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Books by First Nations and Inuit Women
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Books by First Nations and Inuit Women

By 49thShelf
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Inspired by Sarah Hunt's rallying cry to have books by First Nations women included in the Canada Reads selections this year (http://www.mediaindigena.com/sarah-hunt/arts-and-culture/will-cbc-break-its-own-barrier-to-finally-recognize-the-writing-of-native-women), we're creating a list of non-fiction, novels and short fiction by Canadian First Nations and Inuit women to celebrate and spread the word about these books. Tweet us any titles we're missing @49thShelf and we'll get them added. Books not in our database: My Name Is Shield Woman: A Hard Road to Healing, Vision, and Leadership by Ruth Scalp Lock
This Accident of Being Lost

This Accident of Being Lost

Songs and Stories
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

This Accident of Being Lost is the knife-sharp new collection of stories and songs from award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. These visionary pieces build upon Simpson's powerful use of the fragment as a tool for intervention in her critically acclaimed collection Islands of Decolonial Love. Provocateur and poet, she continually rebirths a decolonized reality, one that circles in and out of time and resists dominant narratives or comfortable categorization. …

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Bad Endings

Bad Endings

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Carleigh Baker likes to make light in the dark. Whether plumbing family ties, the end of a marriage, or death itself, she never lets go of the witty, the ironic, and perhaps most notably, the awkward. Despite the title, the resolution in these stories isn't always tragic, but it's often uncomfortable, unexpected, or just plain strange. Character digressions, bad decisions, and misconceptions abound.

While steadfastly local in her choice of setting, Baker's deep appreciation for nature takes a lo …

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Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster

edition:Hardcover

With striking originality and precision, Eden Robinson, the Giller-shortlisted author of the classic Monkey Beach and winner of the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, blends humour with heartbreak in this compelling coming-of-age novel. Everyday teen existence meets indigenous beliefs, crazy family dynamics, and cannibalistic river otter . . . The exciting first novel in her trickster trilogy.

Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a sca …

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Excerpt

THE FOOD OF WORMS

Jared hadn’t realized he loved his dog until they decided to put her down. His mom and the vet agreed on a time, like her euthanasia was just a regular appointment. While he went to school, Baby would stay at the vet’s, sedated. In a way, he wanted them to do it right now, so it wouldn’t be hanging over them all day, but he was kind of glad there were rules to follow. Jared scratched Baby’s head. She was the result of a pit bull mixed with a boxer, a heavy, deep-chested dog with scraggly ears from a fight with her brother. Her fur was mottled orange, black and grey, a squiggly pattern like a toddler had coloured her with fading markers. Her face looked like it had been flattened by a shovel. She farted constantly from a diet of cheap dog food and a tendency to eat whatever landed on the floor. She had once shat marbles. Baby wheezed like a hardened smoker and then coughed. Jared’s throat tightened. The room blurred as his eyes watered. He swallowed loudly. Baby roused from the exam table and licked his arm. Jared leaned his head against hers.

“I’ll give you folks a moment,” the vet said.

After he left, Jared’s mom sat, shoving her hands deep in the pockets of her leather jacket. The fluorescent lights hummed. His mom’s left leg jiggled impatiently. Jared wiped his nose on his sleeve. The harder he tried not to cry, the more he cried. The painted concrete walls echoed his sniffling back at him.

“I’m going for a smoke,” his mom said.

Baby thumped her tail when his mom came over to squeeze Jared’s shoulder. His mom’s eyes darted around the room, but she avoided meeting his. Normally, she’d be telling him sixteen was way too old to be acting like a big fucking wuss, but they could hear the vet and the receptionist talking in the front room, so she stayed quiet. She patted her jeans as she walked out. Probably forgot her lighter in the truck.

The world is hard, his mom liked to say. You have to be harder.

Baby licked his cheek.

“Gonna miss you,” Jared whispered in her ear.

Baby lifted a leg and farted. Jared laughed, and then it turned into crying that faded into more sniffling. His heart was a bruise because Baby’s heart was full of worms. The X-rays showed them curled in its chambers like glowing balls of wool. Time stretched and folded so it went both too fast and too slow. After his mom finished smoking, she’d come back and drive him to school. He hugged Baby hard and she grumbled. He wasn’t going to be alone after she died, but the world was going to be a lonelier place without her.

