Read Indigenous 2020
We’re glad to release our Read Indigenous 2020 List! Read Indigenous is our yearly list of must-read titles by Indigenous authors, writers, illustrators and knowledge keepers.
These stories share everything from the importance of water in Indigenous cultures, to critical historical events, to memoirs and more.
Below, we have highlighted some of this year’s top book titles. You can check out the rest of our titles for children, teens, and adults on the Read Indigenous 2020 website.
All of these titles were selected by the Toronto Public Library’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
Please note, where it is possible we have included the Nation of the Indigenous author(s) next to their name.
Nibi's Water Song by Sunshine Tenasco (Anishinaabeg), illustrated by Chief Lady Bird (Chippewa and Potawatomi)
"Nibi is an Indigenous girl on the search for clean water to drink. Though she is faced with repeated obstacles, Nibi's joyful and determined energy become a catalyst for change and action as her community, and in widening circles, the country and government rally around her to make clean drinking water available for all. There is a strong underlying message that even when a problem seems too large to face, every bit that everyone does helps. And inaction is not an option."
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Métis, Anishinaabeg, and Chippewa)
"Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all... When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people's water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth's most sacred resource. Inspired by the many indigenous-led movements across North America, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth's water from harm and corruption."
Tanna's Owl by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley (Inuit), illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
"This heartwarming story based on the author’s own life experience teaches young readers the value of hard work, helping, and caring – even when the thing you are caring for does not love you back."
The Voyageurs: Forefathers of the Métis Nation by Zoey Roy (Métis), illustrated by Jerry Thistle (Métis), translated by Norman Fleury (Métis)
"This book is an illustrated poem by Zoey Roy about the life of the voyageurs and the genesis of the Métis."
The Shoe Boy: A Trapline Memoir by Duncan McCue (Anishinaabe)
"In The Shoe Boy, that boy – Duncan McCue – takes us on an evocative journey that explores the hopeful confusion of the teenage years, entwined with the challenges and culture shock of coming from a mixed-race family and moving to the unfamiliar North. As he reflects on his search for his own personal identity, he illustrates the relationship Indigenous peoples have with their lands, and the challenges urban Indigenous people face when they seek to reconnect to traditional lifestyles."
A Girl Called Echo, Volume 3: Northwest Resistance by Katherena Vermette (Métis)
"A graphic novel about the Northwest Resistance of 1885. In this book, the protagonist Echo Desjarlais encounters the Métis people of the Northwest Territory, including leaders Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and Mistahimaskwa, in Batoche and other sites of the Resistance. After victories, then defeat, at the hands of the Canadian Forces, Riel surrenders. Echo travels back to the present, where she discovers her own ties to the Métis who fought there. This is Book 3 in the graphic novel series that examines the history of the Métis through an own-voice perspective. Echo, a young girl experiencing life challenges (isolation in her new home, navigating a new high school, a fractured relationship with her mother), uses the power of time travel to explore significant events of her people, the Métis."
You can also check out A Girl Called Echo, Volume 1: Pemmican Wars and A Girl Called Echo, Volume 2: Red River Resistance.
Spawn by Marie-Andrée Gill (Ilnu)
"Spawn is a braided collection of brief, untitled poems, a coming-of-age lyric set in the Mashteuiatsh Reserve on the shores of Lake Piekuakami (Saint-Jean) in Quebec. Undeniably political, Marie-Andrée Gill's poems ask: How can one reclaim a narrative that has been confiscated and distorted by colonizers? The poet's young avatar reaches new levels on Nintendo, stays up too late online, wakes to her period on class photo day, and carves her lovers' names into every surface imaginable. Encompassing twenty-first-century imperialism, coercive assimilation, and 90s-kid culture, the collection is threaded with the speaker's desires, her searching: for fresh water to "take the edge off," for a "habitable word," for sex. For her "true north" – her voice and her identity. Like the life cycle of the ouananiche that frames this collection, the speaker's journey is cyclical; immersed in teenage moments of confusion and life on the reserve, she retraces her scars to let in what light she can, and perhaps in the end discover what to "make of herself.""
77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin by Thomas King (Cherokee)
"Timely, important, mischievous, powerful: in a word, exceptional. Seventy-seven poems intended as a eulogy for what we have squandered, a reprimand for all we have allowed, a suggestion for what might still be salvaged, a poetic quarrel with our intolerant and greedy selves, a reflection on mortality and longing, as well as a long-running conversation with the mythological currents that flow throughout North America."
Baawaajigan: Stories of Power by Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith (ed.) (Saulteaux) and Nathan Niigaan Noodin Adler (ed.) (Saulteaux)
"Dreams play a powerful role in Indigenous culture, serving as warning, insight, guidance, solace, or hope. Bawaajigan – an Anishinaabemowin word for dream or vision – is a collection of powerful literary short fiction by Indigenous writers from across Turtle Island.”
From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada by Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwaka'wakw)
"From Where I Stand is a timely, forthright, and optimistic book for all Canadians. Drawn from speeches made over a ten-year period both at home and abroad, Jody Wilson-Raybould reveals why true reconciliation will occur only when Canada moves beyond denial, recognizes Indigenous Rights, and replaces the Indian Act. We have the solutions. Now is the time to end the legacy of colonialism and replace it with a future built on foundations of trust, cooperation, and Indigenous self-government."
Bones by Tyler Pennock (Cree and Métis)
"At moments heartrending and gut-punching, at others still and sweet, Bones is a collection of deep and painstaking work that examines the human spirit in all of us. This is a hero's journey and a stark look at the many conditions of the soul. This is a book for survivors, for fighters, for dreamers, and for believers."
You can check out these titles and more on our Read Indigenous website. Which book do you plan on reading first? Tell us in the comments below!