Read and Listen: Miigwetch Nshoomis! by Nathan Adler – EVENT

Originally Published In Event Magazine, Fall 2018: https://www.eventmagazine.ca/2018/10/read-and-listen-miigwetch-nshoomis-by-nathan-adler/

Source: Read and Listen: Miigwetch Nshoomis! by Nathan Adler – EVENT

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Anishinaabe Word of the Day

Anishinaabe Word of the Day, originally published in Shameless Magazine, The Transformation Issue 36, Fall 2017: https://shamelessmag.com/issue/fall-2017

Anishinaabemoowin Word of the Day

Today’s Anishinaabe word of the day, brought to you by the old age, forgetfulness, and dementia that has loosened my grandmothers tongue, bringing her back to a time before Residential Schools, and the slaps from the nuns if she spoke her language; suddenly I understand her silences: 

“Gwebiitaang.” 

“What did she say?” I ask my mom to translate. Gway-bee-tung. Gwebiitaang. Hurry up

“Gwebiitaang,” Am I saying it right? Hurry upHurry up

Today’s Anishinaabe word of the day brought to you by the old age, forgetfulness, and dementia that has loosened my grandmother’s tongue, bringing her back to a time before Residential Schools, and the slaps from the nuns if she spoke her language: 

“Aandi ezhaa’yin?” 

“What’s that mean?” I ask my mom to translate. She has better ears for hearing Aanishinaabemoowin. Where are you going?

“Aandi ezhaa’yin.” I say, “Am I saying it right?” 

“Aandi ezhaa’yin.” My mom repeats slower, so I can get the pronunciation right. 

“Aandi ezhaa’yin.” My grandmother says slower, so I can get the pronunciation right.

“Aandi ezhaa’yin.” I repeat, and my grandmother laughs, her face splits open in a smile hearing me speak Anishinaabemoowin. 

I gather the words that survive like something precious, like seeds, try to plant them with repetition, write them down so I won’t forget, so I will remember. 

Gwebiitaang. Hurry up

Aandi ezhaa’yin? Where are you going?

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Canada’s 150 Party Not For Everybody

Originally published in Shameless Magazine, The Transformation Issue 36, Fall 2017: https://shamelessmag.com/issue/fall-2017

Canada’s 150 Party Not For Everybody 

The day before Canada’s 150th birthday, or 150+ years of colonialism as it is also known, I had been reading a lot of different perspectives and thinking about what it means to celebrate 150 years of Canadian history.

I came to the conclusion that this celebration is not for everyone; for many people, 150 years of Canadian history is cause for reflection, for remembrance, for marking perhaps, but certainly not cause for celebration. I tried to come up with my own thoughts and feelings in response, so I wrote this: 

Some Thoughts on Canada 150 …

When my dad and my Polish Jewish grandparents came to Canada they did so fleeing a genocide in Europe. Many relatives didn’t survive, they were sent to concentration camps and murdered; brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

My grandparents survived the war by hiding as Christians.

After the war, my dad and grandparents spent some time in a displaced persons camp, before moving to Sweden, and then emigrating to Canada to escape. Canada was a place of refuge and a place to start a new life. But Canada was not welcoming Jewish refugees with open arms—during the war there was a “none is too many” immigration policy. Canada was complicit in the deaths of millions. If those policies had been different, many more people could have been saved.

Though my grandparents were among the lucky ones to have survived, to have escaped the genocide in Europe; a genocide was also happening in Canada. No marking of Canada’s history would be proper without acknowledging that Canada has been built on the oppression of Indigenous Nations and dispossession of their lands and resources, and more importantly that this oppression and dispossession still continues today. 

Maybe when that colonial mindset and exploitation comes to an end, it will be easier for Indigenous peoples to also join the party. Until then I don’t think the marking of Canada’s history can be cause for celebration for many people, any more than my Jewish grandparents would find cause to celebrate German or Polish history—any day marking such an occasion would be cause for remembering those who they had lost. 

Canada’s 150 party isn’t for everyone.

  • * * * * * * * * * * * *

To mark the occasion of Canada’s 150+ years of Colonial history, me and my brothers shot a film. The film is a cooking show, in which we make a Birthday Cake to celebrate Canada’s “birthday”. 

What did we put into the cake? 

White flour: to symbolize food rations.

A vile of liquid: to symbolize small pox and the introduction of foreign diseases through germ warfare. 

