Conversation avec ma bibliothèque
Let’s be clear — I’m no Alberto Manguel when it comes to book collecting, but my library at home is my pride and joy: the product of four decades of wandering the Americas and the Iberian peninsula, filling my suitcase with books, meeting the world’s finest writers in Spanish and Portuguese, my interchangeable mother tongues, and also hosting the best authors of Turtle Island, my adoptive environs, back home in Abya Yala.
But opening my library’s glass doors and picking a book from a shelf duly placed and arranged in a unique order only known to me, holding the precious artifact, flipping the pages redolent of paper and ink, and (my favourite) lovingly reading and re-reading the autograph on the title page is the part I call Pure Pleasure. The other —which you may call Reading; I call Teleportation — is where the magic happens: the author’s words will take you places, will teach you things, will open your mind, your heart, and will, above all, actually transform you.
I got my citizenship over a decade ago, but holding my books makes me feel way more Canadian than holding my passport. I actually had the fortune (and the honour!) of telling this at an airport security check in Medellín and Cusco to two of my favourite writers, headliners at the Hay Festival.
Where to begin? To describe the work and la pensée of Lee Maracle is to venture far beyond “the personal is political” — it is to boldly go where no Canadian indigenous woman has gone before. The recent collection of two decades of her oratories, Memory Serves, is a window into the world of Lee and the Sto:lo, her people. There are multiple perspectives drawing on countless conversations with Lee’s knowledge keepers (elders) and European knowledge keepers (“intellectuals, academics, professors, teachers, experts, etc.”), and the end-result is endless insight fashioned “when oratory is written” on peace, women, power, space, time, post-colonial imagination.
We’re now being teleported to a futuristic dystopia about a Canada devastated by the effects of global warming and war disputes over resources, in which scientists and religious leaders have come together to persecute the descendants of First Nations. The reason? Only indigenous peoples retain in their marrow the capacity to dream, and so the white man will chase them again to extract it: they want to expropriate their dreams. But while Cherie Dimaline’s heart-rending and not-so-subtle allegory of Canada’s systematic demonization, exploitation, and destruction of its original inhabitants, The Marrow Thieves is also about dreams, about the vital necessity to dream. In the author’s own words, “dreams represent our hope, and hope is the backbone of our survival and the core of our strength.”
Author’s note: you can find my conversation with Lee Maracle about Western and indigenous epistemologies in higher education as part of the Hay Festival Reforms here. I also recommend Cherie Dimaline’s interview Surviving Canada at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, our conversation with other writers (Aymara and Basque) about minority languages, at the Hay Festival in Arequipa with support from Blue Metropolis.