By: Becca Shortt
As a non-Indigenous person with many years of experience working with Indigenous communities and researching Indigenous engagement, I am often asked by other non-Indigenous people for resources: “Where can I start?” In preparation for this inevitable question, I have pages and pages of articles, social media accounts, T.V. shows, movies, artists, etc. to share. But I often wonder what people do with the resources I share, how are they engaging with them, what impacted them, and what are they going to do now that they’ve consumed that knowledge. So, I want to focus on one book right now, dig into the reasons I chose it for my colleagues, and invite others to use the provided agenda to organize their own book club with their friends and colleagues.
In 2019, the team I work with at my full time job added Indigenization (now Indigenous Engagement) to our strategic plan, making it a specific focus for the coming year. As a group of non-Indigenous women, we chose to begin with learning activities to increase our awareness and knowledge of Indigenous peoples, histories, realities, and relations with the Canadian state. One of these activities was to host an organization-wide book club to better engage with Indigenous authors, knowledge, experiences, and cultures.
As this was our first ever Indigenous-themed book club, I intentionally set out to pick a book that introduced issues faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada and invited the reader to engage with these truths. So, I chose Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories, originally recorded as a CBC Massey Lecture.
I chose this book/lecture series for many reasons:
- I have read the book MANY times and am VERY passionate about it (and believe everyone should read/listen to it), which made facilitating the club easier for me;
- King shares stories in a way that invites the reader to think about their own stories and how those stories have shaped their lives;
- The use of humour keeps the reader captivated and engaged even while reading about harsh realities they need to unpack or are maybe learning for the first time;
- It highlights a lot of other Indigenous artists (singers, authors, poets);
- It can be purchased as a book or listened to for free on CBC;
- We could listen to or read one lecture each week, so the time commitment was more feasible;
- I did not have to think of specific questions to ask at each meeting, instead I could ask participants to share their own stories or how the reading that week made them feel.
But, the most important reason I chose The Truth About Stories, is because King ends each lecture in a similar fashion:
“Take [this] story, for instance. It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Tell it to friends. Turn it into a television movie. Forget it. But don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.”
This quote is not only a call to action for people to do something with the knowledge they learn, but is also an encouragement to those who might say “I had no idea”, “I was never taught that in school”, or even “Now what?”. It’s never too late to learn, even if it’s difficult and uncomfortable, and then change your actions accordingly.
The book club agenda shows how the series was broken up (lecture by lecture). It also includes further resources. One of the most asked questions around Indigenous Engagement is “where do I start?” And to that I would suggest diversifying the content you consume. Thomas King shares this content with you in his lectures. Finally, please feel free to use this agenda to host the book club with your colleagues, friends, or institutions! And check out other work by Thomas King – the DreadfulWater series is AMAZING!
Share your favourite Indigenous authors! And let us know your thoughts about The Truth About Stories. Have you read it? Did you read it for a book club? How did it go?