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Aboriginal Studies at UT rocks!

October 25, 2009

lh-dan-mar-torontoJust returned from visiting the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Toronto.  Boy Howdy do those First Nations’ folks know how to show their guests a good time!  Upon arriving at Pearson International Airport, I was greeted by a longtime friend from home, Associate Professor Daniel Justice (Cherokee), and  now a Salonnaire  [See July 20, 22, posts, Salon Ada]. Daniel and I then high-tailed-it to UT’s Mississauga’s campus to visit the “Introduction to Indigenous North American Literature” class taught by Mareike Neuhaus.  Her class had just finished reading Shell Shaker, and I was deeply honored by her students close reading of the text.  I felt a stab of pride mixed with something like, well, I don’t quite know, longing, I guess. Longing for my friends/characters in Shell Shaker.  It had been a quite a while since I’d thought about them.  That’s what happens when you finish a book and begin thinking about drafting a new set of characters.  New Plot.  New everything.  I have to consciously remind myself to stop thinking about the characters in the last book.  It’s like moving on from an intense love affair that I knew was always destined to end.  After a while, I  begin to fall in love with new characters, new settings and the new love affair develops.  Rarely do I ever think of using my old characters in a new novel.  For me it would be like marrying the same person over and over again — and yet perhaps I could do it.  That’s what visiting Mareike’s class in Toronto did for me.   I realized as I was talking to the students that I had missed my old friends, the characters in Shell Shaker.

Anyway,  Mareike’s students asked lots of insightful questions about Shakbatina, Auda, Redford McAlester, Divine Sarah, and the history of Choctaws.   The credit for this goes to her teaching.  That’s when I began to ask  myself, what are Auda, Tema, Adair doing today?  Just where are the Love sisters? Later that evening the three of us (pictured above) went out to dinner at an English pub for fish and chippies.

Aborginal Studies House I also visited another English literature class taught by Kyle Wyatt at the UT Scarborough campus. His students were also full of great questions.  They’d read either Miko Kings, Evidence of Red, or Shell Shaker.   I’m afraid my head was swelling after his class.  Later that evening, we went to a posh Indian restaurant.  Foodies would love it!  Great wines, too.   It seems you can find every kind of cuisine in Toronto.

Then on Friday, I gave the Fall Distinguished Lecture for the Aboriginal Studies Program [bragging again, I know] explaining that Choctawans and other ancient indigenous people in the Lower Mississippi Valley invented the root game of baseball.  The talk was held at the Bahen Centre on the UT campus and Daniel and I had fun doing “Q and A” as if we were on the Inside the Actors’ Studio program. By the way, I learned that I’m terrible at answering questions about myself.  Another insight, from being in Toronto.

After the reading, playwright and actress Monique Mojica (Cuna/Rappahannock); PhD theater candidate Jill Carter (Ojibwe), Daniel Justice, and I went to Greek town in Toronto for some incredible edibles.  If it isn’t obvious, I’m a Choctaw foodie. Pictured below are some friends that attended the reading, including beautiful Monique in the middle, and beautiful Jill, standing tall in the back with the rest of the beautiful women in the picture! reading-Toronto

Can’t wait to return to University of Toronto’s Aboriginal Studies Program.  Next time I’m going to build in some research time at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.  What a treat it was to see the amazing stacks.  Next time, next time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. George Hannah permalink
    October 27, 2009 2:59 pm

    Hey Leanne,

    I just wanted to say that it was an honour to meet you and hear you talk about Shell Shaker. It was very interesting to hear what you had to say, I am the student who asked you about Redford McAlester and whether or not he was rooted in truth or fiction. I am glad that he is no longer in power and is in jail where he belongs, but mostly I am happy that no drastic measures had to be taken!. Anyhow, I just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed reading your novel, and I can’t wait to read the new one.



  2. October 29, 2009 9:05 am

    Tks George for your great questions! I hope our paths cross again. Let me know what you think of Miko Kings. Achukma.

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