National Indigenous Peoples Day: A Book List

Celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day by reading some of these Indigenous LGBTQ2S authors!

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This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to “cut a hole in the sky to world inside.” Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where “everyone is at least a little gay.”

Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda

This book leads readers through a troubled past using the author’s family circle as a touch point and resource for discovery. Personal and strong, these stories present an evocative new view of the shaping of California and the lives of Indians during the Mission period in California. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry and playful all at once.

Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen–a wily, shape-shifting trickster–watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar.

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Walking with Ghosts: Poems by Qwo-Li Driskill

Written from a contemporary Cherokee, Queer and mixed-race experience, these poems confront a legacy of land-theft, genocide, and forced removal, and resist ongoing attacks on both Indigenous and Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual /Transgender communities. Tender, startling, confrontational and erotic, this book honors the dead and brings the survivors back home.

Not Vanishing by Chrystos

Passionate, vital poetry by acclaimed Native American writer and activist Chrystos addresses self-esteem and survival, the loving of women, and pride in her heritage.

The Way of Thorn and Thunder by Daniel Heath Justice

Taking fantasy literature beyond the stereotypes, Daniel Heath Justice’s acclaimed Thorn and Thunder novels are set in a world resembling eighteenth-century North America. The original trilogy is available here for the first time as a fully revised one-volume novel. The story of the struggle for the green world of the Everland, home of the forest-dwelling Kyn, is an adventure tale that bends genre and gender.

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Passage by Gwen Benaway

In her second collection of poetry, Passage, Gwen Benaway examines what it means to experience violence and speaks to the burden of survival. Traveling to Northern Ontario and across the Great Lakes, Passage is a poetic voyage through divorce, family violence, legacy of colonization, and the affirmation of a new sexuality and gender. Previously published as a man, Passage is the poet’s first collection written as a transwoman. Striking and raw in sparse lines, the collection showcases a vital Two Spirited identity that transects borders of race, gender, and experience. In Passage, the poet seeks to reconcile herself to the land, the history of her ancestors, and her separation from her partner and family by invoking the beauty and power of her ancestral waterways. Building on the legacy of other ground-breaking Indigenous poets like Gregory Scofield and Queer poets like Tim Dlugos, Benaway’s work is deeply personal and devastating in sharp, clear lines. Passage is a book burning with a beautiful intensity and reveals Benaway as one of the most powerful emerging poets writing in Indigenous poetics today.

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

“You’re gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine” is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the “rez,” and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny’s world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages–and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.

A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby

A Two-Spirit Journey is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote Ojibwa community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.

As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and by her teen years she was alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counselor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian. In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in her adopted city, Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Ma-Nee Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humor, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people.

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