Today I made my first author visit to a school in my community, and it was absolutely amazing. For those of you who don’t know, I live in Six Nations of the Grand River, a First Nation community on Turtle Island (what is also referred to as North America). My community is one of the largest First Nation communities in Canada, and like all First Nation communities—it has a systemically underfunded education system and is recovering from the assimilation policies of the federal government. There’s all kinds of nuance and complexity in just this paragraph alone, but suffice it to say that I grew up in Six Nations and have since built my family home here, and my love for my community and the schools in my community runs deep. (I also work at an Indigenous post-secondary education institute located at Six Nations).
The school I visited today is one that places high value on the transmission of language and culture, having programs in both Cayuga language immersion and English. I was grateful to be invited to the school, and more than a little overwhelmed by the response of the students to the book they had read as a class, The School That Ate Children. The students were welcoming, energetic, curious, and engaged. Some of them were kind enough to share their stories with me, which were so creative and really made apparent the vibrant, natural capacity for storytelling that kids have.
Since I’ve started sharing my books, I’ve received some of the most amazing messages from readers in my community, and I’m never quite sure how to talk about them. It means more than I can say that younger readers get excited about my books and the characters in my books, and that it makes them want to write their own stories. And one of my favourite stories ever is of a teacher reading my story The Fortune Teller’s Daughter and reviewing it on her radio show and giving it ten scones (a comparison I think may only be fully appreciated if one is from my or another Haudenosaunee community, but for the purposes of this post is a kind of fried biscuit that is super popular and delicious). And three weeks ago, I received a lovely gift of story pictures, student cover renderings, and summaries from a teacher who was the first to read one of my books to her class last year (and has since read it again with her class this year)—which was amazing and so, so kind. I'm not great at promoting my work—I tend to keep a ridiculously low profile, but this—this I want to share and talk about. This beautiful work that these students did, letters, and pictures, and stories of their own. It is too awesome to not share.
For so many reasons—these messages of support and enjoyment mean the world to me. I will never stop being grateful that my books are finding readers who enjoy them, and I am especially happy that some of those readers are from my home community. This, more than anything, makes me want to keep writing, to write with even greater care, and fun, and imagination, and love.
On that note, gwahs oweh nya:weh to all of you who have read my books and shared your enjoyment of them with me. It brings me more joy and happiness that I can possibly convey. Until next time, happy creating!
P.S. One of my favourite moments was this little exchange:
A student saying. "I think I'm going to cry."
Student sitting across from them: "Again?"
Me: "Did you cry?"
First Student nodding: "I teared up at the end. It was so beautiful!"
The happy book cry. One of the best of all possible cries :).