Monique Gray Smith is a fascinating woman, speaker, and author. When she speaks, her calm kindness and unwavering respect for all people draws you in. She believes that “if we are to strengthen our society — and reading is one way to do this — then we must be reading a variety of lived experiences and perspectives.”[i]
Looking for a downloadable list of books appropriate for younger kids? Download our list of 75 Kids Books by Indigenous Authors.
Her latest book, Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, takes the reader through these various experiences, by sharing stories and lives of Survivors of “the residential school system and the lack of understanding of the historical and current impact of those schools.”[ii]
Gray Smith’s Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation is one to read as part of your own understanding of reconciliation, as she intended it for readers aged “nine to ninety.”[iii] There is a lot more to know about the author, though, whose “career has focused on fostering paradigm shifts that emphasize the strength and resiliency of the First Peoples in Canada.”[iv] Here are five fun tidbits to help you get to know Monique Gray Smith a bit better:
Five Things About Monique Gray Smith
1. Her Thoughts on Reconciliation:
While everyone has a part in reconciliation, Gray Smith see the process firstly as an individual process, no matter who you are: “I think it’s a personal journey for every person. As soon as we get into judging another person’s journey, we get into that colonial mindset about what’s right and what’s not right.”[v]
2. Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation has its own Website
The Orca Book Publisher's website is not only an excellent companion for the book, but makes an excellent resource on its own. It includes first-person memories and experiences from residential schools, reconciliation facts and definitions, ways to move forward together, teacher resources, and more.
3. One of Her Books was Published Because of a Tweet
Like many authors, Monique Gray Smith spends a fair amount of time on Twitter. After all, authors are used to sharing their words! Her upcoming book, Tilly and the Crazy Eights (Second Story Press, October 2018), reached publication thanks to her Twitter pitch via the hashtag #CanLitPit last July.
When Tilly receives an invitation to help drive eight elders on their ultimate bucket list road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, she impulsively says yes. Before she knows it, Tilly has said goodbye to her family and is behind the wheel—ready to embark on an adventure that will transform her in ways she could not predict, just as it will for each and every one of the seniors on the trip, who soon dub themselves “the Crazy Eights”.[vi]
4. She Uses all Types of Media to Share her VoiceMonique Gray Smith uses everything available to her to teach and share Indigenous stories and history with the world:
- Her seven-episode podcast, Love is Medicine, “shares stories and teachings that can transform our lives and how we see the world.”[vii]
- She has her own YouTube channel, with eighteen videos discussing everything from her books to what is happening in the world.
- She did a TedX talk about resilience, which is available to watch on YouTube: The talk focuses on “the Four Blankets of Resilience and the influence one person can have in fostering resilience”.
5. She also Writes for Younger Children
With five books published and one more on the way, Monique Gray Smith’s books for younger readers are notable for their thoughtful messaging and vibrant illustrations.
My Heart Fills with Happiness is illustrated by Cree/Metis author Julie Flett, and was written “to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.”[viii]
You Hold Me Up is illustrated by Indigenous artist Danielle Daniel, and “encourages children to show love and support for each other and to consider each other’s well-being in their everyday actions.”[ix]
With a message of understanding and a hopeful belief in the future, Monique Gray Smith is a voice that should be listened to. To learn more about this Lakota/Cree/Scottish author, pick up Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience.
Loosely based on author Monique Gray Smith’s own life, this revealing, important work of creative non-fiction tells the story of a young Indigenous woman coming of age in Canada in the 1980s. With compassion, insight and humour, Gray Smith illuminates the 20th-century history of Canada’s First Peoples—forced displacement, residential schools, tuberculosis hospitals, the Sixties Scoop. In a spirit of hope, this unique story captures the irrepressible resilience of Tilly, and of Indigenous peoples everywhere.[x]
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[ii] Orca Book Publishers
[iii] The Tyee
[iv] Monique Gray Smith
[v] The Tyee
[vi] Image and synopsis from Second Story Press
[vii] Love is Medicine on iTunes
[viii] Orca Book Publishers
[ix] Orca Book Publishers
[x] Monique Gray Smith