NVCLreads200

NVCL Reads: Indigenous Canadian Authors

Is it Canada 150, or 15,000? Let’s take time to sit with this question and consider the knowledge that the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada goes back so much farther than 150 years on this land. There are many titles I would love to share with you to celebrate Indigenous Canadian authors. I hope you are inspired to continue searching for more amazing titles and share your favourite authors in the comments section. Below you will find work by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors. Pick up a book of poetry by Métis author, Marilyn Dumont, an adventurous Young Adult historical fiction novel based on traditional Inuit knowledge, by authors Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, read to your kids about dipnetting in the Cariboo Chilcotin region in Willie Sellar’s children’s picture book, or delve into challenging coming of age novels by Richard Van Camp and Eden Robinson for the #NVCLreadsFirstNations category in our #NVCLreads Canada 150 Bingo game.

Leading off this list is the work of award winning author, Richard Wagamese, who passed in March this year:

medicinewalkMedicine Walk, by Richard Wagamese

Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, Eldon. He’s sixteen years old and has had the most fleeting of relationships with the man. The rare moments they’ve shared haunt and trouble Frank, but he answers the call, a son’s duty to a father. He finds Eldon decimated after years of drinking, dying of liver failure in a small town flophouse. Eldon asks his son to take him into the mountains, so he may be buried in the traditional Ojibway manner. What ensues is a journey through the rugged and beautiful backcountry, and a journey into the past, as the two men push forward to Eldon’s end.

 

skraelingsSkraelings, by Rachel & Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (Young Adult)

In this adventurous novel–set in the ancient Arctic, but told by an inquisitive and entertaining contemporary narrator–a wandering Inuit hunter named Kannujaq happens upon a camp in grave peril. The inhabitants of the camp are Tuniit, a race of ancient Inuit ancestors known for their strength and shyness. The tranquility of this Tuniit camp has been shaken by a group of murderous, pale, bearded strangers who have arrived on a huge boat shaped like a loon. Unbeknownst to Kannujaq, he has stumbled upon a battle between the Tuniit and a group of Viking warriors.

Could alternately be used for #NVCLreads200 or #NVCLreadsArtic!

 

areallygoodbrowngirlA Really Good Brown Girl, by Marilyn Dumont (Poetry)

Marilyn Dumont’s Métis heritage offers her challenges that few of us welcome. Here she turns them to opportunities: in a voice that is fierce, direct, and true, she explores and transcends the multiple boundaries imposed by society on the self. She celebrates the person, clearly observing, who defines her own life.

Could alternately be used for #NVCLreadsPoetry

 

dipnettingwithdadDipnetting with Dad, by Willie Sellars (Picture Book)

BUMP, BUMP – SLAP, river sockeye salmon are pulled onto shore! Set in the beautiful landscape of the Cariboo Chilcotin region, Dipnetting With Dad, is a delightful and colourful story of a father teaching his son the Secwepemc method of fishing known as dipnetting. Together they visit the sweat lodge, mend the nets, select the best fishing spot and catch and pack their fish through rugged bush back to the family home for traditional preparation. Willie Sellars captures family values, the importance of storytelling, community living and coming of age in one of BC’s oldest cultures.

monkeybeachMonkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

The story grips the reader from the beginning. It is the morning after the narrator’s brother has gone missing at sea; the mood is tense in the family house, as speculations remain unspoken. Jimmy is a prospective Olympic swimmer, seventeen years old and on the edge of proposing to his beautiful girlfriend Karaoke. As his elder sister, Lisa, faces possible disaster, she chain-smokes and drifts into thoughts of their lives so far. She recalls the time when she and Jimmy saw the sasquatch, or b’gwus – and this sighting introduces the novel’s fascinating undercurrent of characters from the spirit world. These ghostly presences may strike the reader as mysterious or frightening, but they provide Lisa with guidance through a difficult coming of age.

 

lesserblessedThe Lesser Blessed, by Richard Van Camp

The Lesser Blessed tracks the exploits of Larry Sole, a Dogrib teenager living in the small Northern town of Fort Simmer. After losing much of his memory in a violent accident, what he loves more than anything is reading, hearing and collecting stories. With no interest in booze or sports, he floats on the edges of high school life, sustained by his love of Iron Maiden and a hopeless passion for school hottie Juliet Hope. When good-looking, trouble-seeking Johnny Beck moves into town, he shakes up Larry’s dreamy existence, bringing him face to face with memories that he’s done his best to lose.