Gunpowder: to symbolize RCMP violence. 

Ripped paper: for broken treaties.

Holy water and the Host: symbolizing Christianity, transubstantiation of the flesh, cannibalism, and greed. 

Chalk: to symbolize the era of Residential schools. 

Rum: to symbolize alcohol and drugs, as well as the fur-trade. 

Then we top the cake with beaver testicles and a picture of Queen Elizabeth’s face: to symbolize the importance of both the Monarchy and the Fur Trade to Canadian history. I think we forgot to include some buffalo bones to symbolize the clearing of the plains, but you get the idea. 

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“Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler recommends 4 books to read for Indigenous Book Club Month”

From the CBC website: https://www.cbc.ca/books/nathan-niigan-noodin-adler-recommends-4-books-to-read-for-indigenous-book-club-month-1.4197567

Jane van Koeverden · CBC · Posted: Jul 10, 2017 11:05 AM ET | Last Updated: July 10, 2017

Nathan Adler is the author of the novel Wrist. (Courtesy of Nathan Adler)

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June is Indigenous Book Club Month. CBC Books will publish a recommendation each day from an Indigenous writer for a book written by another Indigenous author. 

Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler couldn’t restrict himself to just one — he chose four books.

Rose’s Run by Dawn Dumont

“I would recommend Rose’s Run by Dawn Dumont because it is so much fun to read. It has romance, comedy and elements of the supernatural that show that storytelling by Indigenous people can go beyond getting bogged down in colonialism. And Rose is such an endearing, well-realized character. She is brave and just plain likeable.”

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

“I would also recommend Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. It has mystery and suspense and such great characters, you really get drawn into their world.” 

A Gentle Habit by Cherie Dimaline

“I would recommend A Gentle Habit by Cherie Dimaline, a collection of six stories with thoroughly enjoyable prose, that range from the heart-wrenching to the realistically cruel to the sinister and Gaiman-esque.”

The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp

“I would recommend The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp. It’s such a great novel that really captures the feeling of being a teenager.”

But that’s not all…

“I would also recommend Traplines by Eden Robinson. And Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel, I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway, Witness, I Am by Gregory Scofield, Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson, The Stone Collection by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Wild Rice Dreams by Vera Wabegijig, Midnight Sweatlodge by Waubgeshig Rice, and so many more great writers I could probably keep going…”

Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler published his debut novel, an Indigenous horror story called Wrist, in 2016. He was one of 150 Indigenous artists to receive a $10,000 REVEAL Indigenous Art Award.

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Niin-Giin-Wiin ~ The Colonization Of Gender

Originally published in Shameless Magazine as The Colonization of Gender, Niin-Giin-Wiin, Sex issue 30, Fall 2015: https://shamelessmag.com/issue/fall-2015

Niin-Giin-Wiin ~ The Colonization Of Gender ~ by Nathan Adler

Many historical texts that I’ve read were written by Europeans who came into contact with diverging gender practices of the Anishinaabek. These narratives are suspect as authoritative texts, coloured as they are by cultural assumptions, though I can’t help think that they contain clues. If there are oral stories that contain teachings about traditional Anishinaabe gender roles, I’m not sure which ones are the best to point to as examples, so instead I will talk about the stories that are in my own family.  

When I think of old-school, hard-core traditional Anishinaabe ways of life—before Residential School, and before on-going colonialism—I think of my great-great-grandmother Mary Skinoway [nee Waketes?], who has always been held up as an example. 

Mary—carried a medicine bundle and practiced medicine. She was a drum-keeper after her husband passed away, and took up the care of his ceremonial hand-drum. My aunt told me Mary was a Medicine Man, not a Medicine Woman, because women weren’t allowed to practice medicine (though I am not sure if this attitude was traditional/or the result of colonialism). She was a woman who practiced medicine, which somehow made her a Medicine Man. When she passed away, her medicine bundle was placed in a tree, a form of burial. 

Ideas of gender have changed and evolved over the years—as has Anishinaabe culture—but because of colonization it is hard to distinguish what is “traditional,” or “pre-“ or “un-“ colonized when it comes to concepts of sex, gender, and sexuality—and which are European ones. I’m not even sure if “sex, gender, and sexuality” are the proper terms as a framework for a discussion of Anishinaabek philosophy. It might be more important to focus on the spiritual, fertile/infertile, or economic and occupational factors as they relate to gender roles. 

