It is a new year and the Yukon Public Libraries are putting together a new slate of Indigenous Book Club events that allow Yukoners a chance to dive into the work of Indigenous authors before joining in on a discussion with fellow readers and the authors themselves.
Carman Brar, public programs librarian for the Yukon Public Libraries, says 2024 will be the fifth year the Indigenous Book Club has been running. As in recent years, the library will be holding four author talks in 2024. Brar said the program has grown consistently in offerings and interest since it was first introduced in 2019.
“When it was first conceived, the idea was to make a number of copies available to the public, and then to have a facilitated discussion about the book. And then it so happened that, for one of these events, we were able to actually get the author in because I think he just happened to be in Yukon at the time,” Brar said.
“Folks were really enjoying that and asked if we could always get the authors in. And so we’ve made our best efforts to do that.”
Joining the discussion are local Indigenous leaders, who guide the conversation with the author through in-depth questions, before other participants have a chance for a Q+A of their own.
Brar described the discussions that ensued from these as intimate and very down to earth.
Authors who have recently joined the book club discussions of their work include: Jessica Johns, who visited the Yukon in person to discuss her novel Bad Cree, and David A Robertson, who linked up with the library online for a discussion of Theory of Crows, also a work of fiction.
Brar said Robertson’s appearance led to a wonderful discussion on challenges around reconciliation and mental health. Brar praised his charismatic approach to the discussion of heavy topics.
The next Indigenous Book Club event organized through the library will be an online Zoom discussion with author Jen Ashton, who will be joining online from the lower mainland of British Columbia. Cynthia Asp will be the Indigenous leader participating in the discussion. The discussion will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 25.
Ashton’s book up for discussion is People Like Frank. Its publisher, Tidewater Press, calls the book an uplifting collection that explores the world through the eyes of protagonists whose perspectives are informed by physical and psychological challenges but who refuse to be defined by their limitations.
“By celebrating the private triumphs of people who are all too often dismissed, Ashton reminds us all of our own humanity,” the write up on Tidewater’s website reads.
People Like Frank earned Ashton a finalist spot in the fiction category of the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award.
“The full title is actually People Like Frank, and other stories from edge of normal, which the title really struck me because it just reminded me of Yukon’s colourful five per cent that we like to talk about,” Brar said.
Asked about the selection of People Like Frank, Brar said its themes and format are both a good fit, comparing the short stories collected in the book to the Yukon’s short winter days. She added that the collected stories are lighthearted, but also touch on the real but unseen barriers people face in their day-to-day lives.
Along with the levity of the prose, Brar said she also appreciates that Ashton includes some of her own illustrations in the book.
Brar has discussed the event with Ashton and says the author is looking forward to the discussion.
Up next for the book club, after Ashton, will be a discussion with Anishinaabe writer Wabgeshig Rice in March. Brar said he will likely be joining the discussion online as well.
For those wanting to participate in the Jan. 25 discussion with Ashton and eager to get reading, print copies of People Like Frank are available at the Whitehorse Public Library. Electronic copies can also be had by people with a library card via its catalogue on the Hoopla app. Copies can also be sent to libraries in the communities. Brar said assistance with getting copies can be obtained in the library or by calling 867-667-5239.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org