People Get Ready's Thanksgiving Reads

Lauren Anderson | November 27th, 2019

People Get Ready's Thanksgiving Reads

Books  |  Arts & Culture  |  Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills  |  People Get Ready Books


Laren Anderson Photo. 

The following was submitted by Lauren Anderson on behalf of People Get Ready, a new bookstore on Whalley Avenue. 

Over at People Get Ready, we pride ourselves on being ready to talk books, and so we were happy when asked to list a few we’re thankful for and tend to recommend around this time of year.

Thanksgiving should be a time for reflection, contemplation, and connection. These selections are ones that we have found helpful when it comes to cultivating a historically situated and place-based sense of gratitude, especially for the generations that have come before, that have fought for justice, and that will continue long after we have gone.

Reading and sharing what we have read, we believe, is a sacred part of how, to quote one of the authors below, “we hold each other up” and, in so doing, enrich our own lives and make our shared world a better place.

You Hold Me Up / Ki Kîhcêyimin Mâna
By Monique Gray Smith, Illustrated by Danielle Daniel

This is a beautiful bilingual book about love, reciprocity, and the way our relations feed us. Written in Plains Cree and English with a simple color block palette, its text and images offer a clarion call to recognize our common humanity. With brevity and care, the author’s note explains the specific (Canadian) context from which the book emerges; that said, the issues it addresses via themes of healing, reconciliation, and love are applicable beyond borders.

We Are Grateful / Otsaliheliga
Text by Traci Sorell, Illustrations by Frané Lessac

This gorgeous picture book focuses on expressing gratitude - otsaliheliga (oh-jay-LEE-hay-lee-gah) - as an essential aspect of daily, yearly, lifelong existence. Written by Traci Sorell, acclaimed children’s author and member of the Cherokee nation, the text traces gratitude across the seasons, incorporates Cherokee words, definitions and pronunciations, and explains in the author’s note the importance to Sorell of being able to present “a contemporary view of Cherokee culture” from the perspective of those who know and live it.

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude
Edited by Miranda Paul, Illustrations by Marlena Myles

This new collection is a timely and gorgeously illustrated gem. It puts gratitude, and poetry, in broad context. Its poems, by a diverse group of beloved poets, speak to the mundane and the major things - from dinosaurs, to the dear sky, to puppies, family members and friends - for which we have good reason to give thanks. The anthology is also a teaching tool with different poetic forms briefly explained and exemplified throughout.

The People Shall Continue
Text by Simon J. Ortiz, Illustrations by Sharol Graves

Back in 2000, the only copy of this classroom essential—originally published in 1977—that we could find was a library castoff. Thankfully, Lee & Low Books, a celebrated family-owned, multicultural publisher that has long advocated for greater diversity in children’s literature, printed a 40th Anniversary Edition and included an open-access teacher's guide, too.

The 2017 reprint is a vibrant, affordable paperback version of this classic by beloved poet Ortiz and collaborators. Written in poetic prose, and available in English and Spanish, the text celebrates Indigenous peoples’ survivance in the face of systemic oppression and includes a lyrical yet straightforward account of histories that are otherwise rarely told in U.S. schools.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese

This resource for young readers honors them with its handling of serious content. Adapted from its American Book Award winning counterpart for adults, it’s a perfectly appropriate read for those long out of their tween years, too. It integrates definitions, archival images, maps, reading recommendations, and topical sidebars to engage its audience and ensure that its disruption of “discovery,” critical appraisal of the “American dream,” and myth-busting writ large are as substantiated they are compelling. A powerful primer, potentially for people of all ages.

Our History is the Future
By Nick Estes

This perfectly titled text zooms in to tell the story of the resistance efforts at Standing Rock in 2016, and it scopes out to place those ten months in the longer, larger history of anticolonial struggle and native survivance. It’s prologue opens by juxtaposing the “stock” story of Thanksgiving against Thanksgiving 2016, “a bitterly cold night at a Wyoming gas station off I-80,” which the author spent “among a half-dozen other cars loaded with camp supplies and Water Protectors,” en route to Oceti Sakowin Camp. With proximity and legitimacy, Estes offers an account we will all be better informed for having read.

The Painted Drum
By Louise Erdrich

It’s hard to pick just a few books, especially given all the great fiction available. Still, Louise Erdrich’s The Painted Drum comes right to mind. It’s the story of a woman, in many ways alone and seeking connection, who takes a ceremonial drum from an estate in New Hampshire with the aim of returning it to its rightful Ojibwa owners. The process requires re-engaging painful memories and reckoning with complex histories (the drum’s own, and her family’s).

This hard work is our work, as humans, Erdrich argues: “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that. And living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on Earth. You are here to risk your heart.”

How We Became Human
By Joy Harjo

Now that Joy Harjo has been named U.S. Poet Laureate, so many people will pick up her newest offering, American Sunrise. As they should! It’s gorgeous. But so, too, are so many of her other and earlier works. This collection is a wonderful introduction, spanning nearly three decades, to a prolific, powerful poet. Some lines from a favorite among its pages: “Remember you are this universe / and this universe is you. / Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you. / Remember language comes from this. / Remember the dance language is, that life is. / Remember.”

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
By Ross Gay

Ross Gay - to borrow from the title of his recent book of essays - is one of this world's true "delights." Loving son, enthusiastic sports fan, master gardener, gentle spirit, and unshakable optimist, Gay somehow always manages to find new ways to put the human heart on the page. These poems cover all manner of things for which to be grateful, including ripe figs, friends, feet, and even, “dear reader, you, for staying here with me…” These are poems for the people, for all of us, calling us to slow down, breathe deeply, and shine light on the beauty all around.. even, especially, in dark times.

Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England
Edited by Siobhan Senier

Drawing ‘in’ the wisdom of 11 community editors, this multi-genre collection and companion website gathers together classic and contemporary writing from across ten Indigenous tribes of the Northeast: Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Abenaki, Nimpuc, Wampanoag, Narragansett, Mohegan, and Schaghticoke. The anthology is an education unto itself in terms of offering tribally specific perspectives on our region and its Indigenous histories, traditions, and literary creation.

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen
By Sean Sherman

The first lines of another loved poem by Joy Harjo reads: “The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.” The centrality of food to our shared humanity and healing is something Sherman, as a chef, caterer and food educator, knows well. This critical cookbook is a great staple for the holiday season and beyond.

Organized to reflect “where ingredients are gathered with a mind to how most meals progress,” it’s accessible, lovely to look at, and links our nourishment back to the land and to the legacies of “real food” that the land’s longest, loyal stewards offer us all, if we are curious enough to (re)learn.

This list is by no means comprehensive. It compiles just a few offerings for across the agespan, listed in order from child to adult audience (though we think so-called “children’s books,” are appropriate for everyone). Most are part of a larger collection People Get Ready developed in collaboration with Akomawt Educational Initiative.

If you’re seeking any of these books, most can be found at the New Haven Free Public Library. All are in stock at People Get Ready (open Sundays, 12-6) and other local bookstores like Atticus can order them for you, too, if they’re not on the shelves.

If you’re itching instead for an immediate, accessible, online read, consider starting with Philip Deloria’s recent piece, “The Invention of Thanksgiving,” for the New Yorker.

People Get Ready is now open at 117 Whalley Ave. from 12 to 6 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. For more information, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.