Even now that I’ve been out of public school for quite a few years now, June still feels like one of the busiest months. But I wanted to talk about my reading and blogging plans for June, one of which will bleed into the rest of the summer.
Over the past few days the book community on Twitter and elsewhere has started gearing up for Pride month, which I’d totally forgotten was a thing. June is National Aboriginal History Month in Canada, culminating with a huge celebration on June 21 for National Aboriginal Day. This month is really important, particularly this year since it’s the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation which is a highly contentious celebration in wake of the hundreds of years of genocide and oppression of Indigenous peoples by British and French colonization. National Aboriginal Day also starts what is called the Celebrate Canada Program, which includes Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Québec (June 24), Multiculturalism Day (June 27) and ending on Canada Day on July 1. It’s a really big deal, this year especially.
Additionally, we don’t really celebrate Pride Month in Canada. To my knowledge, although correct me if I’m wrong, no Prime Minister or Premier has ever declared June Pride Month. Pride is typically held in June but is also celebrated from May to September depending on where you are across the country. Pride Toronto is the only organization that I know of which celebrates Pride Month and they’re only in their second year of doing so.
Now back to the internet. US holidays and celebrations are really good at eclipsing other countries’. But I’m a Canadian who like to read Canadian books by Canadian authors and it’s incredibly important to include and prioritize Indigenous voices when talking about CanLit. Not even two weeks ago there was an article published in a magazine published by the Writers’ Union of Canada where the writer stated he didn’t “believe in cultural appropriation” and encouraged writers to “imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.” This was basically a cry that CanLit wasn’t diverse enough and the way to fix this was to have White, middle-class writers write more about other people and cultures, instead of encouraging and supporting diverse authors. And this was published in an issue dedicated to Indigenous writers. Then a bunch of big-name Canadian journalists starting crowd-funding on Twitter to form an “Appropriation Prize”, because that was obviously such a great idea. I’m not going to bother linking to the article or any others about the fallout that are written by mainstream publications. Go read this article by Rosanna Dearchild where she talks to three Indigenous writers about the whole thing in a panel discussion.
But Shvaugn, you say, you read Indigenous authors, pretty regularly too! That’s a good first step. Well it’s not enough. It is imperative to centre Indigenous voices in literature and genre fiction, read them, promote them, celebrate them, discover them. Too many times I see people talking about the same big books. Reading one Thomas King novel doesn’t educate you on the 600+ recognized First Nation governments or bands in Canada alone. And don’t even get me started on Joseph Boyden. Decolonization is a constant process and reading one book by an Indigenous author for your bookclub doesn’t cut it.
Additionally Indigenous and queer identities are not separate. It does incredibly harm to erase Two-Spirited and other queer Indigenous voices. And as people start drawing up their reading lists for Pride, I encourage them to seek out books written by Two-Spirited and queer Indigenous people. I’ll have a list coming up in a few days but in the meantime, check out this list by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian.
To wrap this up, the plan for June is to centre Indigenous authors in my reading habits and blogging. For Pride I’d like to read books by queer and trans authors over the months of June to August.
I’ve already gotten a little list of books drawn up that I’m hoping to read but if you’ve got any recommendations leave them in the comments!