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Glass Beads

Glass Beads

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

These short stories interconnect the friendships of four First Nations people — Everett Kaiswatim, Nellie Gordon, Julie Papequash, and Nathan (Taz) Mosquito — as the collection evolves over two decades against the cultural, political, and historical backdrop of the 90s and early 2000s.

 

These young people are among the first of their families to live off the reserve for most of their adult lives, and must adapt and evolve. In stories like “Stranger Danger”, we watch how shy Julie, though …

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Excerpt

From “Stranger Danger”

 

Nellie was struggling with an English paper. She hated the class.  Her professor had intoned at the beginning of class: “There are no right answers, only answers that you had to argue for.”  Nellie hated open-ended shit.  She just wanted to know which argument would give her an A.

 

She called Everett.  There was no answer.  He had no answering machine but he had call display and it told him how many times she called.  Right now if he would see: twelve.

 

She had been angry six calls ago.  Now she was just disappointed.  And horny.   

 

She opened up her political science binder, it was filled with photocopied readings.  She had to read about Aristotle even though she’d already read about him in Philosophy.  It must be nice to straddle two subjects with the same boring writing.  She went to the kitchen to refill her tea.  She was drinking green tea these days, it was supposed to fire up her metabolism by getting rid of all the free radicals lurking in her body.  She didn’t know what those were but Oprah said they were bad.  Nellie hadn’t lost a pound but then again it was hard to eat healthy when the entire apartment smelled like pizza.

 

Nellie padded into the kitchen and saw a pizza container on the counter.  She squelched a scream of frustration.  She opened the pizza box; it was sausage and pepperoni.  The top of the box was rimmed in dark where the fat had soaked into the cardboard.

 

Nellie spit on the pizza and spread the spit over the top of it with her finger.  She was closing the box carefully when the front door opened.

 

She looked around the corner as Julie stalked past her.  Nellie hurried behind her.

 

Julie sat on Nellie’s bed, her head against the wall.  Julie’s bedroom was the living room so during the day she used Nellie’s. It wasn’t the best situation but Nellie didn’t feel like giving up the extra rent money.

 

“So?”

 

“He’s ok, I guess.”

 

Nellie started small. “Did you have fun?”

 

“I guess.”

 

“Did you make out with him?”

 

“No.”

 

“Did you want to?”

 

“I dunno.  He’s so… bleh.”  Julie made a damn-I-just-stepped-in-dog-poop-and-I’m-wearing-sandals-face.

 

“Okay then.” Nellie’s disappointment was writ clear. 

 

“He wants to see me this weekend.  So I told him I work this weekend and then he’s all like what about before work and so I said yes but I don’t want to go.  He wants to go hang out at the park - what the fuck is at the park?”

 

“There’s ducks.”

 

“You and Everett ever go to the park?”

 

Nellie and Everett never went anywhere together.  It was her house or his.  Sometimes she saw him at the bar and she would wave to him and he would act like he was gonna come over but he never got to where she was sitting.

 

One time she asked him to meet her at Place Riel at the University.  She saw other girls meet their boyfriends there.  She had explained to him how to get there, walked him through the streets one by one.  He never showed up.  He told her that he made it to the University Bridge but then some woman give him a weird look which made him feel weird so he turned around and went home.

 

“I don’t like ducks,” Nellie replied.

 

“There wasn’t a single Indian in that place.  Me and a bunch of white people.   I felt like everyone was looking at us and I couldn’t stop looking at his arms.  He had this blonde hair all over them.  Like lots of it.” Julie made a face that she saved for the smell of rotten garbage.

 

“That’s how white people are, I guess.” How would Nellie know? She’d never studied one up close. “Was he nice?”

 

“He asked me if I liked being called Indian or Native.”

 

“Always say Native.”

 

“I know that, Nellie.  But I don’t have to answer that question if I’m with an Indian guy.”

 

Nellie wanted to argue from the perspective of diversity and being open minded but she was tired and felt nauseated from the smell of pizza.  So, they walked down to the Rainbow cinema where movies were three dollars on Sunday afternoons.  As they stood in line for popcorn, Julie laughed suddenly and sharply.

 

“What’s so funny?”

 

“I was thinking about the date.  You know when he asked me if I liked Native or Indian.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I asked him if he liked white or honky.”

 

Nellie rolled her eyes as Julie laughed at her own joke.

 

When they got home, Nellie checked the phone: Ball, N. had called.   She showed it to Julie who shrugged and then turned on the TV.  Nellie went back to her homework.

