Local Indigenous book club sees record engagement with adoption of virtual platforms


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Author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (right) in conversation [Photo credit: Harley Pan].

Two months into the six-month series of events, Our Stories: Indigenous Book Club is garnering record engagement thanks to new accessibility through social media.

The Virtual Book Club, a partnership between the National Arts Center (NAC) Indigenous Theater Program and the Ottawa Public Library (OPL), began in January.

Lysanne Fox, OPL’s supervising librarian and program development aid, said the program has been a success since its launch, with around 100 to 150 people tuning in to discussions with the authors via Facebook Live.

More recently, Fox said the number of people attending the book club broke attendance records due to its online accessibility. Compared to previous in-person programs, the virtual book club format has reached a much larger audience.

After the book club’s Facebook Live events are over, recordings of those who cannot attend in real time are posted to Facebook where they continue to collect views. The book club conversation with author Yolanda Bonnell was viewed 3,700 times on Facebook and the French Book Club selection with author Joséphine Bacon was viewed 2,400 times.

“It’s one of the silver liners of the pandemic because it has improved accessibility. We would never have had the ability at any of our sites to engage so many people in our programs, ”said Fox.

Monthly discussions are hosted on the Facebook pages of both NAC and OPL, and are the highlight event for book club attendees each month. The library Youtube channel Also has a playlist of live event recordings, other Indigenous content, and author talks.

YouTube helped improve the accessibility of these events by allowing viewers to turn on closed captioning.

“This makes the program more inclusive for a wider audience, and thanks to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, if someone applies early enough for live captioning, we are obligated to do so, ”Fox said.

The books selected for discussion are also generating interest. The May title of the Virtual Book Club is Noopiming: the remedy for white women, a novel by Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg researcher, musician and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson wrote the book club’s May headline, “Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies” [Photo credit: Aaron Mason].

Simpson said there were key messages she hopes readers will take away from her novel.

“I want readers to see the worlds of Nishnaabeg and immerse themselves in a different way of seeing, listening and being. I want readers to experience Noopiming and think about the way they read and the way they live in the world, ”said Simpson.

After Mairi Brascoupé, an Indigenous Cultural Resident of the NAC’s Indigenous Drama Program, Simpson’s novel was chosen because it perfectly matched the diversity of Indigenous literature the program has so far highlighted.

“For the whole series, we were trying to get a wide variety of content. It’s our only fictional novel, ”Brascoupé said. “I love Leanne’s perspective on the world and on indigeneity in artistic practice. This novel sums up his idea of indigeneity in the cities and she writes without leaning on the colonial gaze. That’s why we selected it.

Previously selected literature includes Yolanda Bonnell’s Indigenous play, bug, the academic text, Performing Turtle Island: Indigenous Theater on the World Stage, and Joséphine Bacon’s book of French poetry, Uiesh – Some part.

Simpson said she thinks programs like the Native Book Club are important.

“Programs that showcase Indigenous literature and creative work help non-Indigenous readers connect with Indigenous literature and often serve to introduce Indigenous creative work to new audiences,” said Simpson. “They help Indigenous literature and creative work travel the world.”

The NAC’s Indigenous Drama Program and OPL said they hoped to continue the partnership with the children’s and young adult versions of the Book Club, after the Indigenous Book Club was completed in June.

Those looking to join the Indigenous Book Club for its final month can find June’s title here: https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S26C1222075


Image presented by Harley Pan.

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