Forget-Me-Not: The Red Files

January 18, 2017

It couldn’t be more essential to magnify today’s historical footnote: the residential school system and Sixties Scoop. Lisa Bird-Wilson’s poetry collection The Red Files (Nightwood Editions) reflects on the experiences of residential school victims and their families to offer us a deeper understanding of their stories, as much as it looks at the larger political context that allowed this period in history. The title a reference to the residential school archives in the "red files," this well-researched collection draws from family and archival material to shed light on a dark period in our cultural memory, one that we will not soon forget.

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To celebrate Canada150, we’re turning the page on the most celebrated historical moments and highlighting the footnotes for a change. Take a trip down literary lane with us as we share books on aspects of Canadian history and notable people that don’t always get due attention.


Publisher Silas White of Nightwood Editions shared the following about Lisa Bird-Wilson's poetry collection:

ALU: What brought you to publish The Red Files?

SW: The author, Lisa Bird-Wilson, in an esteemed, articulate and powerful literary voice for First Nations, in addition to being an excellent writer on any subject matter. In the case of The Red Files, she meticulously researched residential schools archives and related the stories of the children and families with bone-chilling authenticity. Lisa approached Nightwood to publish her collection, and I found it to be a perfect fit for our mandate. This is what poetry should be: truly inspired, deeply personal, flawlessly constructed.  


ALU: What impact do you think this work has on Canadian culture/history? 

SW: The Red Files is a significant book in Canadian history. The systematic cultural genocide of residential schools cannot be forgotten or glossed over, and rather should be expressed and explored in our art and literature as much as possible. This book in particular carefully constructs stories from archival photos and documents that would otherwise be lost. The darkness that Lisa Bird-Wilson immersed herself into to produce this work is shocking and imposing—and stands as a gift for Canadians to learn from for many years to come.




Thanks so much to Silas at Nightwood for answering our questions about  The Red Files! Did you know that you get a free 2017 poster calendar if you buy a copy of the book?

Also, don't forget to follow along with the rest of our #ALUneverforget picks on the  blogTwitterFacebook, and  Instagram as we book-hop through the centuries, and check out our  history timeline showcasing still more books that tell Canadian history like it is, or should we say, was.


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