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The winners of the REVEAL Indigenous Art Awards have been announced, with 150 artists each receiving $10,000—for a total of $1.5 million in cash awards disbursed. The aim of this one-time-only REVEAL prize? To “fuel Indigenous arts practice for the next 150 years,” says the Hnatyshyn Foundation. Practitioners in a wide range of art forms are being honoured, including visual artists, media artists, craftspeople, musicians, writers, storytellers, dancers and actors.
We rounded up books from ALU authors and playwrights honoured with the REVEAL Award and brought them here for your reading pleasure. For a full list of the winners in all disciplines, see here: http://canadianart.ca/news/reveal-indigenous-art-awards/
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The inspiration for the collection comes from American Poet Charles Bukowski who wrote “In between the punctuating agonies, life is such a gentle habit.” Following this theme of extraordinary ordinariness, A Gentle Habit is a collection of six new short stories focusing on the addictions of a diverse group of characters attempting normalcy in an unnatural world.
A deeply scouring poetic account of the residential school experience, and a deeply important indictment of colonialism in Canada.
Many of the poems in Louise Halfe’s Burning in This Midnight Dream were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded. In heart-wrenching detail, Halfe recalls the damage done to her parents, her family, herself. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass like a virus from one generation to the next. She asks us to consider the damage done to children taken from their families, to families mourning their children; damage done to entire communities and to ancient cultures.
Halfe’s poetic voice soars in this incredibly moving collection as she digs deep to discover the root of her pain. Her images, created from the natural world, reveal the spiritual strength of her culture.
Originally published in 2016 by Coteau Books, Burning in This Midnight Dream won the Indigenous Peoples’ Publishing Award, the Rasmussen, Ramussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples’ Writing Award, the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award, the League of Canadian Poets’ Raymond Souster Award, and the High Plains Book Award for Indigenous Writers. It was also the 2017 WILLA Literacy Award Finalist in Poetry. This new edition includes a new Afterword by Halfe.
“Burning in this Midnight Dream honours the witness of a singular experience, Halfe’s experience, that many others of kin and clan experienced. Halfe descends into personal and cultural darkness with the care of a master story-teller and gives story voice to mourning. By giving voice to shame, confusion, injustice Halfe begins to reclaim a history. It is the start of a larger dialogue than what is contained in the pages.” –Raymond Souster Award jury citation
Cerulean Blue is a comedic play about a struggling blues band invited to participate in a benefit concert for a First Nation community in conflict with governmental authorities. Upon arriving, the band discovers the entire lineup of musical acts has cancelled and they’re left trapped behind barricades. Complicating the matter, there is conflict within the band and the sudden appearance of an old girlfriend makes the event even more perilous.
This play is an homage to fast-moving farces while also addressing Aboriginal issues. Cerulean Blue deals with relationships, perceptions, politics, and what to do when you discover you’ve been dating your first cousin. Add a few spoonfuls of original blues music, and you’ve got a fun-filled evening.
The play was written for a large ensemble cast, which makes it ideal for musical theatre departments in high schools and colleges – every student can play a part. An original musical score by Andrew Clemens will be available for download from Talonbooks.com.
Cast of ten women and ten men.
Based on a deposition signed by 14 Chiefs of the Thompson River basin on the occasion of a visit to their lands by Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1910, Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout is a ritualized retelling of how the Native Peoples of British Columbia lost their fishing, hunting and grazing rights, their lands, and finally their language without their agreement or consent, and without any treaties ever having been signed. It is one of the most compellingly tragic cases of cultural genocide to emerge from the history of colonialism, enacted by four women whose stories follow each other like the cyclical seasons they represent.
Written in the spirit of Shuswap, a “Trickster language” within which the hysterically comic spills over into the unutterably tragic and back, this play is haunted by the blood of the dead spreading over the landscape like a red mist of mourning.
In Halfling Spring>/i>, a series of notes unfolds the dance of desire versus trust through a long season of actual and metaphorical springtime. Award-winning poet Joanne Arnott explores love, intimacy, and family, with a focus on electronic connections (internet love). Transiting Canada from Victoria to Iqaluit, and transitioning from virtual to real (fantasy to reality), she inspects the realms of miscegenation and love in a class conscious and cross-cultural context, revealing en route the many ways that our deepest connections unveil the depths of old pain. Optimistic and playful, romantic and mythic, affirming embodiment, this process of poetic revelation shows all the dirty tricks of love.
