The Rusty Toque | Issue 13 | Nonfiction | November 30, 2017
Meeting the Public by Lee Maracle
You are always sitting just out of reach of my kitchen table, but still you occupy a large space in my mind, and so I thought I would like to have a conversation with you. You are not invited into the text to respond, and for that I apologize. Instead I take it upon myself to scribble a number of chapters in response to a number of common questions. I hope to create a conversational book. Perhaps we will meet at some justice event in the future. But now, in my imagination, I locate you in my kitchen. I am living in a co-op, the first Indigenous co-op in Western Canada. The women own the units and we were influential in the design of the kitchen, living, dining rooms. This is a long kitchen/dining space bordered by windows at one end and stove, fridge, sink, and cupboards at the other. I have papered the wall halfway up in the seating area with wallpaper that is very much like the cloth I use in my quilt making. We are seated around my oak table with its ten chairs. It is an antique. It took twelve years for me to be able to afford this table. The children are in the living room, down the hall from the kitchen. This is so they can play undisturbed but be heard from the kitchen while the women gather around the kitchen table to plan the transformation of the world, so to speak. I drop a cup of coffee on the table and begin these conversations that I would like to have with you.
"Meeting the Public" is an excerpt from Lee Maracle's book My Conversations with Canadians (Book*hug, 2017)
On her first book tour at the age of 26, Lee Maracle was asked a question from the audience, one she couldn’t possibly answer at that moment. But she has been thinking about it ever since. As time has passed, she has been asked countless similar questions, all of them too big to answer, but not too large to contemplate. These questions, which touch upon subjects such as citizenship, segregation, labour, law, prejudice and reconciliation (to name a few), are the heart of My Conversations with Canadians.
In prose essays that are both conversational and direct, Maracle seeks not to provide any answers to these questions she has lived with for so long. Rather, she thinks through each one using a multitude of experiences she’s had as a First Nations leader, a woman, a mother, and grandmother over the course of her life. Lee Maracle’s My Conversations with Canadians presents a tour de force exploration into the writer’s own history and a reimagining of the future of our nation.
North Vancouver–born LEE MARACLE is the author of numerous critically acclaimed literary works, including Sundogs, Ravensong, Sojourner’s Truth and Other Stories,Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel, Daughters Are Forever, Will’s Garden, Bent Box, Memory Serves, I Am Woman, and Talking to the Diaspora. Her most recent book is My Conversations with Canadians. She is the co-editor of a number of anthologies, including the award-winning My Home As I Remember. A member of the Sto: Loh nation, Maracle is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the JT Stewart Award, and the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for 2014. Maracle is currently an instructor in the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Toronto, where she teaches Oral Tradition. She is also the Traditional Teacher for First Nation’s House and an instructor with the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. Maracle has served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Western Washington, and received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from St. Thomas University in 2009.
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