The En’owkin Centre Gathering Space is ready to showcase the works of two Aboriginal authors as part of the 2015 Literary Reading Series.
On Sept. 24, Joanne Arnott will be sharing a reading from her work between noon and 1 p.m. Arnott’s poetry explores her personal experience as a Métis and a mother of six, shining a light on issues commonly faced by mixed-race mothers living in poverty.
“My poetry isn’t completely abstract, sometimes it gets political,” she said. “I tend to write for adults but anyone is welcome of course, I have a musical background with family so it’s enjoyable to listen to.”
The most pressing political issue Arnott writes about is the disproportionately high rate of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
“I write about experiences I had as a young woman. It can be quite emotional stuff.”
Later in the afternoon, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., will be a reading from children’s author and illustrator Julie Flett. Her first opportunity to illustrate came by chance when she was asked to do work for The Moccasins by Earl Einarson.
“That was the first book I worked on,” she said. “I was asked to consider illustrating, never done it before, and I really enjoyed it.”
The Moccasins features a young foster child who receives a pair of moccasins from his adoptive mother to feel proud about his community.
“My friend who was a librarian was reading to a group of children, and one of the boys was a foster child. As she was reading the story he stopped her halfway through and said, ‘I’m a foster child,’ and he smiled and felt represented and cared for.”
After hearing more stories about the positive effect her illustrations had on children, Flett realized she could have a similar effect through writing.
“I found that when I was making the illustrations, I was able to access imagery that I would have connected to as a child, and bring that into the drawings, so I applied that then to the writing process.”
She said her illustrative work is strongly influenced by 1970s pictures books she was surrounded by as a young girl, and presents her ideas by melding her paintings and sketches into collages.
“I love being able to feel represented in my own family – we didn’t have books to look to when we were young that made us feel represented. They’re important works and I wanted to be able to contribute to my culture.”
To continue building her culture, Flett has published a book on the Cree alphabet, which takes on a different tone through her language.
“My family is mixed Metis and Cree. Through speaking the language, you hear a much different world view – it’s not a romantic language.”
Nevertheless, her books offer a sense of intimacy that’s perfect for parents to read to their children.
“A lot of my books work well one on one, similar to Earl Einarson’s Moccasins, they are the kinds of books where the child might stop you to tell you what connects them to the story.”