Mary knew how to hunt and fish and trap, and she taught my grandmother Marion how to spear fish. My grandmother told me, every time she missed, Mary would whack her upside the head with a paddle, and that she “learned real quick!” 

My grandmother also told me Mary didn’t like to bring her along when she went hunting, because Marion made too much noise, and sounded like “an elephant tramping through the bush.” 

 My mom has chosen not to attend certain ceremonies because of the dress code for women—long skirts—when she prefers to wear pants—and this isn’t a gender issue, so much as it is one of comfort, and preference. I’ve been to a few ceremonies as well, and I don’t remember being asked to wear anything in particular. I think propriety, or respect, or tradition, can actually be counter-productive if it bars people from participating, or pushes people away—and these ideas may not even be historically “traditional”—they could be colonial traditions that have been adopted. 

I know this is a rather mundane example of colonialism and gender expression, but many pre-colonial concepts of gender have been over-shadowed by generations of residential school, creating a break in the transmission of knowledge, and a loss of language and culture. It’s interesting to consider that in Anishinaabemoowin, gender is animate/inanimate rather than male/female, and there is also a lack of he/she gender pronouns—giin/niin/wiin is used instead. Religion with its shame-based sexuality, patriarchal societal values and the devaluation of women—all these things have contributed to an erosion of traditional understandings of gender—although there is a growing movement to reclaim various traditional gender identities which differ from nation to nation, and community to community—and where the tradition has been misplaced, Niizh Mnidoowag, Two Spirit, has become adopted as a larger umbrella category for Indigenous people that don’t fit/or conform to Western Anthropological definitions of themselves like ‘berdache’ or the Gay/Bi/Trans labels which don’t always fit any better either. 

Mary Skinoway used to visit my grandmother Marion at St Joseph’s Residential School in Thunder Bay, and she wore pants like a man and smoked a pipe like a man, and they would say, “Your grandfather is here to visit you.” 

These are the stories I have of my great-great grandmother. She certainly doesn’t seem to fit into a traditional European concept of a female gender role. 

The way the story goes, Mary’s husband Bonner had drowned in a river, while saving his wife from drowning, and he ended up drowning himself. Maybe Mary was so stricken by loss, she felt compelled to take his place? This is probably only a romantic literary fallacy, but certainly it may have compelled her to take up some of the roles, responsibilities and occupations, that her husband had once maintained. 

I don’t know entirely what pre-colonization concepts of Anishinaabek gender were like, but I’m quite certain they were, and still are, different from European concepts of gender, and sex, and sexuality. 

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How Lake St. Martin First Nation Saved Winnipeg’s Ass.

Originally published in the “Beyond The Books” Column of Shameless Magazine, as How Lake St. Martin First Nation Saved Winnipeg, Environmental Justice issue 29, Spring 2015: https://shamelessmag.com/issue/spring-2015

How Lake St. Martin First Nation Saved Winnipeg’s Ass.

It’s hard to talk about the destruction of a (FN) First Nation community, sacrificed without a second thought, for the benefit of mostly urban, Canadian settlers living on Indigenous territories—without referencing Colonialism, or genocide in this country—it seems to be in accord with the patchwork of strategies that have historically been implemented to undermine Indigenous Nations.     

In 2011 heavy rain and snow-melt caused high-water levels on the Assiniboine River—which runs through Winnipeg other urban centers. To prevent “catastrophic flooding,” excess water was sent into Lake Manitoba, but farmland and thousands of cottagers were now threatened.  

The Fairford Dam was opened sending water into (LSM) Lake St. Martin. With nowhere else for water to go, over 2,000 LSMFN people were evacuated from their homes, with little or no notice—sent to hotels in cities theyhelped save, while their own homes were condemned, contaminated by water damage and mould. Large portions of Reserve declared “uninhabitable”. What many thought temporary stretched to months and years. 

In the film, Treading Water: Plight of the Manitoba First Nation Flood Evacuees, by Janelle & Jeremie Wookey, people are often heard saying, “We want to go home!”

The people of LSMFN are HEROES—albeit unwilling heroes, they are heroes nonetheless. Homes, community, culture, safety, well-being—all these things have been compromised for the well-being of others. Non-native property and homes were saved thanks to the sacrifices foisted upon them.

 Imagine millions of dollars in property damage had this flood been allowed to run its natural course along more densely populated areas of the Assiniboine—or damage to cottages and farmland. 

