What the Living Do by Maggie Dwyer

Until the age of twelve, Georgia Lee Kay-Stern believed she was Jewish—the story of her Cree birth family had been kept secret. Now she’s living on her own and attending first-year university, and with her adoptive parents on sabbatical in Costa Rica, the old questions are back. What does it mean to be Native? How could her life have been different?

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

I couldn’t put Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians down. She offers beautifully, well-rounded, fully-human characters in a story about the resilience and fragility of the human spirit. The book follows five small children who are taken from the homes and have to face the abuse and isolation of a church-run residential on the Central Coast of B.C.

Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2020, this book will stay with me for the rest of my life.…

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a By Katłıà

Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a is the debut novel from Dene author Katłįà. Set in Canada’s far northwest, this layered composite novel traverses space and time, from a community being stalked by a dark presence, a group of teenagers out for a dangerous joyride, to an archeological site on a mysterious island that holds a powerful secret.

In a recent edition of Atlantic Books Today, Chris Benjamin stated regarding IndigiLit: “Stories written by people from cultures that have been tied to this land far, far longer than my own show me things settler writers cannot.”…

The North-West is Our Mother: The Story of Louis Riel’s People, the Métis Nation by Jean Teillet

Some books are there to offer the kinds of stories that can light on our paths and help us figure out a way forward. The North-West is Our Mother: The Story of Louis Riel’s People, the Métis Nation by historian Jean Teillet has been that kind of book to me.

I’ve been writing about the life of my great-grandfather Léon Robert Goulet, a Métis fiddler who was born in Lorette, Manitoba, in the middle of Métis homeland that Teillet documents.…

Cottagers and Indians, by Drew Hayden Taylor

Taylor’s two-person play Cottagers and Indians was inspired by a years-long dispute between cottage owners on Pigeon Lake in Ontario and an Anishnawbe man seeding manoomin (wild rice) in their waterways.

In the play, Maureen Poole, a white woman at her lakeside split-level ranch house, and Arthur Copper, an Indigenous man in his canoe, face off over his seeding and harvesting of the once-flourishing Indigenous food, manoomin.…

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

These days I’ve been thinking about the importance of being able to recognize your self and your people in the literature you are reading and that’s one of the most important offerings from Jesse Thistle’s memoir From the Ashes. Of course, his story should be read by all non-Indigenous people who want to understand the impacts of intergenerational colonial trauma among Indigenous people living in Canada today.…

Messenger 93 by Barbara Radecki

Barbara Radecki’s sophomore novel, Messenger 93, opens with a flutter of information. A mind-bending conversation with a crow kicks off the absorbing thriller, and cryptic messages, hidden clues, and uncertain instructions become the norm in M, the narrator’s, life. M feels compelled to investigate the disappearance of a girl named Krista, and her movements over the seven days that structure each chapter offer insight into her life and closest relationships.…

Bill Arnott’s Beat: Independents’ Day

bookstores shouldn’t exist. Brick-and-mortar bibliophile havens are retail models waiting to be business school case studies, “Why These Can’t Work.” TV narcissi could bleat indefinitely as to why they’d never invest in such ventures. But they do exist. And despite every reason why they shouldn’t, they thrive.

I was in one of these doomed locales, its interior walls a swathe of indigenous authors, poetry, and every stripe of an LGBTQ2S writers’ rainbow – a showcase of all that’s good in the world of books.…

Crow Gulch: poetry by Douglas Walbourne-Gough

(The following is a guest review by Newfoundland author Tom Halford. Tom is the author of Deli Meat, a 2019 shortlisted novel for Best First Book)

of the most captivating elements of Douglas Walbourne-Gough’s Crow Gulch is the powerful humanism running through the collection. The prose poem “Fuck this town” is a strong example of how Walbourne-Gough challenges readers to pause and consider people’s lives:

I swear, too, the next bastard that calls me jackatar’s gonna get a good shit-knockin’.…

Devil in the Woods: Poems by D. A. Lockhart

at Urban Farmhouse Press and poet D. A. Lockhart is A Turtle Clan member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation, and Devil in the Woods (2019, Brick Books) is his latest collection of poetry. Brick Books has done an admirable job of designing and packaging this volume; my review copy came with a matching bookmark and a promotional postcard with the book cover on one side and the Roll Up the Rim Prayer on the opposite side.…

Blue Bear Woman by Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau

Originally published in French as Ourse Bleu in 2007, Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau’s book has the distinction of being the first novel published in Quebec by an Indigenous woman. Now, English readers have Blue Bear Woman, a translation by Susan Ouriou and Christelle Morelli and published by Inanna Publications.* Blue Bear Woman is a powerful little novel of a mixed blood Cree/Métis woman (Victoria is her given name) searching for the memories of her past growing up in the James Bay area of Quebec.…

The Court of Better Fiction: Three Trials, Two Executions, and Arctic Sovereignty by Debra Komar

What better place to write and research a historic event that took place in Canada’s far north than while living in Canada’s north? Debra Komar was writer-in-residence at Berton House in Dawson City for one year and considered her time there one of the “greatest experiences” of her life.

The result is a concise, scathing, and at the same time, sympathetic account of a travesty of justice committed against the Indigenous peoples living above the Arctic Circle. …

Doug Knockwood, Mi’kmaw Elder: Stories, Memories, Reflections by Doug Knockwood & Friends

Less than one month after publishing these memoirs, Mr. Knockwood died on June 16, 2018 at the age of 88. He suffered from pneumonia and heart failure, which is not surprising, as he had only one lung, having lost the other to TB years ago. This book, published by Roseway Publishing (an imprint of Fernwood Publishing), will remain as a testament and eulogy to the man who helped so many people, Indigenous and otherwise, on the long road to recovery.…

Nirliit by Juliana Léveillé-Trudel

On the back cover of Nirliit (2018, Véhicule Press) there is a quote by Dorothée Berryman of La Presse that perfectly sums up how I felt about reading this small, but transcendent novel: “I’m about to reread this book because its powerful beauty haunts me.” I did reread the book, but only after I was almost finished it and I felt I needed to go back to recapture the mood of the book; I felt I was reading it too fast and not absorbing the acute perceptions of the author regarding her time spent in the northern Quebec Inuit village of Salluit.…