Finding the Canadian Voice That Speaks To You

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09/09/2021

The Canadian voice is a powerful, distinct and rich one. From the First Nations and those that have lived in Canada for generations to new immigrants, the tapestry that makes up Canada from Nova Scotia, to Toronto, Winnipeg to Vancouver and every city in between is a colourful combination of people, voices and stories. Whether you’re searching for a relatable experience or seeking to hear a new perspective of this country we love, we’ve compiled a list of 10 amazing audiobooks by Canadian authors to help you find the voice that speaks to you.

Kiss of the Fur Queen

Author:
Tomson Highway
Narrator:
Patricia Cano
Length:
9:52
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

The work of renowned indigenous author Tomson Highway, Kiss of the Fur Queen is one of the highlights of 2021. This topical and poignant story follows two Cree brothers living in Northern Manitoba who are ripped from their family and forced into the Catholic residential school system.

With revelations about Canada’s history in terms of residential schools and abuse towards First Nations people on the rise through 2021, this novel could not be better timed. Kiss of the Fur Queen provides a voice to the generations of children silenced in these institutions.

This title provides perspective on the foundation of Canada as a country, as well as allows listeners who may not be familiar with these stories a chance to learn, grow, and experience what it meant to be Cree in a time of Catholic oppression and residential school mandates. This audiobook is at once of the moment and timeless in its ability to shed light on stories not heard enough through Canada and the world.

Jonny Appleseed: A Novel

Author:
Joshua Whitehead
Narrator:
Joshua Whitehead
Length:
5:41
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

This audiobook by Joshua Whitehead provides an important but rarely heard perspective on what it means to be queer and Two-Spirit. In his stunning debut, Whitehead tackles issues of identity, freedom, and the past as he explores what it means to be indigiqueer, both for himself individually and with regards to his ethnicity, and the context of living on or returning to a reservation.

Jonny Appleseed shines a light not only on indigenous life in Canada but shows how queer individuals find and use their own voice in a world that often does not historically have a place for them. This enlightening and powerful Canadian book is a coming-of-age of sorts, and is both inspiring and eye-opening.

Whether it helps others in a similar position find their own voice or simply proves a fantastic piece of storytelling, Jonny Appleseed is a powerful tale that will help open the listener up to new voices and new perspectives, hopefully encouraging listeners to do the same in their own lives.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Author:
Alicia Elliott
Narrator:
Alicia Elliott
Length:
6:36
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Here we have another powerful audiobook about the impact of colonialism and trauma inflicted on Native people throughout Canada and North America. Using her voice as a Tuscarora person, Alicia Elliot explores deep and painful issues that have rocked Canada throughout much of 2021. By giving life to this story, Elliot provides a voice to her people and her past and shares experiences that are often hidden or erased from history.

Listening to this voice is important. Without understanding where we as a nation come from - no matter the listener's background - healing, reconciliation and improvement are borderline impossible. Listening to audiobooks and non-fiction like A Mind Spread Out on the Ground allows the listener to better understand and empathize with the world around them. Most importantly, it allows them to embrace a voice other than their own.

This audiobook is narrated by the author. Alicia Elliot herself is from the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in Ontario which adds a depth of knowledge and emotion to the heavy topics being addressed. By reading her own work, Elliot infuses it with weight and passion, expertly handling the heavy subject matter while providing a narrative that is inviting and warm at the same time.

A History of My Brief Body

Author:
Billy-Ray Belcourt
Narrator:
Billy-Ray Belcourt
Length:
4:01
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Billy-Ray Belcourt offers up a beautiful debut memoir with A History of My Brief Body. His personal story gives a voice to his experience as an Indigenous person in Alberta, Canada, covering all angles and emotions. Belcourt’s story is at once a living reflection of his culture and a call to arms, bridging the space between history and activism.

This is an important message for Canadian listeners across the nation. As North American indigenous voices finally gain a more recognized platform in society and media, more and more voices are standing up to be heard. The nation needs to listen.

This audiobook is a remarkably crafted story infused with power and purpose, delivered in Belcourt's own engaging Canadian accent and understated tone. This is a story that needs to be heard.

Five Little Indians: A Novel

Author:
Michelle Good
Narrator:
Kyla Garcia
Length:
10:34
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Five Little Indians offers another take on this dark page of Canadian history. In 2021, Canada was rocked by the horrors of Catholic residential schools and the children who did not survive these institutions. Many had never known this part of Canadian history or found themselves asking why these voices had been so long repressed. Many felt like years of government had actively worked to erase these people and their stories. Many who experienced it felt this way too.

Michelle Good's debut novel Five Little Indians is a story of children forced into residential schools in Vancouver. A painful tale of sorrow and loss, this honest critique of the systems and avoidance inherent in society and government that allowed such atrocities to occur is a must-listen.

