The Truth and Reconciliation Report calls for Indigenous children to have access to culturally appropriate education. Within libraries, we have a responsibility to respond to this call and provide materials and programming with appropriate representation of Indigenous children, including those with Queer identities. The intersection of Indigenous and Queer identities is underrepresented in literature, especially among materials for children and young adults (YA). This project addresses the need for representation through two book lists, one of YA literatures and one of children’s literatures, highlighting positive Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer representations. The works highlighted do not represent a comprehensive list of the available resources, but provide a starting point for a resource share with the public. Institutions may customize this list to include local contexts, authors, and Traditional Knowledges.
Who is this resource for?
These pamphlets are intended as a resource for patrons of public libraries to help increase the visibility of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer publications for children and young adults. These are not comprehensive lists of all available representations, but a selection of books that we believe provide positive representation. We have not included middle-grade materials as there are limited materials available. We hope that the popularization of these materials will serve to provide culturally appropriate materials for Indigenous children in line with the CFLA-FCAB Truth & Reconciliation Committee Report & Recommendations (2017) and to encourage exploration and understanding among non-Indigenous children.
Our book lists focus on representations in children’s and young adult (YA) literatures at the intersection of Queer and Indigenous identities. Intersectionality refers to “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups” (Merriam-Webster, 2020). Two-Spirit is an English term that includes a variety of Queer identities within Indigenous cultures. Although this term often is used for an individual with both a masculine and feminine spirit, because different Nations have different definitions, this is not the sole meaning (Centennial College, n.d.; Wilson, 1996). Indigiqueer encompasses Queer Indigenous Peoples who do not self-identify as Two-Spirit and those who identify with both (CBC Radio, 2017).
Why are these materials important?
Early diverse representations influence future societal ideals. By age three, children begin to develop their own attitudes towards groups of people. Exposure to varied representations, both in cultural materials such as literatures and in-person, helps to shape these attitudes (Hughes-Hassell & Cox, 2010). Although inaccurate representations are not always immediately distressing to those reading them, this does not make them acceptable. Representation shapes worldviews and inaccurate or missing representations of Indigenous Peoples perpetuate colonialist ideals and place Whiteness above all else (Reese, 2019a).
Within award-winning children’s literature featuring Queer characters, only 10% of children’s books and 10.5% of YA books also represent BIPOC. No Indigenous characters were featured in books that won Lambda and Stonewall awards between 2000 and 2013 (Jiménez, 2015). Existing Indigiqueer and Two-Spirit representations often privilege one identity over the other by putting a focus primarily on either Indigenous or Queer aspects of a character’s identity. These representations suggest that these intersecting identities are not compatible (Bittner, 2014). The materials included in these pamphlets represent Queerness and Indigeneity together, displaying both the triumphs and struggles of these intersecting identities.
How can librarians provide better representation?
Librarians can provide better representation within collections through consideration of the perspectives that are represented and the voices that are privileged within items. Indigenous representation is typically more accurate and robust in works from smaller publishers; acquiring materials from these publishers can improve children’s and YA collections (Peterson & Robinson, 2020; Reese, 2019a). Consider seeking new collection items through lesser-used resources, such as Queer or Indigenous Twitter and community consultations or requests.
Representation goes beyond choosing materials from smaller publishers and Indigenous voices: it is also necessary to consider the types of representation a work provides. Stereotypical representations, even when positive, often do more harm than good and should be avoided (Hughes-Hassell & Cox, 2010; Reese, 2019a). Before acquiring a resource, evaluation can be completed using a variety of methods including a reading of the materials, reading reviews of items, and consulting with represented communities.
Inclusive children’s literatures feed into each other. As inclusive works become more popular, publishers increase the publication of inclusive materials (Hughes-Hassell & Cox, 2010; Reese, 2019b). Highlighting these items improves representative access within our institutions and encourages the creation of more Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer works. We hope that, by making these materials more visible, we can contribute to this process.
Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Books for Teens
Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Books for Kids
Bittner, R. (2014). Hey, I still can’t see myself!: The difficult positioning of Two-Spirit Identities in YA literature. Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature, 52(1), 11–22. https://doi.org/10.1353/bkb.2014.0040
Canadian Federation of Library Associations. (2017). Truth and reconciliation report and recommendations respectfully submitted to the CFLA-FCAB board of directors. Retrieved from http://cfla-fcab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Truth-and-Reconciliation-Committee-Report-and-Recommendations-ISBN1.pdf
CBC Radio. (2017). Poet Joshua Whitehead redefines Two-Spirit identity in Full-Metal Indigiqueer. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/from-dystopian-futures-to-secret-pasts-check-out-these-indigenous-storytellers-over-the-holidays-1.4443312/poet-joshua-whitehead-redefines-two-spirit-identity-in-full-metal-indigiqueer-1.4447321
Centennial College. (n.d.). Gender identities. In Our Stories. Retrieved from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/indigstudies/chapter/gender-identities/
Hughes-Hassell, S., & Cox, E. J. (2010). Inside board books: Representations of people of color. Library Quarterly, 80(3), 211–230. https://doi.org/10.1086/652873
Jiménez, L. M. (2015). Representations in Award-Winning LGBTQ Young Adult Literature from 2000–2013. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 19(4), 406–422. https://doi.org/10.1080/10894160.2015.1057795
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Intersectionality. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intersectionality
Peterson, S. S., & Robinson, R. B. (2020). Rights of Indigenous children: Reading children’s literature through an Indigenous Knowledges lens. Education Sciences, 10(10), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci10100281
Reese, D. (2019a). An Indigenous critique of Whiteness in children’s literature. Children and Libraries, Digital Supplement, 3–12.
Reese, D. (2019b). Claims to Native Identity in children’s literature. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 43(4), 123–132. https://doi.org/10.17953/aicrj.43.4.reese
Wilson, A. (1996). How we find ourselves: Identity development and Two-Spirit people. Harvard Educational Review, 66(2), 303–317.
Michelle is a White settler who grew up in rural communities situated on Treaty 6 Territory and currently resides in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton). Michelle is a non-binary Queer person, and although they do not bring the lived experiences that Queer BIPOC do, they respectfully acknowledge that our liberation is tied together. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Lethbridge and a Post-Bacc in Cognitive Science from Carleton University, and is currently completing their MLIS at the University of Alberta. Their interests include intersectional representation in children’s literature, and Queer information behaviour in online communities.
Laura is a White settler living in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton), on Treaty 6 Territory. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classics from the University of Alberta, and is currently in her final year of a Master of Library and Information Studies degree, also at the University of Alberta. She acknowledges her intersections of privilege as a straight White person, and is working to use that privilege as an ally. She is interested in social justice in LIS and in diverse and inclusive programming in public libraries.