This June, the FOLD Challenge focuses on creative non-fiction or memoir written by Indigenous authors. We have a wonderful selection of recommended titles for you this month—stories that span the urban and the rural, stories that centre themselves in the northernmost parts of Turtle Island, and others that breathe life into the many facets (and faces!) of Toronto. There’s something here for everyone—from journalism through to memoir, personal stories through to examinations of life and society in the world today, we’re sure you’ll find something here to love and cherish.
As always, please recommend other titles for this month’s Challenge in the comments, and share the love on social media using the hashtag #FOLDRC22!
Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place, edited by Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere, Rebeka Tabobondung, and Brian Wright-McLeod
Beneath many major North American cities rests a deep foundation of Indigenous history that has been colonized, paved over, and, too often, silenced. Few of its current inhabitants know that Toronto has seen twelve thousand years of uninterrupted Indigenous presence and nationhood in this region, along with a vibrant culture and history that thrives to this day.
With contributions by Indigenous Elders, scholars, journalists, artists, and historians, this unique anthology explores the poles of cultural continuity and settler colonialism that have come to define Toronto as a significant cultural hub and intersection that was also known as a Meeting Place long before European settlers arrived.
Scratching River, by Michelle Porter
Scratching River braids the voices of mother, brother, sister, ancestor, and river to create a story about environmental, personal, and collective healing.
This memoir revolves around a search for home for the author’s older brother, who is both autistic and schizophrenic, and an unexpected emotional journey that led to acceptance, understanding and, ultimately, reconciliation. Michelle Porter brings together the oral history of a Métis ancestor, studies of river morphology, and news clippings about abuse her older brother endured at a rural Alberta group home to tell a tale about love, survival, and hope. This book is a voice in your ear, urging you to explore your own braided histories and relationships.
What I Remember, What I Know, by Larry Audlaluk
Larry Audlaluk was born in Uugaqsiuvik, a traditional settlement west of Inujjuak in northern Quebec, or Nunavik. He was almost three years old when his family was chosen by the government to be one of seven Inuit families relocated from Nunavik to the High Arctic in the early 1950s.They were promised a land of plenty. They were given an inhospitable polar desert.
Larry tells of loss, illness, and his family’s struggle to survive, juxtaposed with excerpts from official reports that conveyed the relocatees’ plight as a successful experiment. With refreshing candour and an unbreakable sense of humour, Larry leads the reader through his life as a High Arctic Exile—through broken promises, a decades-long fight to return home, and a life between two worlds as southern culture begins to encroach on Inuit traditions.
Pekayow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity, by Darrel J. McLeod (Available on Audible Canada)
Mamaskatch, Darrel J. McLeod’s 2018 memoir of growing up Cree in Northern Alberta, was a publishing sensation – winning the Governor General’s Award for Nonfiction, shortlisted for many other major prizes, and translated into French and German editions. In Peyakow, McLeod continues the poignant story of his impoverished youth, beset by constant fears of being dragged down by the self-destruction and deaths of those closest to him as he battles the bullying of White classmates, copes with the trauma of physical and sexual abuse, and endures painful separation from his family and culture. With steely determination, he triumphs: now, elementary teacher; now, school principal; now, head of an Indigenous delegation to the UN in Geneva; now, executive in the Government of Canada – and now, a celebrated author.
Brutally frank but buoyed throughout by McLeod’s unquenchable spirit, Peyakow – a title borrowed from the Cree word for “one who walks alone” – is an inspiring account of triumph against unimaginable odds. McLeod’s perspective as someone whose career path has crossed both sides of the Indigenous/White chasm resonates with particular force in today’s Canada.