In huff, brothers Wind, Huff, and Charles are trying to cope with their father’s abusive whims and their mother’s recent suicide. In a brutal reality of death and addiction, they huff gas and pull destructive pranks. Preyed upon by Trickster and his own fragile psyche, Wind looks for a way out, one that might lead him into his mother’s shadow.
In Stitch, Kylie Grandview is a single mom struggling to make a living as a porn star while dreaming of being on the big screen. She’s painfully aware that she is among the many nameless faces on the Internet, the ones that blip across cyberspace, as her yeast infection, Itchia, reminds her at every turn. But when Kylie is offered the chance at a big break, a series of twisted events lead her down a destructive path, revealing a face no one will forget.
Rita Bouvier’s third collection of poetry is a response to the highs and lows of life and represents an attempt at restoring order through embracing others, reconciling the traumas caused by the deep scars of history, and soaring beyond life’s awkward and painful moments in order to live joyfully. Inspired by the metaphor of a voyageur sustained by song on his journeys up and down the rivers of Northwest Saskatchewan, these “songs for the seasons” draw heavily on images from nature as well as the joys, heartaches and transgressions Bouvier has witnessed and experienced as a Métis woman. Using imagery strongly connected to the natural environment, Bouvier evokes earth’s regeneration through the seasons as inspiration for moving forward.
Whether discussing the joys and trials of family life with poems such as “nigosis is sweet and sixteen” and “my grandmother’s hands”, offering her own take on history in “songs to sing” and “measured time”, or exploring Métis identity in “I have something important to say” and “Indigenous Man 2”, Bouvier captures the essence of a life that can be “joyful/one minute and then. agony”. Yet she always encourages the reader to become “caught in the movement and beauty/of life – dance, breathe, listen” and, of course, sing.
Living in a small working class town has never suited Addy, so after a summer working as a janitor at the local hospital, she is more than ready to move to the city. When the night before her move finally arrives, Addy’s bags are packed, she has visited all her favourite spots one last time, and she has even attempted to make amends with her single mother. Her rough-around-the-edges boyfriend Craig, however, wants to make their final night in town one to remember, so they head out to the cemetery with friends for one last party.
At the cemetery, Addy notices a boy named Jonas hovering in the bushes. The rest of her friends think he is eavesdropping, but Addy knows the younger teen is visiting his recently deceased mother’s grave. When a game of chicken escalates and Jonas is struck by the truck Addy and her friends are driving, guilt causes Addy to feel responsible for healing the boy’s injuries and his grief, and she vows to help him escape his violent home. As their lives become further intertwined, Addy realizes her connection to Jonas is more than platonic, and she must decide whether she wants to leave for the city with Craig or follow her heart down another path.
Size of a Fist is a dark, gritty novella about growing up in difficult circumstances where abuse and hopelessness are ever-present. The suggestion of violence hovers beneath the surface of every relationship in this harsh tale of self-preservation and personal discovery. Addy must navigate her entry into the cruel world of adulthood alone, discovering along the way the sacrifice involved in truly following her heart and taking responsibility for her actions. This gripping thriller exposes the hearts of its teenage dreamers as they attempt to outrun the law and their respective pasts.
An anthology of First Nations drama in English, Staging Coyote’s Dream is the first anthology of First Nations plays to be published in Canada. It brings together ten major plays by First Nations playwrights living in Canada and the United States. The collection will be required reading for specialists and students of Native Studies, Native theatre or literature, and will serve as an outstanding introduction to newcomers to the field.
