The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Indigenous Authors Book Club opens dialogue

The Indigenous Authors Book Club started in January 2023 with discussing the contents of the book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Spaghetti westerns. Thanksgiving storybooks. School mascots. Hand turkeys. Much of American culture and knowledge associated with Indigenous people is rooted in stereotypes. The Indigenous Authors Book Club, however, digs deeper.

The Indigenous Authors Book Club (IABC), managed by Brookline’s Indigenous People’s Celebration Committee (IPCC), invites individuals of all backgrounds to engage in online discussions exploring the nuances of Native culture and history in modern America through books and guest speakers.

The IABC covers a broad range of books by Indigenous authors. They started in January 2023, with its first title “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The nonfiction book delves into the profound link between individuals and their natural surroundings. Written in 2013, it is one of many books discussing modern Indigenous practices.

The book club also aims to emphasize and highlight Indigenous authors. Whether it be through events at the Brookline Booksmith or inviting a guest speaker, the meetings are always centered around a current Indigenous writer. Kailey Bennett, committee member of the book club and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, said that they want more conversations centering on contemporary Native issues.

“I definitely have an interest in advocating for more conversations about what it is to be a 21st century contemporary Native person,” Bennett said.

According to Bennett, Native literature is a new literary world with contemporary writers that often gets overlooked in other book club discussions.

“I think that there’s sort of a renaissance happening with Native literature right now. There are just so many good books that are coming out that didn’t exist when I was in high school,” Bennett said.

The book club also seeks to provide a backdrop for everyday issues in the Indigenous community, such as restoring Brookline’s Friedman Park as an Indigenous memorial site. The club also serves to challenge preconceived biases about Indigenous culture previously learned by family or in the American education system.

“Especially in New England, there’s this sort of idea of what a Native person is and a lot of that stems from the fact that most people in this area don’t really interact with many Native people in their day to day life, or they don’t realize that they do,” Bennett said.

For many, the club is a reconnection to the severed tie to their Indigenous ancestry. Chairperson of the IPCC, leader of the book club and member of the Cherokee Nation, Felina Silver, recounted her own experience with her Indigenous identity.

“[My mother] was so ashamed of being who she was that she wouldn’t talk to us about being Indigenous and what it was like for her and her family. So she told us that we were Indigenous, but that was really it. She didn’t do anything to educate us as to what it meant or even what she experienced,” Silver said.

Other members of the club, such as Paul McLean, also voiced their poor education on Indigenous cultures before joining the club.

“My awareness, my knowledge of Indigenous people came through John Wayne movies and old Hollywood westerns, which is not to say I got the real story at all,” McLean said.

Non-Indigenous people are encouraged to join IABC meetings. Discussions such as these may be conceived as unapproachable or interlaced with guilt, but it is crucial, according to Silver, to explore Native issues further or they will never be discussed.

“Nobody wants to take anything away from anybody or punish anybody,” Silver said. “They just want them to open their eyes and understand the atrocities that have happened, and see what you can do to help educate people, so that children don’t think negatively about an Indigenous person or think they’re a bad person, [just] because they may not be the same as they are.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All comments are reviewed by Cypress staff before being published. To read our complete policy, see our policies underneath the About tab.
All The Cypress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *