When Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith came to Kegedonce Press with her proposal for a memoir-style essay collection about the Sixties Scoop, we knew that these were important stories, stories that needed to be told. These are the Stories: Memories of a 60s Scoop Survivor is a heartbreaking yet hopeful account of her experiences as a Sixties Scoop survivor. Through writing, through telling her stories, she has forged her own path to healing and connected with a community of other survivors.
“I am an adult now,” she writes, “and far away from those who hurt me. I rebuilt my life and I have surrounded myself with people who believe in me and encourage me to not only keep up the fight but to stay strong. Today, I am alive, and I am strong because I am a survivor. I am a survivor in a sea of thousands of other First Nations children who were forced into the child welfare system through no fault of their own. I know that I am not alone” (from “You are not wanted” in These are the Stories).
After the release of These are the Stories, Christine approached us with another proposal: this time for an edited collection of personal essays by other survivors from across the nation. Silence to Strength: Writings and Reflections on the Sixties Scoop gathers those stories into an anthology of powerful and eye-opening first-person accounts from survivors of forced, sometimes even illegal adoption. Opening with a poem by Tyler Pennock, author of the award-winning Bones, Silence to Strength unfolds stories of disruption from loss of family and culture, but also stories of strength and survivance. Silence to Strength has been nominated for two Eric Hoffer awards, the Da Vinci Eye and the Montaigne Medal.
We caught up with Christine to have a chat about her books and what she is doing now. Here’s our conversation:
Kegedonce Press: What do you think has changed, personally or more generally, now that your books are out there in the world?
Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith: Initially when I got my memoir These Are the Stories published, I thought that I might stop there, but I love writing and innately knew that I couldn’t stop at just one book. With Kegedonce Press giving me the platform to get my stories out there, it awakened the writer in me even more. I always had other survivors of the 60s Scoop in my thoughts and felt that offering them a platform to write would also be good. Hence, Silence to Strength: Writings and Reflections on the Sixties Scoop was born.
Getting my books out into the world has been nothing short of amazing for me. It has given me a renewed sense of purpose in writing what I feel are integral issues for mainstream media to understand. Sometimes writing about certain issues can be difficult and can be possibly draining but personally it has been cathartic sitting down and getting what I care about the most out into the world.
Since my books have come out, I’ve been getting more recognition and speaking gigs. Though I’m quite shy around things like public speaking, it is teaching me new skills—it helps me get my voice out there more and it also in a sense helps my social anxiety because by having my books out there and having my actual voice heard, it teaches me that what every writer needs to know—their stories are important and need to be out there.
KP: Who do you hope will read These Are the Stories and Silence to Strength and what do you hope they will get out of them?
CMS: I am hoping that the mainstream media and public will read both my books. It is important for them to read about the issues that affect First Nations/Inuit/Metis people and what has happened in Canadian history so that they can be better informed of where we come from as a people. I don’t ask people to feel sorry for us, but I do ask that they try to make an effort to understand the policies that have impacted us, and how we are all trying to rise above the obstacles that have been put in place by the Canadian government. Reconciliation or a modicum of it cannot happen unless everyone makes an effort to understand and listen to what the First Peoples of Canada have encountered and come together to erase the stigmas surrounding us.
KP: What new writing or other projects are you working on?
CMS: I never have just one project on the go, that’s just how I am! I am working on a Young Adult novel for James Lorimer Press, a poetry manuscript tentatively titled Fragments from a Healing Heart and the last two anthologies of three with Exile Editions and fellow friend/author and co-editor Nathan Niigaan Noodin Adler.
You can read more about These are the Stories and Silence to Strength at the following links: