May 28, 2023

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Pow-wows, parks, beaches, cottages and festivals. Summer is meant to be a time of relaxation and letting loose. As the temperature soars you’ll want to soak up the sun on a beach  sipping  iced tea or you may find yourself in a tent at night with only a flashlight. Either way why not  engross yourself in a compelling summer read? With a special mention to Kegedonce Press for their great suggestions, here are MUSKRAT Magazine’s Top Ten Summer Reads for 2015.

1. A Moon Made Of Copper – Chris Bose (N’laka’pamux), Poetry – September 2014

A Moon Made of Copper is a collection of non-fiction poems that look at the continual maturing and growth of a human being. The poems were written while touring across Canada, and they capture Bose’s experiences meeting people, wandering different cities, and getting into adventures and misadventures.

2. Candies: A Humour CompilationBasil Johnston (Ojibwe), Short stories and essays – August 2015

Candies: A Humour Compilation is a fresh collection of humorous stories and essays by Basil Johnston. Johnston is one of the foremost Anishinaabe writers and storytellers, and his comedic stories about life in Residential School, Indian School Days, is a classic. This is Johnston’s first collection of humorous works in decades.

 3.  Clearing The Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation And The Loss of Aboriginal Life – James Daschuk, History – August 2015

In arresting, but harrowing, prose, James Daschuk examines the roles that Old World diseases, climate, and Canadian politics–the politics of ethnocide–played in the deaths and subjugation of thousands of Aboriginal people for Sir John A. Macdonald’s “National Dream.” The expense? The present disparity in health and economic well-being between First Nations and non-Native populations and the racism and misunderstanding that permeates the national consciousness.

Clearing The Plains
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4. Celia’s Song – Lee Maracle (Sto:Lo), Fiction – October 2014

Set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Celia’s Song chronicles the experiences of a Nuu’Chahlnuth family over several generations, and vividly brings to life the destructive legacy of colonial times -and a community’s capacity for healing. Its richly imagined characters include a sea serpent and a shape-shifting mink who bears witness to the past.

5. God And The Indian – Drew Hayden Taylor (Ojibwe), Published Play – May 2014

At its core, God and the Indian, explores the complex process of healing through dialogue. While panhandling outside a coffee shop, Johnny, a Cree woman who lives on the streets, is shocked to recognize a face from her childhood, which was spent in a residential school. Desperate to hear the man acknowledge the terrible abuse he inflicted on her and other children at the school, Johnny follows Anglican bishop George King to his office to confront him.

God and the Indian
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6. Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth About Lies About Indians Darrell Dennis (Secwepemc), Humour- October 2014

Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth about Lies about Indians educates readers through entertaining stories, a comedic personal perspective, and a straightforward, easy-to-comprehend explanation of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis experiences in Canada. In the five hundred years since Columbus bumbled across the Americas a lot of misinformation has been built up surrounding this continent’s original inhabitants.

7. Starblanket – Amy Desjarlais (Ojibway/Potowotomi), Short Stories – December 2014

Starblanket is a collection of stories about spiritual awakening, motherhood and healing. When family bonds are grown from traumatic events a child-of-trauma is born. Starblanket follows the journey of an Indigenous woman facing herself as a child-of-trauma and seeking identity, self-respect, and self-love. As a single-mother, she struggles to raise her son alone in one of the biggest cities in the world. Her small family faces ever-encroaching societal pressures of capitalism, materialism, and conformity which contradict the Indigenous values she tries to instill.

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8. Up Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through The Turbulent Waters Of Native History – Edmund Metatawabin (Cree), Alexandra Shimo, Biography – May 2015

Former Chief of Fort Albany First Nation, Ed Metatawabin presents his compelling account of the experiences endured at the notorious St.Anne’s residential school, his efforts to expose their wrongdoings and a court case demanding that the school records be released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This narrative bears witness to the devastation brought by colonization and the subsequent healing power of our Elders and our land to revitalize the human spirit.

9. Unsettling Canada – A National Wake-Up CallArthur Manuel (Secwepemc),  April 2015

Unsettling Canada is built on a unique collaboration between two First Nations leaders, Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ron Derrickson. Together they bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to Canada’s most glaring piece of unfinished business: the place of Indigenous peoples within the country’s political and economic space.The story traces their individual struggles against the colonialist and often racist structures that keep Indigenous peoples in their place. In the end they set out a plan for a new sustainable Indigenous economy and a road map for getting there.

10. Wabigoon River Poems – David Groulx (Ojibwe), Poetry – May 2015

Wabigoon River Poems is a ferocious, erudite collection centred on an epic poem “Wabigoon River Poem(s)” which is breathtaking in its unflinching and wide-ranging look at oppression, genocide, revolution, and survival. This is not poetry for the faint of heart, the indifferent, or those seeking pithy nuggets of traditional knowledge. These are Indigenous poems in a global context, tackling philosophy, history, epistemology, and placing Indigenous struggles alongside other atrocities.

Wabigoon River Poems
Image Source: Kegedonce Press

Anything we missed? Please feel free to add to our list!

We also have some throwback suggestions for you to check out:

1. 500 Years Of Resistance Comic Book – Gord Hill (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw), Graphic novel – April 2010

The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book by Kwakwaka’wakw artist and activist Gord Hill offers readers an 80-page perspective on Indigenous Peoples resistance movements to European colonization of the Americas. This graphic novel takes a large chunk of history and breaks it into three sections: Invasion, Assimilation and Resistance. The story also includes a one page spread on treaties and residential schools.

2. Alamanac Of The Dead –  Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), Fiction – November 1992

Almanac of the Dead is fiction on the grand scale. The acclaimed author has undertaken a weaving of ideas and lives, fate and history, passion and conquest in an attempt to re-create the moral history of the Americas told from the point of view of the conquered. Civilizations clash when Seese, a survivor of the high-risk world of drug dealing, travels to the Southwest in search of her child and meets Lecha, a celebrity psychic, who is working to transcribe books that contain the history of her Native American people.

3. My Life With The Salmon – By Diane Jacobson (‘Namgis), Illustrated by Harold Alfred (‘Namgis), Non-fiction – October 2011

Diane “Honey” Jacobson’s latest book is an important comment about First Nations efforts to save the salmon and her personal youthful journey to find meaning and a sense of place in life. My Life with the Salmon is full of action, amazing adventures and fascinating connections between land, water and people. In My Life with the Salmon, we follow “Honey” through sometimes hilarious and sometimes difficult periods but we always learn a life lesson.

My Life
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4. The Girl Who Grew A Galaxy – Cherie Dimaline (Ojibwe/Métis), Fiction – October 2013

A galaxy of odd planets spins around Ruby Bloom’s head, slick and regulated as a game of snooker.The big purple one is Anxiety. It grew in the slipstream of Guilt, a smooth, loud planet with two moons: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Agoraphobia. The universe didn’t start with a big bang of cosmic proportions; it grew out of trauma that occurred in the middle of a quiet childhood. It began the day Ruby Bloom killed her grandfather.

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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as Associate Editor for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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