Post Apocalyptic Fiction by First Nations Authors

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Hi folks,

I’ve recently found a new favourite genre – post apocalyptic fiction written by First Nations authors. In Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice’s character sums up why I have such a deep feeling towards these books. This is one of the community elders talking:

Yes apocalypse! What a silly word. I can tell you there’s no word like that in Ojibwe … Our world isn’t ending. It already ended. It ended when Zhaagnaash came into our original home down south on that bay and took it from us. That was our world. When Zhaagnaash cut down all the trees and fished all the fish and forced us out of there, that’s when our world ended. They made us come all the way up here. This is not our homeland! ….But then they followed us up here and started taking our children away from us. That’s when our world ended again. And that wasn’t the last time. … We’ve had that over and over. But we’ve always survived. We’re still here.

Who better to write about the end of the world than peoples who have already experienced it, and who continue to experience displacement, racism and pressure to minimise or cease their traditional practices?

In Moon of the Crusted Snow the power goes out in a small Anishinaabe community in the far north. This is not unexpected – the remoteness of the community means the power supply goes out sometimes, especially during the harsh winter. But soon two of the community’s young men return from college with disturbing stories of what is happening in the outside world and the community leaders understand they are in trouble. The community draws together in order to survive – although as in any community tempers flare and there are disagreements, trouble makers and those who want to shirk off contributing as they know they will still be taken care of. When strangers arrive, things become more tense. These newcomers don’t know or respect the ways of the community and it causes further friction, which builds to the nail biting denouement.

In Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse explores a more fantastical apocalypse – the world has drowned and the Dinetah are thriving for the most part. There are gods and monsters who occasionally make life difficult. Maggie is a monster hunter (and is questioning if she is a monster herself). But something is stealing children, and Maggie is hired to find out what. This takes us through an amazing story of monsters, and gods, and also allows us to see how Maggie has and still is suffering at the hands of others who think she is too different, and the impact that has on her.

Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman is a book I’ve been talking about all year. Australia has been invaded – again. Coleman skilfully weaves the story of colonisation, it’s impact on the Natives, the views of the Colonisers. We follow the stories of Jacky, a child who has run away from the mission with it’s abuse and mistreatment; Esperance, who is trying to keep her mob alive and away from the Colonists; and Johnny Starr, who after being part of a brutal massacre of Natives, walks away from his fellow troopers to join the Natives.

These three authors weave the stories of the suffering of their people through their books, and allow us to see through a close up and personal lens not only the hardships and difficulties they have faced, but their grit, determination and strength in the face of a majority who has, and in most cases still is, trying to wipe them out.

I love the idea of First Nations people writing books like this. People have always told stories to each other, but a lot of the colonists don’t want to hear these stories and are probably unlikely to pick up something like a memoir which gives a first hand account of how colonisation has been a bad thing for their people, and the terrible consequences it has had on them for generations. I hope that these stories in fiction will be more likely to find their way into the hands of people who need this perspective to better understand the trauma suffered by those who continue to be oppressed.

The other thing these books do is allow First Nations people to see themselves represented accurately in a genre where they would usually see themselves portrayed as the exotic other, if at all. I also hope this brings more First Nations people to both read and write in this genre.

While I’m coming to Trail of Lightning and Moon of the Crusted Snow as a non North American person, these books have given me better insights to the traditions of the peoples as well as their continuing suffering – the impact outsiders who don’t understand or care have on the community and possible fracturing and continuing loss of tradition, the terrible impact of ongoing violence from both inside and outside the community. (Note – I am aware that Roanhorse has attracted some criticism for her sharing of some parts of Diné culture and spirituality. You might like to have a read of this article which I found helpful.)

As a white Australian, Terra Nullius is a brutal read, with each chapter being heading by some form of letter, journal entry or other epistolary writing to give the perspective of the Colonists or the Natives. It’s particularly difficult to read knowing that the views of the colonists in these are visited upon our First Nations peoples every day by present day colonists who are just as ignorant as the ones in the book.

I highly recommend you getting your hands on these three, particularly if you are a white reader in a colonised country, or if your country has been responsible for colonisation in the past. Even if you aren’t, these are damned good reads.

Cheers,

Author of Colour Readathon

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Hello fabulous people.

I’m pretty stoked that the weekend is here! I have a huge weekend of reading planned…. ah bliss!

I wanted to let you know about the Author of Colour Readathon that will be happening between August 12 and August 19.

The wonderful Polo over at Queer Lit put me on to this readathon. It’s being hosted by Booktuber Dana in Colour and there are 4 challenges:

  1. For each of these points, read a different authors of different ethnicities/races
  2. Read a classic or a work in translation by an author of colour
  3. Read a sci-fi or fantasy book by an author of colour
  4. Read a book of poetry by an author of colour.

Polo has some great tips for making it through all the readathon challenges on their website as well as some recommendations, so make sure you check out their post.

I’m sure if you’ve spent a little time reading this blog you will be aware that reading widely is a goal that I’m constantly working at. I want to make sure that my book buying dollars aren’t going to the smug white folks who get all the marketing. Diverse voices are so important, especially when some broadcasters are giving far right wing supporters to air time. (I find myself very much aligned with the First Dog on the Moon piece which you can find here , which is both more succinct and scathing than I could hope to be.)

