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Announcing our Indigenous History Month eRead

Photo of Karen McBride and book cover for Crow Winter

May 29, 2020

As part of Indigenous History Month, the Ottawa Public Library will feature a remarkable book by an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation. Much like the BIG LIBRARY READS offered through OverDrive, this eRead is available to everyone for the month of June with no wait list - click here to get started

The chosen title is an account of grief, healing, and community written by Karen McBride. In Crow Winter, a young woman who can walk between the spirit and material world must come to terms with the death of her father as she discovers the old magic reawakening in a local quarry with the help of Nanabush, a trickster in need of some redemption of his own. Set on a First Nation reservation, this story reminds its readers that Indigenous communities confront forms of trauma and renewal beyond the legacies of colonialism and offers a glimpse into a world beset with stereotypes and misunderstandings. Crow Winter is available to borrow in eBook format.

After you’ve finished Crow Winter, you can join OPL for a virtual visit with author Karen McBride on Wednesday June 24, or try some of our read alikes to discover other Indigenous authors from across Canada. If you’re looking for a deeper dive into Crow Winter, our librarians have put together a list of discussion questions to unpack the themes and tricky questions raised by this insightful book. Look below for the list. 

Click here to see the full list of Indigenous History Month 2020 events.    

Discussion Questions 

Crow Winter confronts issues of personal grief and healing in the context of a community deeply affected by colonialism. These questions examine many of the themes of the novel including the effects of grief, the journeys taken towards healing and redemption, the effects of secrets, and the role of novels in combatting stereotypes and misconceptions. 

  1. Crow Winter is a fitting title for this story. What other titles would you suggest?  

  1. Did any quotes or passages stand out for you? Which will you remember?  

  1. What did you learn about Indigenous culture, history, or about life as an Indigenous person and life in a First Nation community while reading this book?   

  1. Did Crow Winter remind you of other books, maybe ones with a stories including similar themes or having the same writing style?  

  1. Do you think the cover illustration represents the book effectively? If you had been the designer, how would the cover be different?  

  1. Do you think it is important to read novels about Indigenous characters written by Indigenous authors? How do such stories challenge dominant narratives in Canada?  

  1. Before her father died, Hazel used to go to the local bookstore each month to buy new books. Now that she’s returned home from university, she struggles to resume the practice: “We’ve never talked about starting it up again. Doesn’t seem right. We aren’t the same people we were before.” How do you think grief has reshaped Hazel and her mother?  

  1. Why is it important for the Grandfathers to spiritually heal Hazel specifically, when her whole community is struggling with the legacies of colonialism and ongoing systemic violence?  

  1. The choice that several characters make to alternate between languages (English, Anishnaabemowin, French) is something that stands out in the dialogues of this book. What role does language play in feelings of belonging and exclusion in Crow Winter?  

  1. Why do you think Hazel’s father kept such an important secret from her?  

  1. In what way does Thomas Gagnon’s initial offer of ‘building bridges’ as a form of reconciliation (p.237) fall short of its goal?  

  1. What did you think of the book’s ending? How do you feel towards the character of Thomas Gagnon at the end?