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Canada Reads winner joins OCAD U for live online event on March 25

Two people walking along a beach at night with starts in the skies

The newly-named 2021 Canada Reads winner is coming to OCAD U for a special free online public event, Remembering Two-Spirit Futures, being held on March 25.

Joshua Whitehead, whose novel Jonny Appleseed was just declared by CBC to be a book that every Canadian should read, will be joined by acclaimed Indigenous writer and activist Elder Ma-Nee Chacaby to share their stories and imagine what Whitehead has called a “walk into the future” with Two-Spiritedness at the forefront.

This meeting of two generations of Ojibwe-Cree Two-Spirit storytellers promises to be an engaging and unique experience for everyone who attends.

Joshua Whitehead will read from his myriad explorations of Indigiqueerness in the novel Jonny Appleseed and the anthology Love after the End: An Anthology of Two Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fictions and speak on literary voyeurism.

Elder Ma-Nee Chacaby will share her story of being Two-Spirit and offer an opening prayer and closing for the event.

The event is being presented by OCAD U’s Writing & Learning Centre’s The Mighty Pen Speaker Series and the Faculty & Curriculum Development Centre’s Indigenous Education Speaker Series, and will be hosted by writer and OCAD U educator Phoebe Wang.

“Joshua Whitehead is a very important presence,” says Wang. “He’s part of a generation of Indigenous writers who are also scholars and activists who are empowering themselves and empowering others. Elder Chacaby is a knowledge-keeper who has so much to share about her journey as a Two-Spirit person and activist.”

The event is a rare opportunity to hear from two Indigenous writers and thinkers who are at different stages of their learning journey, and who have so much to share about the kind of world that’s possible. It’s also a place to look at the world through the lens of speculative fiction and real-life activism to imagine and hope for the world that we want to build together.

Wang says the intergenerational aspects of this event “will help all of us see how we’re in relation to each other, in relation to the land, and in relation to the difficulties we’ve faced over the past year of this global pandemic.”

The event is a collaboration between the Indigenous Education Speaker Series and The Mighty Pen Speaker Series and the first of its kind, bringing together their shared goals to bring under-represented, Indigenous, and racialized writers, scholars, artists, designers, and knowledge-keepers into the OCAD U community.

These programs are key to the institution’s efforts to decolonize, but also in bringing a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and practices to the OCAD U community and the wider public.

“Truly embracing the idea of decolonizing this institution and our own minds is an essential part of the work of programs like these,” says Susan Ferguson, the University’s Director of Teaching and Learning. “They are opportunities for us to gather as a community to share knowledge and learn together with the goal of imagining a decolonized future.”

Ferguson says “a unique program like The Mighty Pen is also an opportunity for OCAD U’s BIPOC student writers to build their own capacity to co-create this future by seeing successful BIPOC writers sharing their insights, and experiences. We’re very excited about this event and this collaboration.”