Waubgeshig Rice’s top reading picks for cottagers

Published: November 2, 2020

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Waubgeshig Rice is a national bestselling author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay, Ont. His first short story collection, Midnight Sweatlodge, was inspired by his experiences growing up in an Anishinaabe community. In 2014 he published his first novel, Legacy. His award-winning second novel Moon of the Crusted Snow came out in 2018 and he is currently working on its sequel. 

A seasonal residence like a cottage can be an escape from the daily grind. Spending time there is an opportunity to gear down mentally and physically, and reading is often an important part of that routine. Cottage goers may lean more towards lighter reads, especially in the summer. So serious topics like colonialism may not be at the top of the to-be-read pile at the cottage! However, it’s important to remember that a cottage is a luxury and a privilege, and seasonal residences exist on Indigenous lands across Canada. Here’s my pick of vital books by Indigenous authors that both educate and entertain, and are very suitable for cottage reading. 

Moccasin Square Gardens by Richard Van Camp
The latest short story collection by Richard Van Camp is a hilarious love letter to the north and its people. While it’s a funny look at the everyday lives of the diverse people who live “north of 60”, it’s also a haunting reminder of the power of the land and the stories that have thrived in it since time immemorial. Find it at Indigo or Amazon.

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
Only Thomas King can write a concise and comprehensive account of the displacement of Indigenous peoples across North America and make it humorous at times. The Inconvenient Indian is educational and empowering, and I believe it’s a must-read for anyone who lives on this continent. It’s been a mainstay on non-fiction bestseller lists since its release, and it won the RBC Taylor Prize in 2014. Find it at Indigo or Amazon.

Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow by Brian D. McInnes
Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword for this book, because I’m from the same community as revered First World War veteran and Anishinaabe leader Francis Pegahmagabow. However, I believe this is a truly unique book that explores the history of what many people now know as cottage country. His great-grandson, Brian D. McInnes, reflects on the oral stories of his family in Wasauksing to write a compelling biography. Find it at Indigo or Amazon.

Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 
With her first foray into short fiction, scholar and activist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson vividly explores the triumphs and challenges of modern Indigenous people. Simpson’s writing is poetic and profound, and her short stories intimately highlight the crucial relationships Anishinaabeg have with each other and the land. Reading this book is a transcendent experience. Find it at Indigo or Amazon.

Tracks by Louise Erdrich
This acclaimed novel by a leading Anishinaabe voice in literature is an intimate glimpse of people at a crossroads in the early 20th Century. Set in North Dakota, Tracks explores the lives and relationships of people holding on to their traditions in a rapidly changing world around them. Its primary theme of maintaining a good connection to the land is resonant and timely everywhere. Find it at Indigo or Amazon.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliot 
Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliot has emerged as a crucial voice in modern Canadian literature through her insightful and critical non-fiction. This celebrated collection of essays examines the harsh realities of Canada and their impacts on Indigenous peoples. Elliot’s striking personal reflections on trauma, colonialism, and oppression are required reading for anyone trying to understand their place on this land. Find it at Indigo or Amazon.

Want to do more reading? Start a cottage book club

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