Is November flying by for anyone else? We are the people who have definitely already put up our Christmas decorations.
We’re already in Week 3 of Nonfiction November! This week, Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert, is hosted by Veronica @ The Thousand Book Project. Be sure to visit to get the full details and link up with other bloggers this week!
I’ve only ever chosen Be the Expert for this week because I am pathologically incapable of giving up the chance to tell other readers about some books they should put on their radar. And like last year, I’ve taken inspiration from a book I’ve just started. I am 18 minutes into the audiobook of Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Muller so I’m in no way ready to talk about this one, a memoir of growing up Indigenous in Manitoba and how the author got involved in environmental work. But reading work, fiction and nonfiction, by Indigenous authors has become a priority for me in the last few years so I thought I would share some nonfiction highlights.
I used to shy away from reading these books. They’re hard. They don’t put Canada or Canadians in a great light and it’s often uncomfortable reading. But as someone living and working on the traditional territory (stolen land) of the Semiahmoo, sq̓əc̓iy̓aɁɬ təməxʷ (Katzie), sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), W̱SÁNEĆ, and Kwantlen peoples, being uncomfortable in my reading is kind of the least I can do.
So here are some books about Indigenous experiences that I think you should read! Even if you’re not Canadian!
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Josephs. This is the foundational one, that explains how this Act informed policy for decades and how the affects are still felt today! It covers the parts of the Indian Act that we kind of already knew about and so many things that we had no idea. It’s based on a viral blog post by the author, a cultural sensitivity trainer in corporate spaces, and is well worth your time.
From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle. This is a memoir about growing up cut off from his Indigenous heritage, the abuse he suffered as a child, his struggles with addiction and finding his way back to his culture. It is such an incredible story.
Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga. This is a rough one. Talaga investigates the deaths of seven teenagers in Thunder Bay, and the culture of racism that makes it so hard for these kids to exist in the city. Further north there are often no schools beyond grade 7, so kids are sent to live in Thunder Bay, sometimes with relatives, sometimes with relative strangers, so that they can go to highschool. I read it ages ago and still think about it.
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid. This one is a bit of an outlier on this list because the author is not Indigenous. But she handled the stories of the Missing and Murdered Women and Girls so beautifully, approached the families so respectfully, that I’m including this on the list because the stories she told are important. There is a stretch of highway in Northern BC that has become known as the Highway of Tears because so many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing along there or found dead. And their disappearances or murders have rarely been seriously investigated by authorities, leaving families without answers for decades in some cases.
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott. This is a collection of essays by am incredibly talented young woman. I believe this collection has just been released in the States which is exciting! These essays deal with mental health struggles, the disappearance of Indigenous languages, the privilege of being able to pass for white, and the lack of legal redress for Indigenous peoples. It is a raw, angry, devastating and beautiful collection.
So those are my picks this week! Are there any Indigenous nonfiction titles that I need to read ASAP? I will add a shout out to Eden Robinson’s fantastic fantasy series, Son of a Trickster. And also Katherena Vermette’s The Strangers and The Break. Obviously those are all fiction but they’re so good.
Next year maybe I will pick a ‘fun’ topic…