Dene author Katłįà Lafferty is publishing her third novel, this time with a message about the northern housing system.
Lafferty’s first book, Northern Wildflower, was published in 2018. The memoir told the story of growing up as a Dene woman in the North, dealing with intergenerational trauma, addiction, love and poverty.
The author’s second book, Land-Water-Sky, explored colonialism, climate change and domestic violence. Her third book, This House is Not a Home, explores colonialism and the housing crisis in northern Canada, she told Cabin Radio.
Lafferty’s book launch will be held at the Yellowknife Public Library on Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Read a transcript of Cabin Radio’s full interview with Lafferty below. The transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.
Megan Miskiman: What is your new book about?
Katłįà Lafferty: In short, it is about the housing system in northern Canada. I took inspiration from true events in the north and the dispossession of tribal peoples and turned it into a fictional novel that really describes how the government stepped in and swept tribal peoples right under the rug. their homes and their ability to be out in the country as much as they chose, incorporating a new way of life that the Dene people did not accept. The housing system is going through a crisis right now and I really wanted to highlight the importance of this from a perspective where you actually understand what a family is going through.
What was the process of writing the book like for you?
I was doing the edits for Land-Water-Sky, my novel before the new one, and I just knew I wanted to keep going. I started with the story of the main character, who went hunting with his family for six weeks in the fall. When he came back, his house had been leveled. This is actually something that happened to a family I know in the housing system in the 1980’s. It really wasn’t that long ago that these things happened. I wanted to make sure that’s out there and that people in the mainstream public are educated on what’s happening up north.
How is your third book different from the first two?
Well I guess I’m getting better at it – I hope so anyway! It’s not such a big deal anymore I guess. At Northern Wildflower everyone made a huge deal out of it and it was really accepted. I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to be published. It’s not easy, and it’s been a struggle to get my voice out there, but now that I have this platform I really need to make sure I’m accountable for it and – since I’m the chair of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation housing committee and also growing up in housing – I have an understanding from within. I know from personal experience how that feels.
What are your hopes for the outcome of the publication of this book?
I just want the readers to be enlightened. The timeline is a bit messed up, and some people might say, “Well, you shifted the timing,” but it’s fiction, so I’m allowed to play with it a bit. I wanted to include from the early days when settlers came north to the present day just so they can really understand what it was like for the Dene people here to be dispossessed and not for pity but for Indigenous people People feel empowered – to know that there can be change and together we can come together and take back the land.
Here we are. We’re really looking at indigenous titles, especially in the north. We don’t have reserves here and so I think it’s been a development that’s moved over time from federal government to provincial government to local government and it’s time we really sit down and look at: ‘Where is the foundation here and who really has rights to the land?’
What is your plan for the book launch?
We’re going to have William Greenland, my friend, come and do an introduction and talk a little bit about the housing system from his perspective and also play us a song, which will be really nice. He plays the flute and is just great. Then I will have another friend, Gail Cyr, who will read an excerpt from the book. She’s an actress by training, so she’s going to do a lot of really great reads. Then we’ll probably do a sharing circle to talk about housing.