By Jael Richardson
We select our FOLD Reading Challenge categories at the beginning of the year. Actually, we usually have most of them finalized in the fall, so they’re ready for January 1. Since there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that things have changed a lot since Fall 2019 and January 2020, we wanted to make a slight change to our next column as well.
Originally, July was the month slated for Beach Reads – books that could let you “escape”. But we wanted to use the month of July to focus on materials by authors from marginalized communities which will further the discussions that are happening around the world. We’re renaming this challenge “Quarantine Reads”.
These books might not lead you to lay down in a beach chair and they certainly won’t allow you to forget all about the problems of the world. But. Maybe it’s not the time for that anyway. Maybe we all need to keep paying a little more attention to those around us – particularly those who are vulnerable.
There’s fiction and non-fiction. There’s content that’s obviously relevant, and others where you’re just meant to listen and learn, and we hope that it leads you to a summer experience that’s deeply meaningful. Feel free to dive into one of our suggestions or suggest yours on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
We hope reading continues to foster change in the world…and in you.
Crow Winter, by Karen McBride
Nanabush. A name that has a certain weight on the tongue—a taste. Like lit sage in a windowless room or aluminum foil on a metal filling.
Trickster. Storyteller. Shape-shifter. An ancient troublemaker with the power to do great things, only he doesn’t want to put in the work.
Since coming home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, Hazel Ellis has been dreaming of an old crow. He tells her he’s here to help her, save her. From what, exactly? Sure, her dad’s been dead for almost two years and she hasn’t quite reconciled that grief, but is that worth the time of an Algonquin demigod?
Soon Hazel learns that there’s more at play than just her own sadness and doubt. The quarry that’s been lying unsullied for over a century on her father’s property is stirring the old magic that crosses the boundaries between this world and the next. With the aid of Nanabush, Hazel must unravel a web of deceit that, if left untouched, could destroy her family and her home on both sides of the Medicine Wheel.
They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada
Smartly dressed and smiling, Canada’s black train porters were a familiar sight to the average passenger—yet their minority status rendered them politically invisible, second-class in the social imagination that determined who was and who was not considered Canadian. Subjected to grueling shifts and unreasonable standards—a passenger missing his stop was a dismissible offense—the so-called Pullmen of the country’s rail lines were denied secure positions and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against the racist Dominion that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Drawing on the experiences of these influential black Canadians, Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice and shows how a country can change for the better.
The Shoe Boy: A Trapline Memoir, by Duncan McCue
At the age of seventeen, an Anishinabe boy who was raised in the south joined a James Bay Cree family in a one-room hunting cabin in the isolated wilderness of northern Quebec. In the five months that followed, he learned a way of life on the land with which few are familiar, where the daily focus is on the necessities of life, and where both skill and finesse are required for self-sufficiency.
In The Shoe Boy, that boy – Duncan McCue – takes us on an evocative journey that explores the hopeful confusion of the teenage years, entwined with the challenges and culture shock of coming from a mixed-race family and moving to the unfamiliar North. As he reflects on his search for his own personal identity, he illustrates the relationship Indigenous peoples have with their lands, and the challenges urban Indigenous people face when they seek to reconnect to traditional lifestyles.
The result is a contemplative, honest, and unexpected coming-of-age memoir set in the context of the Cree struggle to protect their way of life, after massive hydro-electric projects forever altered the landscape they know as Eeyou Istchee.
They Said This Would Be Fun, by Eternity Martis (Available on Audible Canada)
A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity Martis was excited to move away to Western University for her undergraduate degree. But as one of the few Black students there, she soon discovered that the campus experiences she’d seen in movies were far more complex in reality. Over the next four years, Eternity learned more about what someone like her brought out in other people than she did about herself. She was confronted by white students in blackface at parties, dealt with being the only person of colour in class and was tokenized by her romantic partners. She heard racial slurs in bars, on the street, and during lectures. And she gathered labels she never asked for: Abuse survivor. Token. Bad feminist. But, by graduation, she found an unshakeable sense of self–and a support network of other women of colour.
Using her award-winning reporting skills, Eternity connects her own experience to the systemic issues plaguing students today. It’s a memoir of pain, but also resilience.