Last year, the IFLS revived a feminist book club tradition at Osgoode. The group will continue this year, and we would like to invite those interested in taking part for the year to join. All are welcome, regardless of whether your research interests align with the IFLS. We try to meet about once a month to discuss a book, graphic novel, poetry anthology or some other form of the written word, from a feminist perspective. There are usually treats! If you’re interested or have any questions, please send an email to Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to seeing faces old and new as the school year starts up again.
Just when you thought the IFLS Book Club picks couldn’t get any more awesome, for our final gathering of the semester we will be reading Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Movements, edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. The book’s website describes it as “an anthology of visionary science fiction and speculative fiction written by organizers and activists.” Pretty excited about this.
Here’s a description from the website:
Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in an exercise of speculative fiction. Organizers and activists struggle tirelessly to create and envision another world, or many other worlds, just as science fiction does… so what better venue for organizers to explore their work than through writing original science fiction stories? Co-editors adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha offer us Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, as a way to uncover the truths buried in the fantastical – and to inject a healthy dose of the fantastical into our search for truth.
The anthology consists of radical science fiction/speculative fiction/fantasy/horror/magical realism short stories written by activist-writers who are actively involved in building movements for social change. They use their experience doing community work as the muse for their fiction. The collection will also include essays about the radical potential of science fiction by people like award-winning science fiction writer Tananarive Due and award-winning journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Octavia’s Brood (to be released summer 2014) is the first book to explore deeply the connections between radical science fiction, what we call “visionary fiction,” and movements for social change through the vehicle of short stories. We believe that radical science fiction is actually better termed visionary fiction because it pulls from real life experience, inequalities and movement building to create innovative ways of understanding the world around us, paint visions of new worlds that could be, and teach us new ways of interacting with one another. Visionary fiction engages our imaginations and hearts, and guides our hands as organizers.
Many radical minds believe this field was evolved by late science fiction writer Octavia Butler, for whom this collection is named. Butler explored the intersections of identity and imagination – exploring the gray areas of race, class, gender, sexuality, militarism, inequality, oppression, resistance and most importantly, hope.
The book club will be meeting on March 30 at Osgoode. If you’d like to join, please email me at email@example.com for details. Space is limited, but we will accommodate as many people as we can. Please also feel free to email to share your thoughts about the book!
I am very excited to announce that plans are in the works for a monthly IFLS book club starting in January! The idea is to read and chat about books related to feminism & law. Pretty simple actually.
Our first meeting will take place on January 20, 4:30-6:30pm in Rm 3067. We’ll be talking about the book Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, and are thrilled to have the author joining us via skype!
To keep things comfy and cozy, space in the book club will be limited, with priority given to those who would like to participate in the group throughout the semester (with further books and dates to be determined by the group). If you are interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a short description of Birdie from the author’s website:
Bernice Meetoos will not be broken.
A big, beautiful Cree woman with a dark secret in her past, Bernice (Birdie) has left her home in northern Alberta to travel to Gibsons, B.C. She is on something of a vision quest, looking for family, for home, for understanding. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat John—Jesse from The Beachcombers—because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Birdie heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers, but they are not the ones she expected.
With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Birdie begins to draw from her dreams the lessons she was never fully taught in life. Part dream quest and part travelogue, Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from tragedy, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. At heart, it is the story of an extraordinary woman who travels to the deepest part of herself to find the strength to face the past and to build a new life.
About the author (from the same website):
is a citizen of As’in’i’wa’chi Ni’yaw Nation Rocky Mountain Cree and hails from the Kelly Lake Cree Nation community. She is an award-winning academic writer and teaches Indigenous studies and Indigenous law at two universities in Canada. She sings the blues loudly, talks quietly and is next in a long line of argumentative Cree women. This is her first novel.
The Round House is an incredibly rich and complex novel, a coming-of-age story told by a young Native American boy whose mother was brutally raped at the intersection between federal, state and reserve lines.
My contribution will only scratch the surface of one of the book’s many facets, one which relates to the construction of identity, one of the novel’s key themes. The narrator’s father is a judge on the reserve. As is the wont of young boys, the narrator imagines his father as a Herculean figure, presiding gravely but intelligently over murder trials and other high-profile events.
