Indigenous Feminisms

Post and Display curated by Subhanya Sivajothy

For the month of December, the Indigenous ground floor display will feature books on Indigenous Feminisms. Indigenous feminism is both the theory and practice of feminism that is grounded in decolonization and Indigenous sovereignty. “It’s an affirmation that Indigenous women have always had inherent sovereignty over our bodies over our spirits and land bases,” describes Tasha Spillet, an Indigenous Land-based Educator. This display celebrates the work of Indigenous women starting with the work of Elders, and trailblazers who had the difficult task of forging the pathways for future generations and also the works of different contemporary voices that seek to highlight the strength and resilience of Indigenous women in current contexts.

Lee Maracle is one of the most respected Indigenous writers in Canada, and began writing works on issues related to Indigenous women when it was extremely rare and difficult for Indigenous writers to be published; she was in fact one of the first to be published in the early 1970s. She has inspired an immense wave of contemporary Indigenous writers such as Katherena Vermette, Cherie Dimaline, and Tracey Lindberg, who continue to write about the experiences of Indigenous women on Turtle Island. Her book I Am Woman, published in 1988 is a seminal work that takes a critical look at feminism, and racism in the context of Canada’s colonial legacy that continues to be extremely relevant today.

Making Space for Indigenous Feminism ed. By Joyce Green is a powerful book filled with pieces written by Indigenous feminists and allies working to demonstrate that Indigenous feminism is a necessary, emancipatory tool for activism. It covers topics such as violence against women, Indigenous sovereignty, decolonization as well as Indigenous resurgence. This collection includes chapters filled with both theoretical essays as well as personal stories related to activism and developing a political consciousness.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, member of Alderville First Nation, is widely considered one of the most important feminist voices of her generation. She is a musician, writer and academic and has written several books and anthologies. The book “This Accident of Being Lost” is a visionary collection of stories and songs that resist easy categorization and dominant narratives. She rebuilds a decolonial reality filled with care and interventions that blends lyric with story-telling, realism with science fiction.

All of these materials can be found on the Ground Floor of the OISE Library, in the glass display case across from the reference desk. Do not hesitate to open up the cabinet to check out a book, or ask the Reference and Circulation Desk for assistance.

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New Titles: Good reads for hunkering down

Wishtree   by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Charles Santoso is a compelling story about a tree named Red. All the trees and animals in this book are able to talk; they just hide this fact from humans. But what makes Red unique is that Red is a Wishtree. People of all ages come to write down a wish and plant it in Red. The lessons of this book include the love of nature, no harm to the environment and acceptance and friendship. The Wishtree brings people from different communities together and welcomes diversity. Geared towards early middle grade students, this book is a good resource to focus classroom learning on the environment and community acceptance:


Fall in Line, Holden!   is illustrated and written by Daniel W. Vandever. It is a story about a young Navajo boy named Holden who has to conform to the rules of his boarding school. With a minimalist approach used in the illustrations, early readers can easily imagine themselves as a part of this book. Using his vivid imagination, Holden fantasizes about escaping his school to be in a more exciting one. In Holden’s mind he is able to go from his school of conformity into a place of individuality. This book is an excellent resource for students in grades 3-4. With rhythmic short sentences on each page, this book encourages students to use their imaginations.


After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again  by Dan Santat takes the tale of Humpty Dumpty to the next stage of his life after he falls off the wall. Reappropriating the classic nursery rhyme story Humpty Dumpty and using  beautiful illustrations, Dan Santat delves into the topic of fear and how to overcome it. This book is a great resource for Preschool to Grade 2 students to help them learn an important lesson: not to give up on things you love because of one bad experience and to instead focus  on going one step at a time to face your fears day by day.


Degrees of Failure: University Education in Decline  by Randle W. Nelsen is a book that discusses the current issue of how fewer people are trying to achieve University degrees in Canada. Nelsen discusses this topic through the politics of university practices, campus parking, parental roles in their child’s life and classroom practices. This book can assist high school teachers to prepare their students in choosing university or college. It is also a great guide for teachers on how to encourage higher rates of post-secondary enrollment for their students.



Stepping Up! Teachers Advocating for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Schools     by Mollie V. Blackburn, Caroline T. Clark, and Ryan Schey is a book about how teachers can prepare their schools to be more accepting of all genders. Filled with insights on new methods for teachers, this resource will help assist them in becoming an advocate for their LGBTQ+ students in the classroom. Stepping Up! consists of eight chapters, including a chapter on inclusive sexual and gender diversity within the curriculum. Each chapter contains an informative teacher take away.


