TeachingBooks.net is delighted to welcome storyteller and social entrepreneur Lisa Charleyboy as our featured guest blogger.
Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
Collaborating to Create Dreaming in Indian:
Contemporary Native American Voices
By Lisa Charleyboy
For seven years, I’ve been sharing the stories of the many incredibly talented Native artists, writers, fashion designers, and entrepreneurs across North America on my blog “Urban Native Girl” and the online magazine I co-founded, Urban Native Magazine. So when Mary Beth Leatherdale came to me with the idea to create an anthology for youth featuring contemporary Native writers, artists, and teens talking about their experiences growing up Indigenous, I was thrilled. It was a chance to give a fresh perspective on what it means to be Native in North America and to share the stories that are so often overlooked by the mainstream media and Hollywood.
Mary Beth showed me a copy of Rookie Yearbook One (Razorbill, 2012), the book that inspired her idea. I loved how that volume mixed discussions of sensitive issues and pop culture in a dynamic, visual package. It was exactly the kind of book that I would have treasured as a teen.
Mary Beth and I started the process for Dreaming in Indian (Annick Press, 2014) by brainstorming themes. We knew we wanted to explore the serious issues that affect Native youths’ lives like racism, the intergenerational impact of residential schools, poverty, suicide, and addiction. But we also wanted to celebrate all the wonderful things about Native culture—the gifts garnered from traditional culture, the strong bonds of family and community, and the universal joys and trials of being a teenager.
We came up with four themes for the book: “Roots,” “Battles,” “Medicines,” and “Dreamcatchers” to support the range of topics we wanted to explore. We brainstormed artists who we thought might work well within each theme and asked if they would contribute. Our goal was to showcase the distinct voices and diverse experiences of Natives across Turtle Island, dispelling the idea that there is one monolithic Native culture. We were very careful to make sure we represented—as much as possible—the voices of the Tribes and Nations from the Southwest and the Northwest coast, Inuit from the North, Métis and other First Nations across North America.
We called out to youth on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and through Urban Native Magazine asking them to submit their poetry, artwork, photographs, and other writing. We received so much terrific material about IdleNoMore, revealing the enormous impact this movement had on Indigenous youth, their voice, and their Indigenous pride.
Everyone we reached out to was incredibly supportive of the project. Like us, they thought a book like this was needed. We’re truly honored by how they shared their talents and their inspiring stories. The anthology showcases the voices of scientists, athletes, hip-hop dancers, graphic novelists, photographers, chefs, musicians, makeup artists, and artists.
So much of the power of Dreaming in Indian comes from the work of our incredible designer Inti Ameratsu. Mary Beth and I wanted to make sure that visual content and text were given equal weight in the book and that all the stories—whether they were by high school students, emerging artists, or internationally renowned artists such as Louie Gong and Joseph Boyden—would be treated with the same respect. Working with a shoestring budget, Inti managed to powerfully present each contributor’s story.
Putting Dreaming in Indian together was a fun, creative process. Mary Beth and I are thrilled with what a dynamic collection it is. Throughout my life I’ve confronted stereotypical and racist portrayals of Indigenous people. I’m so excited that the Native youth who read this book will be inspired to go out and strive and thrive, and that non-Native youth might be able to gain a greater understanding of the Native experience in North America. I’m truly thankful for this opportunity.
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