Highway, Tomson (Cree). The Rez Sisters. Fifth House, 1992 (1988). Drama.

21. The Rez Sisters (Highway)

Publisher’s description: This award-winning play by Native [Cree] playwright Tomson Highway is a powerful and moving portrayal of seven women from a reserve attempting to beat the odds by winning at bingo. And not just any bingo. It is THE BIGGEST BINGO IN THE WORLD and a chance to win a way out of a tortured life. The Rez Sisters is hilarious, shocking, mystical and powerful, and clearly establishes the creative voice of Native theatre and writing in Canada today.

Lindberg, Tracey (Cree). Birdie. HarperCollinsCanada, 2016. Novel.

40. Birdie (Lindberg)

Publisher’s description: Bernice Meetoos will not be broken. A big, beautiful Cree woman with a dark secret in her past, Bernice (“Birdie”) has left her home in northern Alberta to travel to Gibsons, B.C. She is on something of a vision quest, looking for family, for home, for understanding. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns–Jesse from The Beachcombers–because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Birdie heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers, but they are not the ones she expected. With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Birdie begins to draw from her dreams the lessons she was never fully taught in life. Informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions, Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from tragedy. At heart, it is the story of an extraordinary woman who travels to the deepest part of herself to find the strength to face the past and to build a new life.

Nolan, Yvette (Algonquian). Annie Mae’s Movement. Playwrights Canada Press, 2006. Drama.

28. Annie Mae's Movement (Nolan)

Publisher’s description: Dying under mysterious circumstances, it is still unclear what really happened to Anna Mae back in the late 70s. Instead of recounting cold facts, this play looks for the truth in examining the life and death of this remarkable Aboriginal woman; that we cannot know the consequences of our actions; that we live on in the work that we do and the people we affect long after we have passed from this world. Annie Mae’s Movement explores what it must have been like to be Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a woman in a man’s movement [the American Indian Movement], a Canadian in America, and an Aboriginal person in a white-dominant culture at a time when it felt like we could really change the world.

Rice, Waubgeshig (Anishinaabe). Legacy. Theytus Books, 2014. Novel.

47. Legacy (Rice)

Publisher’s description: Legacy is the first novel by Waubgeshig Rice, whose collection of stories, Midnight Sweatlodge, was the Gold Medal Winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2012 for Adult Multicultural Fiction. Set in the 1990s, Legacy deals with violence against a young Indigenous woman and its lingering after-shocks on an Anishnawbe family in Ontario. Its themes of injustice, privilege and those denied it, reconciliation and revenge, are as timely as today’s headlines.

Vermette, Katherena (Métis). The Break. House of Anansi, 2016. Novel.

2. The Break (Vermette)

Publisher’s description: When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break—a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house—she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim—police, family, and friends—tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed. A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Vermette’s abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.