Drew Hayden Taylor and "First Nations Literature": New Directions?

I recently attended a release event for Drew Hayden Taylor’s new book, his first full-length YA novel, The Night Wanderer. It was a fairly small and intimate event, held at Vancouver Kidsbooks.

The book is described as “A Native Gothic Novel.” Drew Hayden Taylor spoke a bit about the genre of First Nations literature and his own writing. He talked about how there might be a tendency to pigeon-hole First Nations literature as dealing with only ‘traditional’ motifs. He wrote The Night Wanderer as a native gothic novel as an exploration and melding of the two lables. He said that he has an idea for an anthology of First Nations science fiction; this comment was very well received by the crowd. I will definitely keep my eyes open for it in the future.

My study and knowledge of First Nations literature is very elementary and my lack of knowledge and experience sometimes makes me timid regarding discussion of the topic. I suspect, however, that my feelings are not unique, and I wonder if my hesitation contributes to some aspect of the literature’s marginalisation.

I do think that it might have been necessary for F N lit to go through the process of focussing on many of the traditional motifs, because it was necessary to preserve as much of as many nations’ cultural histories as possible while there were still people who remembered. These traditional motifs will continue to provide inspiration for stories, but we are entering a time of growth into other genres.

Over time, I think that it is crucial for the “First Nations” part of the category “First Nations literature” to be less of a stand alone. I would like to see and hear people describe a book as a great science fiction or gothic read first, and, as by a first nations author second. I see it as a similar issue to the difference between “Women’s History Month” or “Black History Month” as opposed to an inclusive approach all the time.

It is very possible that native gothic of native science fiction will develop motifs that are distinct from other sources in those genres. It would make sense as the authors would still draw from their individual and cultural histories. Perhaps some day there will be distinct differences between Haida gothic and Ojibwa gothic and these differences will be taught in an academic setting.

As I said above, I am in no way an expert on First Nations literature. I am not of First Nations decent myself. I hope that no one takes offence at my musings. I had never really thought about this topic until I heard Drew address it but I find it very interesting. There are many ideas that spring from this topic and I have barely touched upon some of them here. I will continue to think about it – especially when I find myself administering my own library space … some day.

Here’s Drew Hayden Taylor’s website, if you’re interested:

http://www.drewhaydentaylor.com/

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