A selection of personal essays by indigenous and non-indigenous writers, In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation is a call for meaningful reconciliation between colonizers and indigenous people. Edited by author and historian Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the anthology looks beyond government lip service and into the heart of Canada’s shameful past—and present.The theme of loss recurs throughout. The indigenous authors collected here use personal stories to show how colonization forced their people into assimilation. The resulting loss of identity is a pervasive theme in the book, but so is the power inherent in the act of reclamation. in “This Many Storied Land,” Kamala Todd illustrates the importance of understanding the realities of colonized land in Canada. Describing her work as aboriginal social planner for the CIty of Vancouver, Todd makes an exceptional point: our cities aren’t built to reflect their indigenous roots. How, she asks, can we acknowledge our country’s history if it’s rendered invisible? Reclaiming history, both physically and symbolically, forces non-indigenous folk to acknowledge what they often easily ignore.Reconciliation, the book demonstrates, takes effort from all parties. This can often be painful and embarrassing, especially when citizens become more self-reflexive. The majority of the stories by non-indigenous authors collected here are brutally honest, and thus extremely uncomfortable to read. Many run up against the dangerous lure of exotification, sometimes characterizing indigenous people by their skin tones and eye shapes. Carol Shaben’s “Echo” kicks off with a cringe-worthy physical description of “the most exotic” person in her high school, a girl named Echo. Although this description is less than palatable, it serves as a device for highlighting prejudice. By reflecting upon their shallow interactions with indigenous people, the various authors trace a journey of personal growth and self-reflexivity. They learn that their attitudes are an indirect contribution to oppression.Although this kind of personal recognition marks an important step forward, In This Together demonstrates that colonization is not a thing of Canada’s past, and suggest that real reconciliation is only possible through an honest appraisal of our present. —Nadya Domingo
I am truly humbled by the excitement in Edmonton around the launch of the anthology – and the willingness of people to engage with the messy reality of reconciliation. It has been an incredible week with the launch at Edmonton Public Library, media chats, conferences and learning. Here’s a roundup of some of the early news stories and reviews!
- Ryan Jespersen show – 630 CHED interview (20:20 time mark)
- Michael Hingston’s book column “Anthology tells stories of Canada’s colonial past and present”
- Alex Boyd’s “Stories of Reconciliation” (Metro)
- Radio Canada’s interview with me on Midi 30
- Alberta Sweetgrass article by Shari Narine
- CBC Edmonton’s piece on the launch
When renowned CBC radio host Shelagh Rogers and Chief Justice Murray Sinclair offered to record a candid conversation on Gabriola Island (British Columbia) last year for the In This Together anthology, I’ll be the first to admit I had a major fangirl moment.
I have been a fan of Ms. Rogers’ since I became an avid listener of The Next Chapter, and even more so when I learned she was an ‘honoured witness’ for the TRC. Chief Justice Sinclair is someone I have come to look up to immensely through his work as chair of the TRC. Both are role models for their humanity, generosity, humility, and commitment to figuring out the history and legacy of colonialism in our country.
As any writer, journalist, anthropologist, or other professional who spends a lot of time (and finger cramps) transcribing knows, that work is often considered a chore. But when the audio of this conversation arrived in my inbox, I was thrilled to be the one who got to listen to it and to try and faithfully transcribe their words and meaning. I’ll admit that I got chills many times and had to stop at least once to find a tissue.
We included that transcribed conversation at the back of the book, but I’m excited to share the original audio with you through the magic of the Internet. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did when I first plugged my earbuds in to put their voices down on the page.
The past couple of months have been beyond hectic with amazing, challenging projects and a slightly chaotic move south of the border. Now my Southwestern Houston, TX house and family are slightly organized and I realize it’s time to take stock and catch up on things!
A quick round-up of links and news!
- In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation (Brindle & Glass) is at the printers and folks are already starting to talk about it! Michael Hingston of the Edmonton Journal and the people at 49th Shelf both mentioned it as one of their most anticipated books of 2016. Launch events are on the horizon across Canada and I can’t wait to connect with contributors and readers in person! First up: evening of March 30 at the downtown Edmonton Public Library. Stay tuned for details…
- My Charles Camsell Hospital research continues apace despite the distance between me and YEG. The internet, local assistants and several boxes of photocopies and scans help!
- Canada’s History just published a double review of Polar Winds and Canadian Women in the Sky by Liz Muir (I wrote the foreword!). Love how books just keep living.
Hope all of y’all are doing well and if you have any hot writing or history tips about Houston or Texas, please pass them along to this new transplant!