Neither flooding Winnipeg nor cottages was deemed acceptable—but somehow flooding Indians wasn’t as a concern. This isn’t just Environmental Racism. It is environmental conditions intentionally altered to benefit some, to the detriment of others.

Flooding of LSM was not a natural phenomenon. It was not a natural disaster—it was proceeded by a series of decisions: the choice to construct the 1960 Fairford Dam, the choice by successive governments to ignore complaints of increased flooding by LSM Residents since construction of the 1960 Dam, the choice to construct the 1971 Portage Diversion, the choice to widen this Diversion during the 2011 flood, the choice to divert waters into Lake Manitoba, and the choice to divert waters into LSM. 

The 2011 flooding was a man-made disaster—it could’ve been avoided the same way flooding of Winnipeg, farmland, and cottages was averted; solutions had been put in place to divert water elsewhere—“elsewhere” happened to be LSMFN, who were not afforded the same level of protection as other Canadians.  

            I’d like to say flooding a FN’s community was a one-time mistake. But it’s not—it’s an all-too familiar narrative in Indigenous communities across Canada. My own FN, Lac Des Milles Lacs, was flooded repeatedly over the first-half of the 20thCentury with the construction of Dams forcing people to abandon their homeland. It’s only now, over fifty years later, with construction of an Access Road that people are returning. 

            In darker moments, I think this pattern of infrastructure that floods Indians out of their homes on-reserve is intentional (think pipe-lines, tar-sands, mining, oil-extraction, the fact that the current Colonial government has demonstrated its commitment time and again to ramming through legislation that undermines FN’s rights, and positions FNs as adversaries—viewing FNs and their connection to their lands and territories, as a stumbling block to un-sustainable extraction of resources). When feeling optimistic, I think it’s just that Indigenous Peoples are not afforded the same level of consideration as other Canadians. 

            In conclusion, LSMFN saved Winnipeg, (and Manitoba’s) ass. Their is a debt that needs to be repaid—and the people of LSM are paying a price while they wait—waiting for governments to agree on a new community-site, waiting for homes free from flood-waters and mould, waiting while people lose hope—the death toll now sits at seventeen—seventeen lives lost to suicide and despair. Culture-shock, break down of family, community, way of life—the list of costs is long, and for some, it’s already too late.  

The question remains, how does Canada treat its heroes?

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A Gift Guide I wrote for the All Lit Up blog:

When I was asked to write this gift guide, I was presented with a vast selection of titles to choose from. Since I knew there was a dearth of literary talent in the Indigenous writerly world, I decided to highlight the work of Indigenous writers, some of whom were already on my to-read list, and a couple who were new to me that I stumbled across on the ALU website.

Compiling this list of titles was an agonizing process, but I managed to narrow it down to only 6 books (no mean feat)! With difficult decisions had to be made, I chose to focus on those dazzling, dark, and complex stories that most caught my eye, stories that I was eager to read anyway—writing this guide gave me an excuse to buy some early-holiday gifts to myself, and I strongly recommend that you do the same (they also make great gifts for other people too).

In no particular order, here are my recommendations:

islandsofdecolonial

Islands of Decolonial Love
Leanne Simpson (ARP Books)

A jewel-like collection of inter-connected stories and songs, each chapter is like an island, and each one revolves around themes of love; romantic, moody, problematic, and strange. Formed around kernels of Anishinaabe words, these stories grow into out-of-control bonfires that threaten to burn down entire islands and body-thieves stealing from coffins (for the most virtuous of reasons) in “jiimaanag”, to a love-story of Sabe the sasquatch in “she told him 10,000 years of everything,” and a song in staccato phrases (which I’ve had the good fortune to hear performed live) that tells the story of burial mounds and ancestor-skeletons under orange tarps from Canadian Tire, unearthed to make way for cottages on the shores of Rice Lake in “jiibay or aandizooke.” These stories are compelling, they ring of truth, the struggle for existence, and the struggle to love, decolonial.