All these books can be found in the “New Titles” shelf on the Ground Floor of the  OISE Library.

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Featured Activity Kit- Story Telling on the River

Introduce your class to one of Canada’s most prominent Indigenous historical artifacts, the canoe! Sharing a Story: The Canoe , is a unique puzzle to share with your class. Produced under Indigenous Affairs Canada, this puzzle is unlike traditional puzzles as its pieces do not have a specific order or placement that come together to make a scene. Instead, it is a free range puzzle that allows your class to put together their very own river full of canoes!

Since this puzzle goes against typical puzzle norms, there are many different ways this puzzle could benefit your Indigenous lessons. Introduce free play, problem solving, and creativity, into your classroom by using this activity kit as a way to encourage your class to think outside the box, providing them with the opportunity to create without direction. Another option could be to ask your students to create a scene and describe what it is they created, inspiring their own story-telling. Or encourage group work in your class by having each student contribute a piece to the puzzle, creating a scene by the whole class! Additionally, Sharing a Story: The Canoe could be incorporated into classroom story

time to assist students that may have troubles sitting still throughout story time, providing a way to occupy themselves without distracting classroom activities.

This puzzle could be introduced to grade 1-6 classrooms, depending on how you choose to frame the activity. The set contains 22 pieces and one leaflet providing historical context surrounding Indigenous uses of the canoe.


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OISE Library Holiday Reads

holiday readsWelcome to our first ever OISE Library Holiday Reads post! If you want some inspiration over the break (or are just plain curious), below is a collection of books that OISE librarians, staff, and graduate student library assistants have added to their holiday reading lists. As you may expect, the list is long and covers a great variety of books both non-fiction and fiction, from lengthy Russian classics, to local histories on city planning.

If you are part of the OISE Community (including students, faculty, staff) and would like to contribute to this list, please send an email to Subhanya Sivajothy (whose first book on her ambitious reading list is Little Fish by Casey Plett).

“I’ve always got a stack of books just waiting to be read on my bedside table, and another stack on the coffee table,” writes Monique Flaccavento, Director of the OISE Library, “so deciding which of these books I’ll read this holiday season isn’t easy…”

Knock on Wood. Luck, chance, and the meaning of everything - coverShe’ll most likely start with Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of Everything. “It was written by Jeff Rosenthal – a friend, and a statistics professor here at U of T. I like to tell myself that there’s no such thing as good or bad luck, but I do have a lucky number (it’s 7), and feel very nervous if I forget to knock on wood (why tempt fate?) or cross my fingers (it couldn’t hurt – right?). I’m really looking forward to reading Jeff’s take on whether there is in fact a connection between probability and luck.”

Monique is also really looking forward to reading Esi Edugyan’s Giller prize-winning novel Washington Black. “I actually bought this one as a holiday gift for my husband Brian, so I’ll be reading it as soon as he’s done! Hopefully he’s not reading this blog post right now…”

Algorithms of Oppression - coverHer third pick is a book that was highly recommended by a colleague – Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. “As someone who facilitates workshops about literature searching, I spend a lot of time thinking about how search results are ranked by the databases and other search engines we use. It’s a big concern, I think, that search algorithms are not transparent, so I’m very interested to read Safiya Umoja Noble’s thoughts about bias in the tools we use, and how these reinforce racism.”

If she has time, Monique is planning to read Mark Osbaldeston’s Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City that Might Have Been. “As the title suggests, this book explores building projects in Toronto that never came to be – public buildings, waterfront parks, highways, etc. In particular, I’m looking forward to reading about the partially completed Queen Street subway line.”

“I think I’m in good company when I say my reading plans are usually overly ambitious,” says Pat Serafini, Reference Librarian, “but I am taking some extra time this year, so I hope I will read more than half of my list.” Her list includes:

Dan Brown’s Origin
“I have enjoyed all his novels and while I don’t always agree with his world views, I am captivated by his writing and rich descriptions of the places to which the quests of his protagonist take him.”

Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic
“This was one of the books voted on by the members of my book club and the description in goodreads makes me want to read it calmly and carefully.”

Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & MomMom and Me - cover
“I am a huge Maya Angelou fan and her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings changed my life.  Angelou’s ability to connect with the world profoundly still affects me.  This book was highly recommended to me and I am sure I will be once more mesmerized by her profound truth-telling.”

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels
“I discovered this author later rather than sooner. Her novels resonate with me in a way that engages my head, heart, and soul.  Aside from the parallels with my personal life, I discovered in her writing storytelling that is neither glib nor cynical.  I have actually read the novels in English, and now I want to read them in the original Italian and savor the language of my parents and ancestors; language that can be excellently translated but never wholly rendered in another language.”

Navroop Gill, Instruction & Liaison Librarian, is looking forward to reading four books by famous Swedish authors that have been translated into English. The publisher, Novellix, makes pocket sized books of short stories, and her collection of stories includes: Most Pride and Prejudice - coverBeloved Sister & Mirabelle by Astrid Lindgren; Frictions by August Strindberg; Sleet by Stig Dagerman and The Silver Mine by Selma Logerlӧf.

“And for holiday tradition, every year I watch the BBC adaption of Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. It’s about six hours long and since I’ve seen it so many times, I know when to fast forward to get to my favourite parts,” adds Navroop. “I recently purchased an illustrated version of the book as well and I look forward to reading (probably more like looking at the pictures) this holiday break.”

Jayson Meghie, Access Services Generalist, plans on tackling The Hunger Games series over the break as he prefers to read something he can go through quickly and also likes dystopian fiction.

“If you’re anything like me, over the hoTake us to your chief - coverlidays, I just want to read short stories that will entertain. “says Desmond Wong, Outreach Librarian.

If that’s what you’re looking for as well, he recommends reading Drew Hayden Taylor’s Take Us to Your Chief. “It’s a collection of nine short stories all around Science Fiction with Indigenous people as the main characters. From a Haudenosaunee social song that is beamed into space, government conspiracies to time travel, this book is sure to have something for everyone!”

Nailisa Tanner, Collections & Outreach Librarian, will be reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. “It’s a reworking of the Faust story, and is surprisingly funny given the usual characterization of Russian literature as bleak and depressing. Following the same theme, if I had to pick one holiday movie to watch every year, it would be the 1975 Russian film The Irony of Fate. It plays out like a screwball comedy but against the backdrop of Soviet life and Soviet architecture.”

The mystery of the yellow room - coverChelsea Humphries, a graduate student library assistant at the OISE Library, plans to read The Perfume of the Lady in Blackthe second book in a little-known French detective series written by Gaston Leroux (author of The Phantom of the Opera) in 1908. “The first book in the series, The Mystery of the Yellow Roomwas a fantastically melodramatic and unpredictable novel — famous for having impressed and inspired a young Agatha Christie. In this sequel, the young journalist Rouletabille returns, but this time, it’s mysteries of his own past that are being investigated. I’m looking forward to another winding and deceptive plot-line with a challenging mystery to solve!”

At the Edge - coverA book that caught Access / Information Services Specialist, Lyly Chung’s eye while she was processing a retrieval request is Larry Verstraete’s Daring Acts in Desperate Times. “We are surrounded with so much information and disheartening news, sometimes we just need to be reminded of the courage and compassion that exist in individuals” Lyly writes. “The book may be catered towards a younger audience but the stories themselves should still be read no matter the age. Learn a little about history and about everyday individuals – their strengths, their kindness, and their sacrifices. Definitely a quick feel-good read for the holidays either for yourself or others.”

Jenaya Webb, Public Services & Research Librarian, has a few books that may be interesting to those who love libraries.

The Library Book - cover“My fun choice for the holidays is bestselling non-fiction writer Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. I couldn’t resist the cover and the title.” In a recent interview on CBC Radio, the book was described as a love letter to libraries that is part history, part biography, and part true crime.

Like Monique, Jenaya also plans on reading Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression. “In contrast to Orlean’s library nostalgia, I’m certain this book will give me a lot to think about in terms of my own work, how we search for information, how information is organized, and the role libraries play in fixing or perpetuating these problems.” Algorithms of Oppression was recently reviewed by Emily Drabinski in the Los Angeles Review of Books.


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Unstudy Spot

From Dec 5th-14th, stop by the ground floor of the OISE Library to ‘unstudy’. Enjoy some colouring, puzzles, origami, or try your hand on our vintage typewrite. Make sure to take a break for yourself during this busy time!


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