Local Author Spotlight: Brittany Luby

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Brittany Luby, of Anishinaabe descent, was raised on Treaty #3 Lands in what is now known as northwestern Ontario. She is an assistant professor of history at the University of Guelph and an award-winning researcher who seeks to stimulate public discussion of Indigenous issues through her work. Her debut picture book, Encounter, illustrated by Michaela Goade, received wide acclaim. Brittany currently lives on Dish with One Spoon Territory.

Her children's book Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know, was published by House of Anansi.

It is incredible that this is a dual-language book, as it helps learners of both English and Anishinaabemowin. What is the process of writing a book in two languages? Will you continue to do so in the future?

I did not craft the Anishinaabe verse. This translation was lovingly prepared by Alvin and Alan Corbiere, a father-son team. Alan and I met when I was in graduate school. He was (and is) such an inspiration to me as an adult language learner and fluent speaker. 

I also had the honour of working with Mary Ann Corbiere, an Anishinaabe linguist. This brilliant, kind woman proofread the translation – a task that I cannot yet complete for our creative team.

Why? Because I do not speak Anishinaabemowin. Family history states that my great-grandfather, John Kipling Jr., chose not to teach Anishinaabemowin to his children after his experience at Celia Jeffrey Residential School. To protect us, his descendants, John raised his children in English.

Elder Archie Wagamese and Elder Teresa Jourdain are now helping me to reclaim my ancestral tongue. They teach me a new word each visit. I cannot yet form a complete thought, but I can ask for certain foods and express gratitude. Awkwardly. 

It is humbling to transition from award-winning English authoress to bumbling Anishinaabemowin learner. But, language reclamation is such an important part of healing. I knew that I wanted Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know to be a bilingual text. Nan Froman, editor at Groundwood Books, nurtured this idea. Together, we debated the strengths of a bilingual Anishinaabemowin-English edition or simultaneous separate Anishinaabe and English editions. Together, we forged a team – Alvin, Alan, Mary Ann – to enliven this dream.

And so, Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know is a celebration of teachings that transcend language. More than that, it is an act of hope – hope that I will one day be able to read it to my children. Hope that one day my grandchildren will read it to me. Hope that my family will reclaim the voice we lost.

I will keep trying.

What do you hope readers - both children and adults - will take away from your book?

Animals and plants have so much to teach us!

By connecting with our other-than-human relations, we can learn how to better care for ourselves (and for each other). But, first, we must learn how to read and respond to our other-than-human relatives.

For example, drought struck Anishinaabe-Aki this season. Bear moved closer to town as their food sources dried up. Bear is alerting us that there may be food shortages this fall. And so, I predict a rise in food prices this winter. If I gardened, I would be pickling now.

The description of the book says that it is based on childhood memories. Can you share with us your favourite childhood memory that made its way into this book in one way or another?

I have a tender spot for Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), a frog who announces, “Spring is here!” 

When I was growing up, my sister and I would open our bedroom window before sleep. We’d keep warm under the duvet and listen for frogs. Ontario Nature describes their call as “a single, loud, high-pitched peep repeated over and over.” 

For years, Ashley and I shared our hopes and our hurts against this backdrop. Spring Peeper reminds me of the sacred bond between sisters – of imagining what the new season might bring, of dreaming with and for each other.

Ashley and I continue to connect against this backdrop

I thank the frogs for encouraging us to tune into nature and to each other. 

Purchase a copy of This is How I Know from your local independent bookstore.