On the Page: LMPR’s Favourite Books by First Nations Authors
In honour of this week’s Coastal First Nations Dance Festival taking place at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology (MOA), as well as MOA’s upcoming presentation of Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth, the LMPR team celebrates four important First Nations writers who have challenged stereotypes, told history from a perspective often silenced, and inspired millions of readers.
Rachel Lowry – Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway
A title that has been on my radar for some time is Tomson Highway’s 1998 debut novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen. The first few enchanting chapters reveal a descriptive writing style that is so musical in nature; it longs to be heard out loud. Poignantly, the forthcoming chapters depict the unspeakable tale of two young, Cree brothers from Northern Manitoba – Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis – who are taken from their family and sent to a Catholic residential school. Forbidden to speak their language, use their real names, and forced to endure horrifying abuse, the boys persevere to fulfill their destiny as artists through the watchful guidance of a wily trickster figure, the Fur Queen.
Laura Murray – Raven Brings the Light by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
We had the privilege of working with celebrated Canadian artist and storyteller Roy Henry Vickers last spring when LMPR was hired to publicize the release of the book Raven Brings the Light, co-authored by Vickers and historian Robert Budd.
Vividly portrayed through the art of Vickers, the stunning tale tells the First Nations legend of how Raven brought light to the world. It is a beautiful story that belongs to the people of the Northwest Coast, passed along in the oral tradition for thousands of years. It is a story that resonates throughout generations regardless of age, belief, or cultural identity. In fact, fans lined up hours for the book signing in Vancouver and all 300 copies sold out in 90 minutes.
Brian Paterson – Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
An unflinching look at the horrors of WWI’s trench warfare and the rarely accounted contributions and sacrifices of Canada’s First Nations soldiers.
The novel consists of two narrative threads. The first, told in retrospect, follows the struggles two young Cree volunteers, Xavier and Elijah, who enlisted as snipers and joined the battlefields of France and Belgium.
The second takes place in 1919 when Niska, a medicine woman, picks up a traumatized and damaged Xavier in Northern Ontario. As they make the tree-day canoe trip back to their home, she recounts stories from her own past in the hope they might reconnect and heal the young soldier.
Sarah Cruickshank – Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
A masterful storyteller, Boyden has crafted an engaging and compelling tale that intricately weaves two opposing narratives – one set in the fast-paced fashion world of New York City, the other in the rustic landscape of northern Ontario.
At the onset of the novel, we meet Will Bird, a legendary Cree bush pilot who chronicles his harrowing life story while confined in a comatose state. Will’s beautiful and self-dependent niece Annie has recently returned from her own perilous journey to sit beside his bed and share the stories of where she’s been: searching for her younger sister Suzanne who has been missing for two years.
Ten Little Indians is a collection of nine powerful short stories set in Seattle, Washington, introducing characters from all walks of urban life with ties to the Spokane Tribe. In this extraordinary collection, Alexie challenges stereotypes while, at the same time, vividly describing each character as they come to terms with their own identity. Each story is filled with a balance of humor and pathos, presenting the conflict between First Nations culture and the mainstream white contemporary American culture with exuberant humanity.