It is the time of the year when you feel like all you’re doing is reading. And yet it’s not really all that you wish to be reading? How about picking up a book for some leisure reading time? But are you confused about what to pick?
Well, look no further! The Humanities and Social Studies Library has put on display some of the top students’ picks to help you sync in with the crowd. Dedicated to bringing students a break between midterms and finals, our November display is curated from the recommendations of McGill students from all genres and book lengths. Basically, it’s got something for everyone!
For the ones you may not find on display, here are some of our ebook titles:
A hilarious parody of D.H. Lawrence’s and Thomas Hardy’s earthy, melodramatic novels, the deliriously entertaining “Cold Comfort Farm” is “very probably the funniest book ever written” (The Sunday Times.).
Though her family thinks she has gone mad, Valancy embarks on an adventure of discovery. Her newfound independence leads her to a world where anything is possible—even love. But is her new life just another illusion, or has she truly found the Blue Castle of her dreams?
A New York City chef who is also a novelist recounts his experiences in the restaurant business and exposes abuses of power, sexual promiscuity, drug use, and other secrets of life behind kitchen doors.
Based on Plath’s own struggles, it chronicles a young woman’s descent into depression and eventually into suicidal behaviour, coupled with her quest to discover herself at a time when self-discovery, for a woman, meant navigating traditional models of social propriety on one side and new ideas of freedom and self-determination on the other. It is widely cited as one of the 20th century’s greatest novels.
Climate change does not affect everyone equally. The term “climate justice” was coined to acknowledge that the effects of climate change “will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations” (UN, 2019). Access to information is a key part of connecting communities across disciplines and understanding the vast and imminent impacts of climate change. Sharing information openly and freely provides an opportunity to address the inequitable impacts of climate change and shape the global response.
This year’s International Open Access Week (October 24-30, 2022) will focus on Climate Justice to raise awareness around how Open Access can support climate justice. “Open Access” refers to the “free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need” (Open Access Week, 2022).
In conjunction with International Open Access Week, McGill Library has curated a physical and virtual display at the Redpath Complex for the entire month of October, featuring books, films, and music that grapple with the inequities surrounding the climate crisis.
In the spirit of Open Access, our virtual collection includes only Openly accessible materials and links to books which are held in print and can be accessed onsite by users outside the McGill community. Here are some of the highlights from our collection:
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
No list of environmental publications would be complete without this groundbreaking 1962 book by Rachel Carson which details the harms caused by pesticide use and the negative impacts on communities exposed to these chemicals.
Voices of Drought by Michael B. Silvers
Voices of Drought takes a unique ethnomusicological approach to Climate Justice by demonstrating how ecological crisis affects musical culture by way of and proportionate to social difference and stratification.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
In this book, Indigenous author and botanist Robin Wall Kimmer explores how indigenous wisdom about human interactions with nature, harmonizes with modern scientific knowledge of ecology and sustainable living.
Climate Justice Y’All
This ongoing podcast centers on Climate Justice movements in the Southern United States, focusing on Climate Justice leaders and stories from communities in the South where climate change is already having significant impacts.
This post is about the current display in the Redpath Library Exhibition Case, curated by IMPRESS intern Claire Grenier.The Indigenous Stories Exhibition will be on display in the library until the end of September.
The only accurate way to title this display was Indigenous Stories. For Indigenous cultures oral traditions and storytelling are integral to our preservation. In this display I have tried to pull a variety of these stories from varied sources and disciplines. The selections include theory, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, art, plays, graphic novels, vintage dictionaries, decolonial guides… all of which demonstrate the ongoing scope of Indigenous talent. I also wanted to offer up explanations on the Indigenous land on which McGill occupies and information on the three distinct Indigenous groups in what we call Canada. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis all have unique histories and practices which contribute to the diverse makeup of Indigenous people from coast to coast to coast. Short explanations of the land and the Indigenous groups within Canada are dispersed through the display and also available here:
“McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous peoples whose presence marks this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.”
McGill must pursue an unedited truth about its historical and contemporary relationship with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples to meaningfully inform its goal of reconciliation.
As Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Report emphasized, reconciliation must begin with the truth. This must include proper and ongoing consultation with Indigenous peoples, and the recognition of the Indigenous traditional territory upon which McGill is situated.
Who are the First Nations?
First Nations have existed on the land we now call Canada since time immemorial. There are over 600 nations and 50 languages across Turtle Island, each with unique histories, traditions, and practices.
Who are the Inuit?
Inuit have lived and thrived across Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland encompassing 36 per cent of Canada’s landmass and 50 per cent of its coastline. The four regions include Nunatsiavut, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Inuvialuit.
Who are the Métis?
The Métis are a post-contact group descended from European men and Indigenous women along the routes of the fur trade who created a distinct culture and language. The Métis settlements span across the prairies and parts of Ontario and British Columbia. The Métis have fought for centuries for their rights and recognition.
Indigenous Stories Book Display
Now I would like to discuss some of the featured works in the display.
The first feature is a book calledÀbadakone, which is based on a celebrated exhibit in The National Gallery of Canada which opened in the Fall of 2019. This book features over 70 artists’ work from the exhibit, including those of the McGill Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative (ISCEI) 2021 and 2022 artists-in-residence Caroline Monnet and Danya Danger. The other art book on display isDesire change : contemporary feminist art in Canada, which is open to a photograph of Anishinaabekwe artist Rebecca Belmore’s 1991 piece Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother.