Favourite Line: “if you don’t have 7up you can mix vodka with beer” (p.96)

gentlehabit

A Gentle Habit
Cherie Dimaline (Kegedonce Press)

This book is a stunning collection of six stories with thoroughly enjoyable prose, that range from: the heart-wrenching, realistic cruelty and social stratification of the playground found in “The Bead Fairy,” to the Bukowski-worthy junk-sick filing clerk who has acquired a newfound, and perplexing word-eating fixation in “Chasing the Ants,” to the pathetic suburban father obsessed with discovering the flower thief who has uprooted his beloved garden in “36 Holes,” to the sinister and Gaiman-esque girl born with missing bones in “The Memory of Bones,” to the intricately painful navigation of adolescent lust and love in “all the small things that collect at the bottom of the day,” to an inverted re-imagining of the classic haunted-house story, in which a house haunts the succeeding generations of one family in “Heave.” This is a great read!

Favourite line: “There is a moment that lies in the softest part of a person’s gut, rubbing its dirty fingers along entrails, coaxing out the kind of pain that sings… an indeterminable aria that sits in the heart” (p.153)

rosesrun

Rose’s Run
Dawn Dumont (Thistledown Press)

You really really won’t be disappointed if you pick up this book, Rose is such an endearing, well-realized and sympathetic character, who has occasional and easy-to-identify-with low self-esteem, but she is also brave and just plain likable. This is the story of 35-year-old mother of two Rose Okanese, who unwittingly decides to run a marathon after she has talked herself into a corner. The race forms the structure for the story, her training sessions, her daily trials and tribulations, aches and pains, the raising of her two daughters, a new love interest, the mystery of a ghost, and suspense about how the race will play out draws you along through the narrative. Set on the Pesakestew Reserve in “middle of nowhere-fuck Saskatchewan” Dumont manages to keep the narrative fast-paced, and the tone light-hearted and humorous even amidst moments of the most painful dramatic tension. You can’t help but worry about, and cheer for Rose Okanese. This novel is a joy to read. Seriously, go buy it!

Favourite line: “[her friend’s] integrity had forced her to do many things in the past: paying parking tickets, apologizing for running over someone’s dog, and then apologizing for trying to pass off a similar-looking dog as the dead one.” (p.107-108)

witnessiam

Witness, I Am
Gregory Scofield (Nightwood Editions)

A slim volume with Cree words interspersed throughout, these poems are great to read aloud just to hear the sound of the language, the English translations appearing right-justified in italics; these poems are elegies, memorials, honour songs, and dedications that explore themes of identity, love, and loss. The longest poem in the collection, “Muskrat Woman,” is a re-imagining of the Flood story, with biblical references interspersed throughout, references to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the highway of tears, and Robert Picton’s farm, all told from the point of view of Muskrat Woman, who gathers the fist-full of dirt after the Flood to re-make the land and create Turtle Island. It also includes the chilling audio transcript of Amber Tuccaro and her presumed murderer released by the RCMP.

Favourite line: “Fuck you!/ Get your own dirt” (p.9)

charliemuskrat

charlie  Muskrat
Harold Johnson (Thistledown Press)

Set in Weyakwin Saskatchewan, the story begins in the distinctive voice of Charlie Muskrat who is going winter moose hunting from his car window, because it is cold out, and “Thelma” is coming to visit, and the moose he “shot last fall was not going to be enough to feed that woman.” The humour is wry, tongue-in-cheek, ripe with mis-hearings and miscommunications in the same vein as Thomas King, in a genre of mythic-realism. Along the way, Charlie picks up various hitch-hikers, and incarnations of the culture-hero Wesakicak, who goes up to Mount Olympus to visit the Greek Gods in Greek Heaven, since Charlie’s “father was Greek and his mother was Cree,” and he is trying to figure out where Charlie belongs in the afterlife. The author also appears as a character with a cameo appearance, as one of the hitch-hikers Charlie picks up on his journey, in an interesting fourth wall break: “Harold Johnson, what the hell are you doing out here?”

Favourite Line: “we are written here, Gutenberged” (p26 ‘Gutenberg’ used as a verb!)

See the original article on the All Lit Up Blog here: https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2016/Gift-Guide-Week-Nathan-Niigan-Noodin-Adler

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Call For Submissions ~ Bawajigan: Stories of Power

Bawajigan: Stories of Power

Dreams (Bawajigan) have always played a powerful role in Indigenous cultures across Turtle Island: they have changed the course of history, and served as warning, insight, guidance, solace, or hope. In Bawajigan (Anishinaabemowin for Dream) – and the 17th volume in the Exile Book of Anthology Series – we are gathering fictional stories about what it means to dream and be Indigenous, how dreams weave their way through our realities, how they impact history, lived experience, and the stories we tell each other and the world. These can be lucid daydreams, waking trances, hallucinations, reveries, reoccurring nightmares, revenge-fantasies, fever-induced delirium, coma, sleep-paralysis visitations, sleep-walking disorders or sleep deprivation, communication with non-human entities, messages from beyond the grave, cybernetic ghosts, vision-quests, ceremony, or ghost-dancing hopes for the future, all while you just try to make it through the week. We want to hear your stories about the strength and power of dreams!

