My book tour ended on an upswing. First of all, my appearance was specially requested.
At the Williamstown Library, the librarian, Kathleen, beeped my card and said, “Melissa Yuan-Innes. You’re the author?”
She had read about me in the Glengarry News, our local paper. She had also met me at the hospital emergency room. But it was one of the few times someone had recognized my name as an author, so I beamed and said, “Yes??”
“Would you be interested in doing a reading at the library in October?”
Secondly, new people arrived (People I didn’t know and beg to come!) One was a teacher who worked in Akwasasne and was friends with the librarian. She had suggestions about where to sell and promote Indian Country Noir and the best place to eat on the reserve (The Bear’s Den). Another was an assistant teacher who used to work with native people on Lake Manitoba. She got a babysitter drove all the way from Morrisburg after she saw the event listed in the library brochure (!). And for the first time, I got to welcome two nurses from the Cornwall emerg. On my writing bucket list, my M.O. is to connect with people, places and things that excite me. Done and done.
I drove in with my neighbour, author and Carina Press editor Denise Callister Nielsen, and my son, Max. My husband showed up and started reading books to Max. My friend and teacher Becky McKay, who worked with native students in Cornwall, pitched in too, along with my neighbour, Luc.
Thirdly, they made me think. I read the opening of my story and Becky asked why the white mother-in-law was such an unsympathetic character. When I finished reading the story, at their request, people basically wanted to know if I felt comfortable writing as a native person/appropriating a Mohawk voice.
The answer is: I think it’s offensive to ape and mock someone else’s culture, so I did my best to write sincerely and accurately based on articles in the Indian Time newspaper written by Phil Preston. Did I succeed? I hope so. Did I offend someone? I hope not. But I don’t know. No easy answers.
Last but not least, my friends and the Williamstown library got to benefit too. At least half the people there had never been to that library branch before and two subscribed to the South Glengarry library system for the first time. “I’m saving money,” said Cynthia, after buying my books, “because there are all these books here I’ve never read.”
Win-win. Love it.