Benaway, Gwen (Anishinaabe). Passage. Kegedonce Press, 2016. Poetry.

12. Passage (Benaway)

Publisher’s description: 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.

Bird-Wilson, Lisa (Métis). Just Pretending. Coteau Books, 2013. Short stories.

48. Just Pretending (Bird-Wilson)

Publisher’s description: From one of Canada’s most exciting new Métis voices comes a book whose recurring themes include the complexities of identity, belonging/not belonging, Aboriginal adoption, loss and abandonment, regret and insecurity. A deadbeat dad tries to reconnect with his daughter after 22 years away. A selfish poet has been scarred by an upbringing that leaves him emotionally distant from his children and spouse. A pot-smoking middle-aged man undertakes a modest quest for meaning following a brush with mortality. A fourteen-year-old girl struggles to come to terms with her feelings of abandonment. At the centre of the stories are notions of identity and belonging, and the complex relationships between children and parents, both those who are real and those who are just pretending.

Bouvier, Rita (Métis). nakamowin’sa for the seasons. Thistledown Press, 2016. Poetry.

17. nakamowin'sa for the seasons (Bouvier)

Publisher’s description: Rita Bouvier’s third collection of poetry is a response to the highs and lows of life and represents an attempt at restoring order through embracing others, reconciling the traumas caused by the deep scars of history, and soaring beyond life’s awkward and painful moments in order to live joyfully. Inspired by the metaphor of a voyageur sustained by song on his journeys up and down the rivers of Northwest Saskatchewan, these “wordsongs for the seasons” draw heavily on images from nature as well as the joys, heartaches and transgressions Bouvier has witnessed and experienced as a Métis woman. Using imagery strongly connected to the natural environment, Bouvier evokes earth’s regeneration through the seasons as inspiration for moving forward.

Campbell, Maria (Métis). Half-breed. Goodread Biographies, 1983 (1973). Autobiography.

6. Halfbreed (Campbell)

Publisher’s description: Maria Campbell’s [auto]biography is a classic, vital account of a young Métis woman’s struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood. Maria was a strong and sensitive child who lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried in vain to escape by marrying a white man, only to find herself trapped in the slums of Vancouver—addicted to drugs, tempted by suicide, close to death. But the inspiration of her Cree great-grandmother, Cheechum, gives her confidence in herself and in her people, confidence she needs to survive and to thrive. Half-Breed offers an unparalleled understanding of the Métis people and of the racism and hatred they face. Maria Campbell’s story cannot be denied and it cannot be forgotten: it stands as a challenge to all Canadians who believe in human rights and human dignity.

Campbell, Tenille (Dene/Métis). #IndianLovePoems. Signature Editions, 2017. Poetry.

5788 #Indian Love Poems cover v2.indd

Publisher’s description: Covering Indigenous adventures from Wahpole Island to Northern Saskatchewan to the West Coast, #IndianLovePoems is a poetry collection that humourously delves into the truths of love and lust within Indigenous communities. The poetic speaker, a First Nations Donna Giovanni, relates stories of her search for The One, or even better, that One-Night-Stand, in heated lines that fearlessly shed light on the intimacy and honesty that may arise even from the most fleeting encounter, leading to reflection on the complexities of sex, race, culture, and intention within relationships. From discovering your own John Smith to sharing sushi in bed, #IndianLovePoems will bring a smile to your lips as you are reminded of your own stories about that special someone.

Cariou, Warren (Métis). Lake of the Prairies: A Story of Belonging. Anchor Canada, 2003. Memoir.

5. Lake of the Prairies (Cariou)

Publisher’s description: Powerful, funny, moving and personal, Lake of the Prairies is a richly layered exploration of the ubiquitous childhood question: where do I come from? Warren Cariou’s story of origin begins in the boreal Saskatchewan landscape of rock, water and muskeg that is Meadow Lake—ensconced in the ethos of the north, where there is magic in a story and fiction is worth much more than fact. Grounded in the fertile soil of Meadow Lake are two historical traditions—Native and settler. Though the tragic story of how these traditions came to share the same home would remain buried from Warren until much later, history’s painful legacy was much in view. In the schoolyard and on the street corners Warren witnessed the discrimination, anger and fear directed at the town’s Cree and Métis populations—prejudices he absorbed as his own. As an adult, Warren Cariou has been forced to confront the politics of race in Meadow Lake. He learned that a rambunctious Native schoolmate could be involved in a torture and murder that would shock the world. And then Warren discovered family secrets kept hidden for generations, secrets that would alter forever Warren’s sense of identity and belonging in Meadow Lake.

Clements, Marie (Métis). Burning Vision. Talonbooks, 2003. Drama.

26. Burning Vision

Publisher’s description: Marie Clements’s latest play sears a dramatic swath through the reactionary identity politics of race, gender and class, using the penetrating yellow-white light, the false sun of uranium and radium, derived from a coal black rock known as pitchblende, as a metaphor for the invisible, malignant evils everywhere poisoning our relationship to the earth and to each other. Burning Vision unmasks both the great lies of the imperialist power-elite (telling the miners they are digging for a substance to “cure cancer” while secretly using it to build the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki); and the seemingly small rationalizations and accommodations people of all cultures construct to make their personal circumstances yield the greatest benefit to themselves for the least amount of effort or change on their part. It is also a scathing attack on the “public apology” as yet another mask, as a manipulative device, which always seeks to conceal the maintenance and furtherance of the self-interest of its wearer.