The next spotlight belongs to the 2021 ISCEI writer in residence, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. There are several works by Simpson in the display, the most prominent one being Noopiming: the cure for white ladies. The cover features anther work of Belmore’s – an installation piece from 2008 called Fringe. “Noopiming” is Anishinaabemowin for “in the bush.” Simpson chose this title as a direct response to Canadian settler author Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir Roughing it in the bush. As a novel, Noopiming takes place in the same time as Moodie’s memoir providing a cure for “Moodie’s racist treatment of Mississauga Nishnaabeg in her writing” (book listing). Simpson is one of the most clever Indigenous contemporary writers working today. Another of her books included in the display is A short history of the blockade: Giant beavers, diplomacy, and regeneration in Nishnaabewin. Portions of this book made up Simpson’s 2020 Kreisler lecture at the University of Alberta. The lecture, The Brillianchttps://youtu.be/8Jbp7uzj_YMe of the Beaver: Learning from an Anishnaabe World, has been integral to my own practice as an Indigenous academic and knowledge seeker in addition to influencing the structure of this display. In her lecture, Simpson explains that:
Mypeople are constant storytellers throughout the day and throughout the seasons. Stories are the fabric of daily life. My ancestors woke up each morning and created an Anishnaabe world. They animated their political system of governance and diplomacy. They built their collective philosophical and ethical understandings. They made processes for solving conflicts and reestablishing balance. And they built their economy with the consent of plant and animal nations. They built, maintained and nurtured systems for sharing knowledge and taking care of each other. They worked collectively to produce, reproduce, replicate, amplify and share Indigenous life because if they did not, Anishinaabe worlds wouldn’t exist.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, “The Brilliance of the Beaver: Learning from an Anishnaabe World”, CLC Kreisel Lecture (University of Alberta), March 12, 2020, link.
The next major grouping of works in the display fall under the category of knowledge keeping and evaluation. These books range from environmental theory to classic surveys of methodology. Given the spotlight here is Margaret Kovach’s revolutionary work Indigenous Methodologies. This book was one of the first of its kind in the field. In it, Kovach expresses the necessity of storytelling to the practice of Indigenous research. “By listening intently to one another, story as method elevates the research from an extractive exercise serving the fragmentation of knowledge to a holistic endeavour that situates research firmly within the nest of the relationship” (98).
The most personal work I chose for the display is Chester Brown’s 2003 “comic-strip biography” Louis Riel. The subject of Brown’s book, Louis Riel, was the leader of the Métis’ Red River Resistance. For Métis like me, Riel is not just a hero, he is the reason that we are recognized as a distinct group. In the eyes of many Canadian settlers, he is a “traitor” who deserved his sentence of hanging for treason. Chester Brown shows these settlers the passion, drive, and charisma of Riel and the sacrifices and battles he fought for his people. I read this book for the first time when I was 12 after my7th grade teacher insisted that Riel had been a traitor not a martyr. It was one of the first times I remember feeling connected to my history outside of the semi-annual Harvest Dinners hosted by my local Métis organization. Riel made it possible for the Métis to not only exist, but to be constitutionally recognized as we are today. Riel believed that “we must cherish our inheritance. We must preserve our nationality for the youth of our future. The story should be written down to pass on.”
Also featured in the display is another graphic novel: Moonshotwhich is a collection of Indigenous comics edited by Elizabeth LaPensee and Michael A Sheyahshe and published in 2020. This particular volume focuses on how Indigenous futurism interacts with traditional knowledge and culture. Some equally fun picks are the two works which highlight two-spirit and indigiqueer identity. Two-spirit acts: queer Indigenous performances, which was edited by Jean Elizabeth O’Hara and features one-act plays by Waawaate Fobister, Muriel Miguel, and Kent Monkman, provides space in the genre of theatre to openly and unapologetically explore what it means to be queer and Indigenous. Similarly, Joshua Whitehead’s 2017 work of poems, Full-metal Indigiqueer “focuses on a hybridized Indigiqueer trickster character named Zoa who brings together the organic (the protozoan) and the technologic (the binaric) to re-beautify and re-member queer Indigeneity.”
Lastly, I would like to turn to one of my favourite things I encountered while putting this display together. The piece in this display which I find the most interesting is not by an Indigenous author, but by a 19th century French missionary. It’s a French/Cree dictionary from 1874. The author of the dictionary is Albert Lacombe, one of the best-known missionaries in Canada’s history. Lacombe had a special interest in evangelizing the Cree and Blackfoot populations in Canada’s west. To do this, he needed to understand the language. For me, the reason this dictionary is so interesting is because it is such a clear tool of colonialism, yet it is also casual. While it’s just a dictionary, the reason why Lacombe created a dictionary of French to Cree was to more effectively convert and colonize Indigenous peoples. It’s a symbol of the power of language, of how for so long outsiders learning Indigenous dialects did so with malicious intent and with the goal of having not just the language, but the ways of life, erased and replaced with Western ideals.
This dictionary holds so much tragedy and history, and it was just sitting in the stacks of McLennan! In my last two months at the library, the discovery of this dictionary helped me explore an integral line of inquiry for my work as a Métis academic: who decides which knowledge and stories are worth keeping record of?
Through this display I’ve tried to curate a selection of many different Indigenous stories currently held by the library. By putting all these different works from different fields on an equal footing I hope I have shown you the diversity of Indigenous knowledge and convinced you of the importance of preserving all these stories, including the ones of trauma, and especially the ones about joy.
All of the books in Claire’s Indigenous Stories book display can be found on this booklist.