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Drew Hayden Taylor & Alicia Elliott among finalists for $3K PMC Indigenous Literature Award

Alicia Elliott and Drew Hayden Taylor are among the finalists for the 2020 Periodical Makers of Canada (PMC) Indigenous Literature Awards, which are part of the First Nation Communities READ 2020-2021 program. There are two awards: one for children’s books and one for young adult/adult books.

The awards are worth $3,000 each and are chosen by a jury of Indigenous librarians from across Ontario.

They represent the best of Indigenous literature, as well as encourage family literacy, intergenerational storytelling and information sharing.

Elliott and Taylor are both finalists in the young adult/adult category.

Elliott is nominated for her essay collection A Mind Spread Out on the Ground.

In  A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Elliott explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of her own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Elliott examines how colonial violence, including the loss of language, seeps into the present day lives of Indigenous people, often in the form of mental illness. 

Taylor is nominated for the novel Chasing Painted Horses.

Chasing Painted Horses follows four young friends from a reserve called Otter Lake, located north of Toronto. One day, Ralph and Shelley’s mother installs a large chalkboard at home and challenges the four friends to a weekly art contest. The quietest of them, Danielle, draws a stunning horse and wins, an inconspicuous event that will reverberate throughout their lives.

Rounding out the finalists in this category are the memoir In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott, the novel Crow Winter by Karen McBride and the graphic novel If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie and Nahanni Shingoose.

In My Own Moccasins is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma. It explores how colonization has affected her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.

Crow Winter is about a young woman named Hazel Ellis who returns home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation. While there, an old crow has been visiting her dreams to tell her he’s come to save her. As Hazel investigates what this could mean, she discovers an old magic awakening in the quarry on her late father’s land.

When Jonnie was 14 years old, she wrote a letter to the Winnipeg chief of police, asking him what he would do if she, a young Ojibwe woman, went missing. If I Go Missing is a graphic novel adaptation of this letter, featuring artwork by Nshannacappo, a poet and artist from Ditibineya-ziibiing (Rolling River First Nation).

The finalists in the children’s category were also announced.

They are the picture books I’m Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, When We Had Sled Dogs by Ida Tremblay, E Meshkwadooniged Mitig/The Trading Tree by Nancy Cooper, Sus Yoo The Bear’s Medicine by Clayton Gauthier and • Neekah’s Knitting Needles by Odelia Smith and Sylvia Olsen.

First Nations Communities Read is an annual reading program launched in 2003 by the First Nations public library community in Ontario. 

The titles selected for the program are written and/or illustrated by a First Nation, Metis or Inuit creator and contain Indigenous content.

The winners will be announced as part of the virtual edition of Toronto’s Word on the Street festival on Sept. 27, 2020.

Last year’s winners were Monique Gray Smith for the novel  Tilly and the Crazy Eights and Cindy Blackstock for the picture book Spirit Bear: Fishing for Knowledge, Catching Dreams.

Other past winners include Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson and Bearskin Diary by Carol Rose GoldenEagle.

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