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Gentle Habit, A

Gentle Habit, A

edition:Paperback

The inspiration for the collection comes from American Poet Charles Bukowski who wrote "In between the punctuating agonies, life is such a gentle habit." Following this theme of extraordinary ordinariness, A Gentle Habit is a collection of six new short stories focusing on the addictions of a diverse group of characters attempting normalcy in an unnatural world.

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Birdie

Birdie

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback
tagged : literary

Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author

Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gour …

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A Really Good Brown Girl

A Really Good Brown Girl

Brick Books Classics 4
by Marilyn Dumont
introduction by Lee Maracle
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Deluxe redesign of the Gerald Lampert Award-winning classic.

 

On the occasion of the press's 40th anniversary, Brick Books is proud to present the fourth of six new editions of classic books from our back catalogue. This edition of A Really Good Brown Girl features a new Introduction by Lee Maracle, a new Afterword by the author and a new cover and design by the renowned typographer Robert Bringhurst.

 

First published in 1996, A Really Good Brown Girl is a fierce, honest and courageous account o …

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Rose's Run

Rose's Run

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Rose Okanese, a single mother with two kids, has been pushed into a corner by Rez citizens to claim some self-respect, and decides that the fastest way to do that would be for her to run the reserve's annual marathon. Though Rose hasn't run in twenty years, smokes and initially has little motivation, she announces her intention to run the race. One quality Rose doesn't lack is spontaneity which sometimes clashes with her iron will and though she has initial regrets about opening her mouth, her l …

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Excerpt

Dahlia Ingram was six-feet-two inches tall with legs that came up to Rose Okanese's bicep and every inch of those long legs were encased in some futuristic-looking silver stretch pants designed to show off every bump and curve - except that Dahlia didn't have any of those. She was a creature of bone and muscle, covered with a mop of blonde curls. Nature had designed Dahlia for one purpose: to run long distances at high speeds with effortless grace, and she, and no one else, was Rose's competition for the Annual Okanese Marathon and Fishing Derby.

In this particular year, Dahlia had already ran three marathons, three half marathons and four 10 Ks and it was only June. This was Rose's second race, in her lifetime. (Well, fifth if you included races she ran in elementary school). She'd done okay in those - never last, just an innocuous second or third last depending on whether or not one or both of the asthmatic Bower twins was in attendance.) She'd never had an athletic performance that resulted in someone taking her aside afterwards like the coach in Rocky and patting her on the shoulder: "Yuh got real talent, kid. But you're still a bum."

Rose had her bumps and curves poured into an orange tank top and a pair of black spandex shorts. The spandex shorts had been $19.99, a Walmart splurge, forced upon her by her sixteen-year-old daughter Sarah who had added, "There's no law saying you have to be dorkiest person in the race." Rose kept crossing her legs, subconsciously hoping that it distracted from the size of her thighs.

Probably the best thing she could do to appear smaller was to move away from the human licorice next to her. But the idea of standing alone was more frightening than appearing to be the number ten.
"I'm kind of nervous," she blurted out.
Dahlia continued to stretch her quad muscle, her long leg bent in half like a flamingo.
"I bet you don't get nervous, hey?" Rose continued when there was no reply. "This must be like taking a walk in a park or something? Like walking from your bedroom to your kitchen? I bet you'll go for another run this afternoon, right? How long is this run gonna take you anyway?"

Dahlia looked at Rose like she had just noticed her for the first time. Her eyes, permanently crinkled at the corners from wind, swept from Rose's full face, already flushed, down to her slightly protruding belly, over her knees pointing inwards to her purple and white Saucony sneakers.
"Nice shoes," Dahlia said. Rose beamed.
"They were a gift. From my kids."
"Mom!" Callie yelled. Rose looked over and saw her eight-year-old daughter waving a bag of cotton candy. "Did you eat?"
"I'm good, honey!" Rose called back. "That's my daughter Callie," she explained to Dahlia. "Do you have any?"
Dahlia shook her head. She moved into the runner's stretch and dropped her knee down to the ground. For a tall woman, she was very flexible.
Rose tried to replicate the stretch but found her lower back laughed at her so she settled for bending forward from the waist in a bouncy motion.
"You know ten weeks ago, I hadn't run in twenty years. I sure as hell never thought I'd be here right now, lined up at this race, next to a pro like you. Funny how life throws you into some strange situations, huh? I mean I know I'm the one who signed up for the race and I'm the one who drove myself here - so when I think about it that way, I'm the one who threw me into this. Still, it's funny. . ."

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