Are dreams merely wish fulfillment? Can they offer healing, guidance or insight through psycho-analysis? What do dreams reveal or conceal? Are they another level of reality? Do computers, AI entities, or androids dream? Are we living inside of a holographic universe? What do animals or monsters or ghosts or devils dream about? What if two people had the same dream? What if there were predators that stalked our dreams? What if designer-dreams became just another product to sell? Do dream-worlds exist? Are dreams multi-dimensional or cross-dimensional realities? Who is that dream-man or dream-woman? What if a dream came true? What if they always came true? Do places incite specific types of dreaming? Are we our ancestors’ wildest dream come true?

What are we looking for?

Stories must be by Indigenous writers – which means anyone who identifies as First Nation, Inuit, Metis, Status and Non-Status (including those of mixed heritage/ancestry). We’d also love to consider Indigenous writers who are not Canadian, but keep in mind that at least 90% of the authors must be Canadian, or who continue to pay taxes in Canada while living abroad.

We also encourage submissions from New-generation (18-30 years of age) and Two Spirit / LGBTQIAP folk.

Submissions including Indigenous languages are also welcome, although please include English translations.

The stories can be influenced by cultural understanding, traditional knowledge, set in modern day/historical/or futuristic settings, but filtered through a fictional lens. Stories can be in any genre, including but not limited to magic realism, alternative history, literary fiction, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, romantic comedy, erotica, urban-fantasy, mystery, and graphic-forms (comics and/or illustrations; we can even consider including a link to an online animation) — they can also be based on mythical creatures, supernatural entities, or technologies that do not exist in real life, so long as the story is in some way about drawing strength from the power of dreams.

Tropes to Avoid: Think of The Wizard of Oz “it was all a dream” ending, and unless you think your story is particularly awesome, try to steer clear of this sort of ending, it can come across as a trick played on the reader at their expense.

Submission Details: 

Original unpublished work up to 5,000 words, fictional stories only. No novel excerpts, poetry or essays. If you have something that almost-but-not-quite fits the criteria as it is laid out here, but it’s burning a hole in your pocket and you are certain of its awesomeness, please do submit it anyway. Legible 12-point font. Please list your name, contact info, and word count on the first page.   

Call open from: Dec. 2nd – March 15th

Payment: .05/word CDN

Editors: Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler

& Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith

Rights: non-exclusive English World, no re-prints for one year.

Expected Publication Date: November 2017

Submit via submittable: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/72583/bawajigan-stories-of-power-call-for-submissions

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CBC Books Interview about my novel, Wrist

I did a telephone interview with CBC books, and they wrote up a nice article based on the transcribed interview.

You can read the original here: http://www.cbc.ca/books/2016/07/nathan-adler-hiwi.html

Or see copy & paste version below:

 

Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler on writing an Indigenous horror story

Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler’s debut novel, Wrist, is not for the faint of heart. The Indigenous monster story opens with a vicious attack by a mythological creature called Wiindigo, in which a man is literally torn limb from limb. The noted horror fan said he was inspired by the works of writers like Anne Rice and Tim Powers, who write about monsters from European folklore. Adler turned to his Indigenous roots to find his monster, the Wiindigo.

In his own words, Adler describes the making of Wrist, including the two paintings that helped inspire it.

adler-wrist-hiwi.png

Visual aids
There was a painting that Norval Morrisseau did of the Wiindigo. I think it’s a spoof on another painting – Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya – but instead of Saturn, it’s the Wiindigo monster and he’s grabbing beavers and swallowing them whole. He’s this giant cannibal monster. I remember seeing that painting and being fascinated by it. I asked my mom about it and she told me stories about that monster in particular.