Kayla Garcia narrates the words of author Michelle Good with the respect and gravity this topic deserves, expertly navigating the varying emotions of something that has become widely known but minimally understood. This audiobook is a must-listen for anyone hoping to understand the events surrounding forced residential school attendance and those seeking to listen to the personal stories of those most impacted.

Heart Berries: A Memoir

Author:
Terese Marie Mailhot
Narrator:
Rainy Fields
Length:
3:45
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Heart Berries is the most critically acclaimed title on this list. Winning countless awards and topping bestseller charts across the world, Heart Berries is a masterpiece of narrative. Like many of the other titles on this list, this audiobook navigates the duality between the author’s respect for her heritage and the struggles and hardships associated with reservation life.

Terese Mailhot reveals a stunning memoir chronicling her life in British Columbia’s Seabird Island Indian Reservation. She neither shies away from the dysfunctional world in which she was raised nor does she throw blame and excuses. This open, honest look at her life reveals the beauty and pain there and gives rise to her stunningly poetic yet jarring narrative voice.

This dichotomy of softness and harshness is seen in both her view of the world and her writing style, as Mailhot’s fragile mental state shifts throughout her life and this memoir. Narrator Rainy Fields tackles this unique style expertly, capturing the duality and internal conflict at the centre of Heart Berries.

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL's First Treaty Indigenous Player

Author:
Fred Sasakamoose, Bryan Trottier - foreword
Narrator:
Wilton Littlechild
Length:
10:09
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Call Me Indian also references residential schools and the role they played in shaping author Fred Sasakamoose. This memoir chronicles his early years that were forcibly shaped by Catholicism and his new life journeying into that most Canadian of professions - a pro-NHL hockey player.

This audiobook is ideal for reaching a slightly different audience than the titles listed above. The story focuses on hockey and how Canada’s beloved sport offered an opportunity for Sasakamoose yet never accepted him. Always referred to as the ‘Indian’, Sasakamoose’s career was short, and his place in the league was never fully inclusive.

This true Canadian story addresses prejudice, adversity, and overwhelming hope as it follows Sasakamoose’s life, with the hero coming to terms with his identity while pushing past the obstacles put in front of him because of his culture.

Sufferance: A Novel

Author:
Thomas King
Narrator:
Meegwun Fairbrother
Length:
8:36
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Another well-known Canadian native author is Thomas King. Having authored several works rich in indigenous mythology and history, King again pulls on his roots and background for Sufferance. King uses elements of magical realism commonly found in North American indigenous art to tell the story of Jeremiah Camp, aka “The Forecaster.”

This fictional tale of magic and mystery offers an exciting story for listeners interested in compelling narrative voices. The audiobook is also steeped in the history and culture from which he and many other indigenous people emerged.

King expertly delivers a native Canadian voice with poignancy and humour, a skill which has awarded him the Order of Canada. Sufferance perfectly blends fiction and reality for listeners looking to learn more about the native voice while still experiencing a wondrous storytelling experience.

Firekeeper's Daughter

Author:
Angeline Boulley
Narrator:
Isabella Star LaBlanc
Length:
14:13
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is another fictional tale targeted at young adult audiences. This native voice focuses on a young Ojibwe girl dealing with a family tragedy that quickly spirals into a dark mystery.

This novel covers all the bases, expertly mixing traditional Ojibwe phrases and customs with murder-mystery-style suspense and classic YA tropes. This is a must-listen for any YA enthusiast or younger reader looking to dive into a novel written from a young native voice.

The audiobook is narrated by Native American reader Isabella Star Leblanc. Leblanc has the knowledge and respect to handle the content, effortlessly switching in and out of the Ojibwe references and traditions woven throughout the narrative. An exciting and powerful tale, Firekeeper’s Daughter is a must-listen.

Split Tooth

Author:
Tanya Tagaq
Narrator:
Tanya Tagaq
Length:
5:31
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Author, singer and activist Tanya Tagaq has a voice like no other. In a literal sense, Tagaq sings in a distinct style of traditional throat singing but combines this with contemporary rock and punk edge. Her singing has become world-renowned, and the external voice has given rise to her internal voice, which she shares openly in talks and audiobooks.

Much like its author, Split Tooth is unique. It reads as semi-autobiographical but also incorporates stories, mythical characters and raw poetry. Tagaq takes charge of the narration, her distinct voice tying this medley of stories together literally and narratively. Her voice has a richness and power that translates through her words and reaches deep into the listener's heart.

This audiobook offers a look into native life and culture while also being a deeply personal love letter to northern Canada, the world of ice and snow in which Tagaq grew up. It is a unique and engaging perspective that is a true must-listen for any Canadian literature enthusiast looking to gain a new view of life in the Great White North.


All articles: Canadian authors