 

This list is in no way comprehensive, so I hope that each of these titles will be a jumping off point for you to continue to explore and enjoy the work of Indigenous Canadian authors.

-Kate

NVCL Reads: Written by a Margaret

Margaret_Atwood_2015Whether you love her or loathe her, there’s no denying that when many of us think of Canadian literature, we think of Margaret Atwood.  And with a hit TV show — and the Trump administration in full (golf) swing — there’s no denying our Margaret’s work is enjoying a renaissance.  If you’re planning to read #NVCLreadsMargaret this summer, you may look no further than The Handmaid’s Tale, or you may want to get your hands on Atwood’s Angel Catbird graphic novels, or her books for children.  However, if you decide you’d like to branch out from Atwood, Canada has several awesome Margarets for you to choose from.

stoneangelThe next most obvious choice is Margaret Laurence, best-known for writing books you have been forced to read in high school (The Diviners, The Stone Angel) and loved anyway.     Her earlier works, like This Side Jordan, are set in Ghana, where the Laurences lived for a few years.

mr jonesMargaret Sweatman is yet another solid choice.  She’s even won the Margaret Laurence Award for fiction (thus effectively doubling her Margaret-ness).  We recommend Mr. Jones. “Set in a time of rampant paranoia, Mr. Jones peels back the veneer of Canadian politics to reveal a nation willing to sacrifice its own. It is a fearful time, a time of “peace” at the onset of the nuclear age.” (description from publisher)

Sweatman’s works also work for #NVCLreadsHistorical or #NVCLreadsWinner

momentary darkIf poetry (#NVCLreadsPoetry) is more your speed, try Margaret Avison’s Momentary Dark, “a celebration of the world, but not without edge and a quiet challenge to care for a damaged earth and all its citizens equally, including a veritable populace of city trees graciously and beautifully linking the earth and the sky” (description taken from the publisher).

This would also work for #NVCLreads200 and  #NVCLreadsPoetry

cougar annieAnd finally, if you like your Margarets with a healthy dose of non-fiction, you might want to check out Margaret Visser, Margaret Horsfield, or Margaret Macmillan.  In her Massey Lecture, Beyond Fate, Visser “investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from.”  Horsfield meanwhile takes local history as her muse, writing extensively about Tofino and Clayoquot Sound.  Like Horsfield, Macmillan is inspired by history.  She focuses mainly on the late 19th and early 20th century, and is best known for her book 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.

 

Whatever your reading tastes, we’ll bet there’s a Canadian Margaret for you.

-Patricia

**For those of you just joining us for NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo, please download your bingo card from our website.  Five lucky winners will each receive a $25 gift card to a local bookstore!

NVCL Reads: Under 200 Pages

If you’re anything like me, when faced with limitless possibilities, you may have a hard time with choices. So, where to start with NVCL Reads: Canada 150? Why not try something you can read in a sitting or two – something easily tucked into your bag for a trip outside to the park or the beach? Perhaps that something just might be conveniently: Under 200 Pages! The following books may be slight in width and light in weight, but they pack an outsize amount of thought and intensity into their small # of pages.

The PenelopiadThe Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood

In The Odyssey, Penelope — daughter of King Icarius of Sparta, and the cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy — is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife. With incomparable wit and verve, Atwood gives the story of Penelope new life and reality. #NVCLreads200 #NVCLreadsMargaret

 

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner. #NVCLreads200 #NVCLreadsFamily

Under the Stone by Karoline Georges, translated by Jacob Homel

From birth, the child was locked away in a minuscule cell, at #804 of level 5969 of the Edifice. Favourably compared to George Orwell’s 1984, this recent translation from the original French is not to be missed. According to La Presse, Homel has perhaps created a new genre: “the claustrophobic novel”.

The Scream by Rohinton Mistry

Set in a Bombay apartment, The Scream is narrated by a man at the end of his life, who is angry at the predicament of old age, at his isolation from his family and from a world that no longer understands him. He rails and raves in ways that are both hilarious and moving, and which touch us with recognition.

