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Ma-Nee Chacaby // Photo: Ruth Kivilahti

Ma-Nee Chacaby. // Photo by Ruth Kivilahti

Powerful memoir by Ojibwa-Cree Elder is a finalist for two literary awards

March 30, 2017 — 

A Two-Spirit Journey, a powerful memoir by lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder Ma-Nee Chacaby, is a finalist for two literary awards.

Published by the University of Manitoba Press, this autobiography explores the Elder’s life and her struggle to overcome the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism. It was published via the U of M Press’ Critical Studies in Native History Series, which is edited by Robin Jarvis Brownlie, professor of history at the U of M.

The book is a finalist in the Lesbian Memoir/Biography category of the Lambda Literary Awards, one of the oldest and largest organizations advancing LGBTQ literature. Winners of the “Lammys” will be announced at a gala in New York City on June 12.

It is also a finalist for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. This award recognizes outstanding writing from the transgender and gender-nonconforming community and is one of seven awards presented by. The Publishing Triangle. The awards ceremony will be in New York City on April 27.

“Ma-Nee Chacaby’s story is courageous and inspiring and we are proud to have published A Two-Spirit Journey,” says David Carr, director of U of M Press. “U of M Press is well known for its many books by Indigenous authors, and it is exciting to have new books like hers that explore this part of Indigenous experience.”


Ma-Nee Chacaby // Photo: Ruth Kivilahti

Ma-Nee Chacaby // Photo: Ruth Kivilahti

A Two-Spirit Journey is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote Ojibwa community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.

As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and in her teen years became alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counsellor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian. In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in Thunder Bay.

Raised by her Cree grandmother in a remote Ojibwa community near Lake Nipigon, Ont., Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humour, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people.


As Two-Spirited People of Manitoba Inc. says: Two-Spirit is a term used to describe Aboriginal people who assume cross-, or multiple gender roles, attributes, dress and attitudes for personal, spiritual, cultural, ceremonial or social reasons. These roles are defined by each cultural group and can be fluid over a person’s lifetime. Modern terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and intersected (in combination with, or exclusive to, Two-Spirit) may be adopted by some Aboriginal people to define who they are.


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