Yet when he cracks open his father’s books he is disappointed: life as a judge involves the endless drudgery of petty crime and jurisdictional wrangling. But his father’s response deserves to be quoted at length:
“We are trying to build a solid base here for our sovereignty. We try to press against the boundaries of what we are allowed, walk a step past the edge. Our records will be scrutinized by Congress one day and decisions on whether to enlarge our jurisdiction will be made. Some day. We want the right to prosecute criminals of all races on all lands within our original boundaries. Which is why I try to run a tight courtroom, Joe. What I am doing now is for the future, though it may seem small, or trivial, or boring, to you.”
Administrative decision-makers are also in an unenviable position, viewed with suspicion by many lawyers and judges (though the latter have been somewhat brought to heel by the Supreme Court’s policy of across-the-board deference, nominally at least). They are fighting for recognition in a world in which Lord Hewart’s tirade against the administrative state still has a willing audience, one where the idea that non-lawyers might have something useful to say about the law still provokes wails of discontent.
And there is a lesson. That building legitimacy is a slow process of building a system from the ground up. Hearings are an opportunity for administrative decision-makers to showcase themselves, advertising how they can use informal processes to maximize participation and ensure access to justice in a timely manner. Decisions are an occasion to demonstrate their wisdom and knowledge to an outside world skeptical of their abilities: well-reasoned decisions are not a burden but a vital component of a robust administrative justice system capable of winning over the doubters. And publication of decisions is not a chore to be avoided but a priceless chance to communicate with the wider public. Bit by little bit, every administrative decision-maker is building his or her contribution to the administrative justice edifice.
Paul Daly is assistant professor of law at the University of Montreal but better known for his public law commentary on his blog, Administrative Law Matters.
[and his twitter feed, @pauldalyesq]
After many years of teaching constitutional law with the same texts and methodology, with the same methods of evaluation, and with often the very same stories and evidence, I have changed my course. I put “the problem” that the course is addressing at the outset, like a big, thick, smelly onion, or a moldy casserole, or a doll stuffed with money, or a buried tin box, with the aim that slowly throughout the year we will build the skills necessary to unpack that problem as a story, sometimes by peeling layers, sometimes by using knives of different lengths and sharpness to cut into the story, sometimes by turning the problem upside down, sometimes by sitting patiently and listening to how the problem is described by others. And while the goal of the course has not changed – enable students to identify constitutional issues and to make persuasive and effective constitutional law arguments and counter-arguments — what has shifted is the responsibility we collectively carry being asked to work with these tools; how it demands different forms of engagement with law’s texts.
This book is an extraordinary, haunting, pungent legal text. It asks for our trust, and reveals promises along the way to alleviate our fears. We know that Joe is going to be all right, he is telling the story. This 13 year-old boy will grow up, go to law school, get married. So stay with me, stay inside me – the story demands — as I journey to understand the place where law lives. It flirts with what it means to tell the truth, and then punishes us hard for daring to believe that finding the truth would mean some kind of resolution or catharsis. It has an issue, an argument, reasons and a ratio, but it has a law that is constantly shifting, moving like a boy on a bike, on a dusty dirt road, in the summer. It points a big crooked finger at the wiindigo, and offers us traditional precedent to justify the murder of a monster, but then it takes. Childhood, parents, a best friend. And leaves the other monsters of the story, the rapist governor, the law that protects whiteness on certain pieces of land, dreams that don’t quite help us find Mayla, hanging in the air, like the Pine-Sol, lemon polish, cigarettes and stalefish smell at Whitey and Sonja’s.
Sometimes when we turn things upside down things fall out of our pockets. Reading The Round House threw me into a childhood cartwheel, but what I found lying on the ground beside me was a crowbar and one gold tassel. It returned me with a crash, to my 50 year old educator self, reminded that colonialism is worn on people’s bodies, and that even if there is a doll stuffed with $100 bills to offer some form of diamond earring, “IV Education” escape (239), that money will always have be traced back to its achingly awful, misogynistic, source. This book is a powerful reminder of the questions that need constantly to be asked and re-asked about legal pluralism in the context of colonialism. The questions are uncomfortable. But in the interrogation of different kinds of sources there are reminders of law’s transformative potential, that in our telling and retelling of law’s stories, we can, as Leanne Simpson writes, rebel, resist, re-imagine.
I left The Round House thinking about traditional territories, about harm, about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, about child welfare, about story-tellers and story-keepers. I also left my time with Louise Erdrich grateful, and scheming a way for all my students to find their way to this book.
Gillian Calder is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Victoria’s faculty of law, the parent of a 13 year old fireball, and whenever possible a rock-climber. Her research interests at the moment are critical legal pedagogy, law’s regulation of the family, and children’s literature as law.