My timing for this readathon is pretty good: here’s a look at what I’m planning on reading over the weekend and during the coming week.

I’m so grateful to my library for buying books that I have asked for. I’m part way through Want by Cindy Pon (sci-fi/fantasy) and I’m really enjoying it.

I put down Want in order to pick up Melissa Lucashenko’s new book Too Much Lip. This doesn’t really fit into any of the readathon challenges, but I’m not going to let that stop me!


Another purchase by my library and another sci-fi/fantasy read, I’m looking forward to Rebel Seoul as well!

Another library loan, this title had me immediately. This is poetry so does qualify for the challenge.

Small Country by Gael Faye is translated from the French, so qualifies for the challenge. This recommendation has come from an impeccable source and I’m really looking forward to it.

So those are my plans. Are you going to join in the Author of Colour Readathon? Let me know what you’re going to read?

Cheers,

Yoon Ha Lee’s essay (from Book Smugglers)

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Hi everyone!

In my last post about sci fi I mentioned Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent book Ninefox Gambit. I thought you might be interested to read this article he produced for the Book Smuggler’s website about writing and being a trans person.

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2016/06/sff-in-conversation-yoon-ha-lee-on-being-trans.html

(I’m making my way through the next in the series, Raven Stratagem, which is also excellent!)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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I've set myself a number of challenges this year, and it has really shown me that as far as reading is concerned, I am a contrary beast. I've smashed my Goodreads goal of 150 books, and only a few of those have been for the other challenges.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is part of my Reading Around the World challenge. I picked this one up thanks to the Book Riot team – as an Aussie who doesn't really watch TV, I have no idea who he is in the US. Here in Australia, we have a significant number of (white) South African immigrants, who, for the most part, left the country around the time that Apartheid was overturned.

Noah's book is a fascinating look at what black and coloured people who lived under the regime had to deal with, as well as the changes that happened when Apartheid was overturned. Born a Crime is a series of stories of Noah's childhood and youth, growing up in South Africa. The title of the book is due to Noah's parentage – as the child of a white father and a black mother, his existence was illegal. This also meant that he couldn't be seen with either of his parents in public or they would go to jail.

I really enjoyed Born a Crime. Noah's stories reflect the grinding poverty, the stupidity of racism, and the difficulties he and his family encountered (including the terrible abuse by his stepfather) in a way that is absolutely relatable. I learned so much about South Africa and the many cultures therein. Plus the stories are, for the most part, incredibly funny.

I listened to this one on audio – it's read by the author, and is great in that format.

5 out of 5 hilarious poo stories.

Litsy A to Z Challenge 2017

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So while I’m talking about fabulous things on Litsy, this Challenge has been floating around. There are a number of takes on it but I’ve gone A to Z by title only. I’m also pretty jazzed as this is an entirely diverse list.

Here goes:

  • An Ishmael of Syria – Asaad Alomohammad
  • Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms – Dr Anita Heiss
  • The Cypress Tree – Kamin Mohammadi 
  • Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
  • Every Secret Thing – Marie Munkara
  • Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington
  • The Girl with 7 Names – Hyeonseo Lee
  • Honor – Elif Shafak 
  • The Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Jinangga – Monty Walgar 
  • The Kadaitcha Sung – Sam Watson
  • Left to Tell – Immaculee Ilibagiza
  • The Museum of Abandoned Secrets – Oksana Zabuzhko
  • Not Quite Men, No Longer Boys – K.C. Laughton
  • Oreo – Fran Ross
  • The People of Forever Are Not Afraid – Shani Boianju
  • Quiet Violence of Dreams – K Sello Duiker
  • Rainy Season – Nnanaziri Ihejirika
  • The Spider King’s Daughter – Chibundu Onuzo
  • Twisted – Jessica Zafra
  • Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
  • The Vegetarian – Han Kang 
  • We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Xala – Ousmane Sembene 
  • You Can’t Touch My Hair – Phoebe Robinson
  • Zubaida’s Window – Iqbal Al-Qazwini

Join me with an A to Z list of your own! Let me know what you think you’ll include!!

Reading Around the World – Prep Phase

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I’m getting pretty excited about my Reading Around the World journey.

I’m still doing a bunch of research to find authors to read from every country – you can see how I’m going on the dedicated page. 

I’ve made a few decisions about how I’m going to accumulate the books. Normally I listen to audiobooks, or read on my kindle. I’ve decided though that I want actual copies of the books I’m using for this project. This may not always be possible, but that is what I will try for in the first instance. I think I may also need to change my mission statement to be “at least one” book from every country in the world, because I’m discovering so many amazing authors!!

I’ve started the long (and expensive!) process of ordering the books in so I have somewhere to start in January.

I’m getting sucked in by a lot of these covers – isn’t the cover for Honour beautiful?

I’m looking forward to reading Anita Heiss’s book – Heiss is an Indigenous Aussie author and this is a pretty new release. Even better, she is doing a book talk at my favourite Indie book store, Avid Reader, in February. Awesome!!

As always, please feel free to leave me any recommendations for awesome reads (available in English 🙏🏼) from your part of the world in the comments.