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje 

At the turn of the century, the Storyville district of New Orleans had some 2000 prostitutes, 70 professional gamblers, and 30 piano players. But it had only one man who played the cornet like Buddy Bolden. By day he cut hair and purveyed gossip at N. Joseph’s Shaving Parlor. At night he played jazz as though unleashing wild animals in a crowded room. At the age of thirty-one, Buddy Bolden went mad. #NVCLreadsHistorical

Money Boy by Paul Yee

Ray Liu, an 18 year old newcomer to Canada, knows he should be happy. He lives in a big suburban house with all the latest electronic gadgets, and even finds plenty of time to indulge in his love of gaming. It’s tough getting grades that will please his army veteran father when speaking English is still a struggle. But when his father accesses Ray’s Internet account and discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites, his belongings are thrown on the front lawn and suddenly he’s homeless. #NVCLreadsVancouver

After reading any of these selections, you’ll have your answer to, “Just how much can you fit in 200 pages?” Got more ideas for Under 200 Pages? Please share in the comments!

-Kate

 

NVCL Reads: Folk and Fairy Tales

If you’re doing #NVCLreads this summer with the kids, they might want to read some Canadian folk and fairy tales for #NVCLreadsFairyTales. (And you may want to read some for #NVCLreadsIllustrated or #NVCLreads200.)  Homa from our fabulous Children’s Department has some ideas about where to start:

Our collection of folk & fairy tales aims to engage children in timeless stories and help them to discover diversity.  This collection represents a range of traditions from various cultures and countries.  Here are some of the Canadian authors that have written fables, fairy tales, legends and myths.

fingerlingLittle Fingerling by Monica Hughes

This familiar Japanese folktale, a cross between Tom Thumb and David and Goliath, is given sophisticated treatment in this attractive picture book. Hughes’s telling is leisurely and formal, with a traditional tone that suits the material. In ancient Japan, a tiny son is born to an elderly couple. As he grows older — but no larger — his courage and resourcefulness see him through many exciting adventures.

41Q+Z8fVfsLThe Nervous Prince and other stories by Michael B. Kerr   

What was Cinderella’s prince really like? Was Red Riding Hood rescued by a woodsman, or not? Was Jack’s beanstalk genetically modified? Why were Hansel and Gretel searching for carbohydrate treats in the forest? And who styled Rapunzel’s hair? These updated versions of popular folk and fairy tales answer all these burning questions and more.

The-King-and-the-Tortoise-1200x972The King and The Tortoise by Tololwa M. Mollel

Who is the cleverest creature of all? In order to find out, the king has issued a challenge: who can make him a robe of smoke? The swift hare, the sly fox, the fierce leopard, and the mighty elephant try but each one fails.  It is up to the tortoise, patient and slow, to win the day through wit alone.  In this gentle traditional story from Cameroon, master story teller Tolowa Mollel has woven a tale of humor and wisdom as magical as a robe of smoke.

mermaid's museThe Mermaid’s Muse: The Legend of the Dragon Boats by David Bouchard 

History meets myth in this dramatic re-telling of the story of Qu Yuan, celebrated poet-in-exile of ancient China. In Bouchard’s tale the poet and a sea dragon, in the appearance of a mermaid, develop a mutually inspiring friendship that drives them to sail away together, to the mistaken alarm of Qu Yuan’s neighbors. The surprising climax illustrates the traditional Chinese origin of dragon boats. Spectacularly illustrated, this book is truly amazing — you should read it!

TwoSistersThe Two Sisters by E. Pauline Johnson

Many thousands of years ago, two little girl with eyes of spring and hearts of summer had the courage to ask their father to stop a war. He does as they ask, and this brings about a lasting peace in the land. This book will lead you on your own adventure through the rich history of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.  I highly recommend it. It is a book for all ages with a valuable message and fabulous illustrations.

 

howsummerHow Summer Came to Canada Pictures by Elizabeth Cleaver Retold by William Toye

When the giant Winter came down from the North to live in Eastern Canada the land became frozen and white. Glooskap, mythical lord and creator of the Micmac Indians, saves his people from endless cold when he brings a beautiful Queen to his country. Her name is Summer and she persuades Winter to relax his icy grip every Spring while she awakens the land from its deep sleep and gives life to everything that grows. The beautiful illustrations of this book feature scenes of icy desolation and sunny flowering greenness.

Let’s read more folk and fairy tales this summer to better understand ourselves and others.

-Homa