When I started to write, I wanted to have illustrations in it so I have tons of drawings and illustrations that I did for the novel. We didn’t end up including them because we thought it might distract from the text, but I have all these drawings of the main characters. It helped me realize the world a bit more.

adler-paintings.pngNorval Morrisseau’s painting of the Wiindigo and Francisco Goya’s painting of Saturn Devouring His Son were major influences in this book. (Courtesy of Nathan Adler)
Historical accuracy

I read myths and stories and books about mythology. I wanted the family to be securely located in Anishinaabe worldview and cosmology. I did a lot of research into the mythology they would known about and wanted them to be really embedded in that world. Then I tried to develop my own rules about the supernatural world they live in. There’s a guy out west, Nathan Carlson, he does a lot of research into Wiindigo psychosis, which is an actual historic disorder people would be diagnosed with. These people thought they were Wiindigos and would want to kill and eat people. Actual people were put on trial for being Wiindigo. Nathan Carlson writes about that from an Indigenous academic perspective. He has a personal connection to it with one of his ancestors. He was a really great resource for informing the story in terms of historical accuracy.

adler-illustrations-wrist.pngAdler drew illustrations that were originally meant to accompany the text. They weren’t included in the book, but helped him visualize the world he created in greater detail. (Courtesy of Nathan Adler)
Unexpected characters

One thing that surprised me was that one of the characters came out of nowhere. She took over the narrative a little bit and demanded that her story get told. I was like, “I don’t know where this character came from!” She just appeared and became a big part of the story. I think it’s pretty cool when that happens.

 

 

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All Lit Up, Write-up about my Novel: Wrist

All Lit up did a nice write-up on my novel Wrist, you can read about it on the All Lit Up Blog here:

https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2016/First-Fiction-Fridays-Wrist

Or see copy & paste below:

First Fiction Fridays: Wrist

June 24, 2016


Sneak-peek alert!  Wrist, Nathan Adler’s debut novel releasing in July from Kegedonce Press, is a “fusion of horror genre, urban fantasy and Indigenous storytelling methods.” Sounds amazing, right? Well, we can sweeten the deal a little further: sign up for a release notification for Wrist and receive a special promo code to get 10% off the book Lee Maracle calls “captivating from beginning to end.”

See more details below


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9781928120056

What: 

Wrist (Kegedonce Press, 2016)

Who:

Nathan Adler is a writer and an artist who works in many different mediums. Nathan won the Canadian Aboriginal Writing Challenge in 2010, and is currently working on a second novel and collection of short stories. He is a member of Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. You can read his blog here.

Why you need to read this now:

Wrist is unlike anything you’ve ever read. With a fusion of horror genre, urban fantasy and Indigenous storytelling methods, Adler crafts a tale that lives somewhere between The Addams Family and paintings of Norval Morrisseau. As with gestalt theory, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and with Wrist, Adler has crafted something wholly unique and captivating.

Wrist follows the story of dinosaur hunters who, in 1872, become embroiled in a battle over the discovery of fossils in Northern Ontario as their excavation crews are driven mad by a bizarre and terrifying illness. Over a hundred years later, Church and his family show signs of the same monstrous affliction. As he begins to unravel his family’s dark history, Church must race to protect the secrets buried deep in bones and blood.

Written from the monster’s perspective, readers get a taste of the insatiable hunger that drives Wiindigo mad, while sharing a human-ness to which we can all relate. Fans of traditional horror genre books – think Frankenstein and Dracula – will enjoy the descriptions of old-world medicine and science while exploring the intricate lives of the Indigenous monsters described by Adler.

While a work of fiction, readers may feel a sense of familiarity in the imagery crafted by Adler. Wrist is set in the fictional communities of Sterling and Ghost Lake Reserve – both of which are influenced by Ontario geography, in particular Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation and Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker).

Suspenseful, dark and deliciously horrifying at times, there are also gentler threads of family connection, human struggle and love entwined throughout the story. Readers will also notice the refreshingly LGBTQ2-positive storyline.

What other people are saying:

“I love how Adler solicits the assistance of the natural world in weaving his magical tale – fantastic, captivating from beginning to end.” – Lee Maracle, author of Celia’s Song

“Nathan Adler writes exceptionally well. His words weave together and tell a haunting story that leaves you wanting more.” Christine Smith (McFarlane) – Freelance Journalist

“Nathan Adler blends poetic imagery and Anishinaabe story to create something totally new and completely beautiful.” – Cherie Dimaline, author of A Gentle Habit, The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy, and Red Rooms

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Thanks so much to Allison at Kegedonce Press for sharing Wrist with us! We can’t wait until it comes out: remember, sign up here to receive a nudge and promo code when the book releases. For more great debut fiction, click here.

 

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