This is a story about two stories and their travels through the written record. The written part begins in the mid-nineteenth century, when Silas T. Rand, a Baptist clergyman from Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, took as his task the translation of the Bible into Mi’kmaqthe language of the indigenous communities in the region. In the process of developing his vocabulary, Rand transcribed narratives from Mi’kmaq storytellers, and following his death, 87 of these stories were published in a book called Legends of the Micmacs. As his understanding of the language grew, Rand began to translate the stories as he heard them, and to record them in English. Until recently, it appeared that none of the early transcriptions in the original Mi’kmaq had survived. Then, in 2003, poet and essayist Peter Sanger uncovered two manuscripts among the Rand holdings in the library at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. One of these contains the story of Little Thunder and his journey to find a wife, as told to Rand by Susan Barss in 1847. The other is the story of a woman who survives alone on an island after being abandoned by her husband. It was told by a storyteller known to us now only as Old Man Stevens and dates from 1884. Both are among the earliest examples of indigenous Canadian literature recorded in their original language; the 1847 transcript being perhaps the earliest. Their publication in The Stone Canoe makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Mi’kmaq storytelling and indigenous Canadian literature.
With the same passion for research and sleuthing that characterized his two previous prose publications, Spar (GP, 2002) and White Salt Mountain (GP, 2005), Peter Sanger provides commentary that recounts the adventure of his discoveries and the paths of written correspondence, library acquisitions, name changes, transcriptions, translations and human error that separate and reconnect two stories and their tellers. He also unpacks some of the complexities of Mi’kmaq cultural motifs as they emerge in these stories.
At the heart of The Stone Canoe are the two stories themselves, including Rand’s published versions, along with new translations and transliterations by Elizabeth Paul, a Mi’kmaq speaker and teacher of the Eskasoni First Nation. Paul provides new English translations, and Mi’kmaq transliterations of Rand’s transcripts, as well as notes detailing issues of language and culture. The Stone Canoe also features artwork by Alan Syliboy, a Millbrook First Nation artist. Syliboy’s original ink drawings illustrate scenes from the two narratives, employing some of the traditional patterns in Mi’kmaq art, and work visually alongside the translations and Sanger’s engagement with the patterns contained in the stories.
In this collection of short but powerful two-spirit plays, characters dispel conventional notions of gender and sexuality while celebrating Indigenous understandings. With a refreshing spin, the plays touch on topics of desire, identity, and community as they humorously tackle the colonial misunderstandings of Indigenous people. From a female trickster story centred on erotic lesbian tales to the farcical story about a new nation of Indigenous people called the Nation of Mischief, this collection creates a space to explore what it means to be queer and Indigenous.
Where the Blood Mixes is meant to expose the shadows below the surface of the author’s First Nations heritage, and to celebrate its survivors. Though torn down years ago, the memories of their Residential School still live deep inside the hearts of those who spent their childhoods there. For some, like Floyd, the legacy of that trauma has been passed down through families for generations. But what is the greater story, what lies untold beneath Floyd’s alcoholism, under the pain and isolation of the play’s main character?
Loring’s title was inspired by the mistranslation of the N’lakap’mux (Thompson) place name Kumsheen. For years, it was believed to mean “the place where the rivers meet”—the confluence of the muddy Fraser and the brilliant blue Thompson Rivers. A more accurate translation is: “the place inside the heart where the blood mixes.” But Kumsheen also refers to a story: Coyote was disemboweled there, along a great cliff in an epic battle with a giant shape-shifting being that could transform the world with its powers—to this day his intestines can still be seen strewn along the granite walls. In his rage the transformer tore Coyote apart and scattered his body across the nation, his heart landing in the place where the rivers meet.
Can a person survive their past; can a people survive their history? Irreverently funny and brutally honest, Where the Blood Mixes is a story about loss and redemption. Caught in a shadowy pool of alcoholic pain and guilt, Floyd is a man who has lost everyone he holds most dear. Now after more than two decades, his daughter Christine returns home to confront her father. Set during the salmon run, Where the Blood Mixes takes us to the bottom of the river, to the heart of a People.
In 1872, dinosaur hunters become embroiled in a battle over the discovery of fossils in Northern Ontario as their excavation crews are driven mad by a bizarre and terrifying illness. Over a hundred years later, Church and his family show signs of the same monstrous affliction. As he begins to unravel his family’s dark history, Church must race to protect the secrets buried deep in bones and blood. A fascinating story embracing Anishinaabe legend, culture, and language, Wrist is set in the fictional town of Sterling and Ghost Lake Reserve, and is Nathan Adler’s debut novel. It is the companion volume to Ghost Lake, which won the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award in Published English Fiction.