Brittany Luby, an associate professor at the University of Guelph is set to release her second bilingual picture book in October with a third on the way.
Mnoomin maan’gowing in Anishinaabemowin and The Gift of Mnoomin in English is a book about the cycle of a seed and how important it is to the earth, animals, and people.
“In both my academic and creative works, I pay careful attention to word choice. Words have consequences. For example, when we use the word ‘wild rice’ we downplay Anishinaabe plant knowledge. This is a crop that is tended through ceremony and reseeding practices,” said Luby, via email.
She thought it was important to highlight mnoomin as “Anishinaabe plant relations, and to challenge English misrepresentations of cultural foodways through Mnoomin maan’gowing/The Gift of Mnoomin,” said Luby.
“My great-grandfather John Kipling Junior survived Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School. When he became a father, he chose to raise his children in English in hopes of protecting them from harm. His decision has rippled across the generations as I too was raised in English,” she said.
As with her first bilingual picture book Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know and this book there is a “hope that my family will reclaim the voice we lost with the support of our wider community,” Luby said.
For the illustration part of the picture book Luby worked with Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. Luby said he has a gift and was grateful he shared it with her for the book.
In the book he “gives character to our other-than-human kin from precocious ducklings to playful pups. This artistic decision reinforces the teaching that we are all related,” Luby said.
Although Luby didn’t grow up reading books quite like the ones she writes she did have a couple examples to share.
“My father had a spiral-bound bilingual dictionary with a red heavy weight paper cover. He kept it on his desk. I remember flipping through it, running my finger over the words, and imagining how they might sound. My mother found us – my siblings and I – a bilingual colouring book. It introduced the seasons. I learned dagwaagin (fall), biboon (winter), ziigwan (spring), and niibin (summer) through this text. I was also fortunate that my auntie Josie, a language speaker, would translate stories that I wrote, printed, and brought over to her house. I wasn’t a published author yet. But she encouraged me to continue exploring our language and our culture over tea,” she said.
Luby hopes her book inspires children to learn more about their cultural foods and ask themselves what inherited seeds can teach them about what their ancestors’ hopes are for this generation.
Mnoomin maan’gowing/The Gift of Mnoomin comes out on Oct. 3 and When the Stars Came Home is out on Nov. 21.