Karlene Harvey’s rendition of Jessica Deer is one of the many quality pieces of artwork throughout the #NotYourPrincess anthology. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)
#NotYourPrincess (Annick Press) asks a simple question: what is it like to be an Onkwehón:we woman or girl today?
It’s the kind of book The Eastern Door should perhaps have printed before the holidays (or school year), as the collection of stories, poems, editorials, comic strips, and art is something ideal to curl up with and read on a quiet day. It is also a perfect tool for teachers wanting to debate or discuss issues facing Indigenous women today.
Then again, why does anyone need an excuse to pick up a book for someone else? There is never a bad time to do that.
The collection is put together by Tsilhqot’in Lisa Charleyboy and Chirp magazine founding editor Mary Beth Leatherdale, and includes contributions from some of the top female Onkwehón:we artists and writers such as Leanne Simpson, Rosanna Deerchild, and Melanie Fey.
A highlight for this reviewer was the inclusion of Eastern Door reporter/editorialist Jessica Deer, who’s “We Are Not a Costume” espouses Deer’s tireless work to draw attention to Native stereotypes still lining the shelves of Halloween boutiques everywhere.
“While someone may think they look supercute as an “Indian Princess” or as “reservation Royalty” for a fun and harmless evening,” Deer writes, “they have the privilege of removing that costume at the end of the night. Indigenous women and girls do not.”
Deer spoke about her editorial, and the process of putting her thoughts to paper.
“The piece I wrote is something I originally wrote as an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail in 2016,” she said.
“I often get a lot of anxiety when I write something like that about issues of appropriation and Indigenous representations because online trolls can be brutal. I’m really glad that the editors approached me to have it as part of this wonderful anthology full of inspiring Onkwehón:we women voices.”
The voices and images in the anthology are varied and give a wide swath of opinion and comment.
Poet and hip-hop artist Zoey Roy is another contributor who’s “Freedom in the Fog” is an excellent short memoir that shines a light on the struggles of the urban landscape, something many in the country can relate to.
Her short biography is a great story of redemption, and is told in a straightforward and engaging way.
The publication is great on multiple fronts. It could easily be used by any teacher wanting to encourage awareness of Indigenous issues for females, but also writing, photography, drawing, cartooning or other art forms.
The collection of work is an answer to the question: how do you represent yourself using whichever art form you’re most comfortable with?
It is an important and constructive collection.
The book also includes small quotes from inspiring female figures such as WNBA star Shoni Schimmel and other sports stars.
The book is easy to digest, interesting to read, challenging to engage with and nice to look at.
Pick it up.