption and reminders that she was always meant for more.

"[Knott] has taken the language where it's never been taken before," Van Camp said. "She's a superhero, and I'm in awe of what she has done here."

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette

The Girl and the Wolf.
Katherena Vermette's The Girl and the Wolf isn't just a new take on a fable, Van Camp said.

The children's book is about an Indigenous girl in a red dress who wanders too far away from her family's camp and is met by a wolf. The story isn't necessarily about the dangers of venturing out alone, but rather the idea of having power on the inside.

"It's a great tool for all kids to read to remember that in times of panic, you are loved, you can make yourself safe," he said. "The child is empowered, gently, by the wolf."

Taaqtumi by various authors

Van Camp has written for horror anthologies before, but none like the short story compilation Taaqtumi, which means "in the dark" in Inuktitut. 

"This is the celebration of pure darkness — the darkness that's in all of us," Van Camp said, and added the stories in the book were some of the most chilling and frightening he's ever read.

"I think every story in here was chosen for the spiritual horror aspect, the cultural horror aspect."