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Indigenous Reads

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Your monthly book club dedicated to contemporary Indigenous literature – Everybody is welcome!

Indigenous Reads is a literature colloquium dedicated to very contemporary literature by Indigenous writers from Turtle Island. We meet monthly to discuss the texts and their socio-historical implications. The setting is friendly and informal; it resembles a book club more than a university course. We gather students, staff, and local guests, the only requirement being to read the books.

www.lenaremykovach.com/indigenousreads

PROGRAM

Monday | 6 pm | Zoom
For more information or to register, please contact .

IR SoSe21


WINTER 2020/21

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  • Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson (2017)
    »Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who's often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he's also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can't rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby) – and now she's dead. Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can't rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family's life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat...and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he's the son of a trickster, that he isn't human. Mind you, ravens speak to him – even when he's not stoned. You think you know Jared, but you don't.«

  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (2012)
    »Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he's a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he's sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he'll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he's led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows. With compassion and insight, the author  traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he's sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.«

  • Coyote Christmas: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson (2007)
    »On Christmas Eve on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Coyote wants to find some people to trick out of a hot meal. Sneaky Coyote is known by American Indians as the Trickster. He knows that there's one person people can't refuse on Christmas Eve: Santa Claus! In red rags and a woolly Santa's beard, the Trickster fools a family into welcoming him to their Christmas dinner. But just when he thinks he's gotten away with his ruse, taking their food and leaving the family with nothing, he's foiled by a strange occurrence. Could it be a Christmas miracle?«

  • Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson (2018)
    »In an effort to keep all forms of magic at bay, Jared has quit drugs and drinking. But his troubles are not over: now he's being stalked by David, his mom's ex – a preppy, khaki-wearing psycho with a proclivity for rib-breaking. And his mother, a living, breathing badass as well as a witch, can't protect him like she used to because he's moved away from Kitimat to Vancouver for school. Even though he's got a year of sobriety under his belt (no thanks to his enabling, ever-partying mom), Jared also struggles with the temptation of drinking. And he's got to get his grades up, find a job that doesn't involve weed cookies, and somehow live peacefully with his Aunt Mave, who has been estranged from the family ever since she tried to "rescue" him as a baby from his mother. An indigenous activist and writer, Mave smothers him with pet names and hugs, but she is blind to the real dangers that lurk around them – the spirits and supernatural activity that fill her apartment. As the son of a Trickster, Jared is a magnet for magic, whether he hates it or not – he sees ghosts, he sees the monster moving underneath his Aunt Georgina's skin, he sees the creature that comes out of his bedroom wall and creepily wants to suck his toes. He also still hears the Trickster in his head, and other voices too. When the David situation becomes a crisis, Jared can't ignore his true nature any longer.«

  • Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo (2017)
    »In these poems, the joys and struggles of the everyday are played against the grinding politics of being human. Beginning in a hotel room in the dark of a distant city, we travel through history and follow the memory of the Trail of Tears from the bend in the Tallapoosa River to a place near the Arkansas River. Stomp dance songs, blues, and jazz ballads echo throughout. Lost ancestors are recalled. Resilient songs are born, even as they grieve the loss of their country.«

  • The Removed by Brandon Hobson (2021)
    »Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago. In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer's in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation. With the family's annual bonfire approaching – an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray's death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory – Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distances once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems to almost miraculously keep Ernest's mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite – or perhaps because of – his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo. Drawing deeply on Cherokee folklore, this novel seamlessly blends the real and spiritual to excavate the deep reverberations of trauma – a meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.«

Program as pdf

SUMMER 2020

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  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (2018) 
    »The setting is a post-apocalyptic world rife with poverty, crime, violence, betrayal, and hunger. The novel takes place after most of the world is destroyed through a massive flood known as the Great Water. The Navajo Reservation, known as Dinétah, survives as an independent community surrounded by a massive wall built by humans and Diné gods. It is within this arena that Diné gods, heroes, tricksters, humans, witches, and monsters live, interact and die.«

  • Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time ed. by Hope Nicholson (2016)
    »A collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman undergoing an experimental transition process to young lovers separated through decades and meeting in their own far future. These are stories of machines and magic, love and self-love.«

  • Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq (2018)
    »Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them. A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents' love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol, and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her, and the immense power that dwarfs all of us. When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this. Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains. Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.«

Program as pdf

WINTER 2019/20

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  • Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead (2018)
    »"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez," and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages--and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.«

