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8 Indigenous Women’s Voices You Need to Hear

A girl reads in the library

Read any memorable books lately? Our staff members have, and they all have one thing in common: powerhouse Indigenous women authors. While June happens to be National Indigenous History Month in Canada, this list of authors will take you through the rest of the year. Their voices come from across Canada, and their words compel us to listen, learn, and look at where we go from here.

All Our Relations cover image All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward
by Tanya Talaga
House of Ananasi Press
This is an absolutely necessary read on cultural genocide, and the connections between colonization and the rise of Indigenous youth suicide rates in Canada and beyond. It lays out the case for getting back into good relationships with the land, language, and for community healing. It’s essential reading for non-Indigenous peoples to continue to understand and inspire action on our relationship to colonization. Talaga is an investigative journalist, best-selling and award-winning author, and Anishinaabe woman, whose book Seven Fallen Feathers is also an important read. All Our Relations is the book version of Talaga’s CBC Massey Lectures this past year.
Keetha Mercer, Program Manager, Community Initiatives

Split Tooth book coverSplit Tooth
by Tanya Tagaq

Penguin Random House Canada
Split Tooth is a celebrated first novel from award-winning Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq. Like the singer herself, this novel is a powerful force of nature narrated through the vision and voice of a teenage girl in a Nunavut community in the 1970s. Poetic, imagistic and highly readable, Split Tooth embraces the daily rituals of community life, the natural world and the supernatural as one, and delivers the harshest life events with the cold dancing brilliance of the Northern Lights.
Ann Decter, Director, Community Initiatives

Monkey Beach cover imageMonkey Beach
by Eden Robinson
Penguin Random House Canada
In Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach, protagonist Lisamarie Hill lives in the community of Kitamaat and is struggling to process the loss of her brother at sea. The book does an incredible job of incorporating both supernatural elements and the extremely real feeling of grief. The coming-of-age story is set up against the backdrop of the environment, a character in and of itself, and delivers a thoughtful and important story of a young woman discovering herself, her otherworldly abilities, and her cultural identity. Robinson’s more recent novel Son of a Trickster has also won critical acclaim.
Emma Partridge, Marketing Coordinator

The Break cover image The Break
Katherena Vermette

House of Anansi Press
A Métis poet from Treaty 1 territory, Vermette wrote her first novel, The Break, just three years ago. It’s a heartbreaking and powerfully told story about a young Indigenous woman who is brutally attacked. Through the eyes of 10 narrators connected to the young woman, a deeper story is told about a family, a police officer, a young woman out of detention, and others in this wintry Winnipeg neighbourhood. Navigating racism, inter-generational trauma, and violence, The Break is a difficult read. But it’s also an important story about healing, love, and family.
Rudayna Bahubeshi, Program Manager, Community Initatives

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
Alicia Elliott

Penguin Random House Canada
In A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Tuscarora writer Alicia Elliott journeys into the heart and soul of Canada. This compelling essay collection roams Elliott’s growing years with a lens keenly focused on our country’s continuing colonialism and the resulting impacts on a complex family. A superb writer, Elliott ventures from Six Nations, to the streets of Tkaronto, to Sontag on photography, with a clear voice, a generous spirit and fresh insights: “… everything Indigenous is subject to extraction.” It’s not surprising that this first book has been on the non-fiction bestseller list for weeks. Highly recommended.
Ann Decter, Director, Community Initiatives

Marrow Thieves cover imageThe Marrow Thieves
by Cherie Dimaline

Cormorant Books
This award-winning young adult novel has taken the world by storm. The story takes place in a dystopian future in which non-Indigenous people have lost the ability to dream. A small group of Indigenous people come together while they run for their lives from the “recruiters”, who seek to steal the dreams that live in their marrow and kill them in the process. The book offers a poignant coming-of-age story for the protagonist, 15-year-old Frenchie, who rediscovers a sense of family and cultural identity. The Marrow Thieves is beautiful and heart-wrenching, especially in its illustration of the ongoing impacts of colonialism as a force that continues to damage the land and rip out communities in the process.
Emma Partridge, Marketing Coordinator

Heart Berries coverHeart Berries
by Terese Marie Mailhot
Penguin Random House Canada

“In my culture, I believe we carry pain until we can reconcile with it through ceremony. Pain is not framed like a problem with a solution.” Terese Marie Mailhot reckons with her own pain in this short but mighty memoir of growing up on the Seabird Island Reservation in BC. The book, which became a national and New York Times best-seller, shares vivid snapshots of her childhood, a dysfunctional home, mental illness, relationships, shame and motherhood. Whether you marvel at Mailhot’s dexterous storytelling, courageous honesty, or her determination to come back from the brink, this is an intense and inspiring book.
-Jessica Howard, Senior Writer

Shi shi etko cover image Shi-shi-etko
by Nicola Campbell

House of Anansi Press
Shi-shi-etko is a wonderful and affecting children’s book. It focuses on a girl who is forced to go to residential school. She wants to soak in all her relationships and surroundings before having to leave what she knows and loves. It’s absorbing and shows the full life and community Shi-shi-etko is being taken from. We can all relate to loss, no matter what age we are. This loss for a little girl is very profound. The book helps the reader understand the depth of what some young children went through in our colonial context. It’s a must for any child living in Canada to read.
Andrea Gunraj, Vice President, Public Engagement

We know the list doesn’t end here, so please share recommendations for your favourite books by Indigenous women authors!

 

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