  • This Accident of Being Lost (2017) by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
    »A knife-sharp new collection of stories and songs from the award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer. These visionary pieces build upon Simpson's powerful use of the fragment as a tool for intervention in her critically acclaimed collection Islands of Decolonial Love. Provocateur and poet, she continually rebirths a decolonized reality, one that circles in and out of time and resists dominant narratives or comfortable categorization. A crow watches over a deer addicted to road salt; Lake Ontario floods Toronto to remake the world while texting "ARE THEY GETTING IT?"; lovers visit the last remaining corner of the boreal forest; three comrades guerrilla-tap maples in an upper middle-class neighbourhood; and Kwe gets her firearms license in rural Ontario. Blending elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction, contemporary realism, and the lyric voice, this book burns with a quiet intensity, like a campfire in your backyard, challenging you to reconsider the world you thought you knew.

  • Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston (2017)
    »Teen novel, written by the Iqaluit-based Inuit author. A coming-of-age story that follows a young shaman named Pitu as he learns to use his powers and ultimately finds himself lost in the world of the spirits. After a strange and violent blizzard leaves Pitu stranded on the sea ice, without his dog team or any weapons to defend himself, he soon realizes that he is no longer in the word that he once knew. The storm has carried him into the world of the spirits, a world populated with terrifying creatures – black wolves with red eyes, ravenous and constantly stalking him; water-dwelling creatures that want nothing more than to snatch him and pull him into the frigid ocean through an ice crack. As well as beings less frightening, but equally as incredible, such as a lone giant who can carry Pitu in the palm of her hand and keeps caribou and polar bears as pets. After stumbling upon a fellow shaman who has been trapped in the spirit world for many years, Pitu must master all of his shamanic powers to make his way back to the world of the living, to his family, and to the girl that he loves.«

  • Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (2018)
    In honor of Survival Day for Aboriginal peoples in Australia
    »Nothing's been the same for Beth Teller since she died. Her dad, a detective, is the only one who can see and hear her, and he's drowning in grief. Only a suspected murder, and a mystery to solve, might save them both. And they have a potential witness: Isobel Catching. Aboriginal by birth, like Beth, she seems lost and isolated in the world. But as the two get closer, Isobel's strange tale of glass-eyed monsters and stolen colours will intertwine with Beth's investigation – and reveal something dark and terrible at the heart of this Australian town...«

  • Flood Song by Sherwin Bitsui (2009)
    »Native traditions scrape against contemporary urban life in this poetry collection, an interweaving painterly sequence populated with wrens and reeds, bricks and gasoline. Highly imagistic and constantly in motion, the poems draw variously upon medicine song and contemporary language and poetics.«

Program as pdf

SUMMER 2019

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  • Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice (2018)
    With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow. The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision. Blending action and allegory, the book upends expectations. Out of catastrophe comes resilience. And as one society collapses, another is reborn.«

  • Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (2015)
    »A darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly's Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected. With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.«

  • All the Way: My Life on Ice by Jordin Tootoo (2014)
    »It tells the story of someone who has travelled far from home to realize a dream, someone who has known glory and cheering crowds, but also the demons of despair. It is the searing, honest tale of a young man who has risen to every challenge and nearly fallen short in the toughest game of all, while finding a way to draw strength from his community and heritage, and giving back to it as well.«

  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (2017)
    »In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing "factories.«"

Program as pdf

WINTER 2018/19

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  • The Break by Katherena Vermette (2016)
    »A powerful intergenerational family saga. When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break – a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house – she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim – police, family, and friends – tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg's North End is exposed.«

  • Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson (2018)
    »Set in rural Oklahoma during the late 1980s, this is a startling, authentically voiced and lyrically written Native American coming-of-age story. With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care. Literally and figuratively scarred by his mother's years of substance abuse, Sequoyah keeps mostly to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, a troubled artist who also lives with the family. Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American background and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah's feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.«

  • Three Feathers by Richard Van Camp (2016)
    »Three young men – Flinch, Bryce, and Rupert – have vandalized their community and are sent by its Elders to live nine months on the land as part of the circle sentencing process. There, the young men learn to take responsibility for their actions and acquire the humility required to return home. But, when they do return, will they be forgiven for what they've done? The book explores the power and grace of restorative justice in one Northern community and the cultural legacy that can empower future generations.«

  • If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (2013)
    »A wry and powerful YA novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock 'n' roll. Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him – people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family's poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan's side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis's home – will he still be his friend?«

Program as pdf 

Special Sessions

Brandon Hobson (3.2021) Jesse Thistle (8.2020)