An Ahousaht college student is pleased to announce that his first children’s book is off to the publisher and online book sales are taking off.
Ren Louie is about to start his fourth and final year in the Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Victoria and he already has a budding career as an author of children’s books.
Louie’s first book, Drum from the Heart, is off to the publisher and will be released in February 2022. Medicine Wheel Education is accepting preorders for the book on their website and sales are doing well, according to a relieved Louie.
It was 2019 while Ren was working at a school when he first thought about writing a book.
“I talked to the librarian, and she said she was having trouble finding books for children that are not rooted in Aboriginal trauma,” he recalled. The subject came up again the following National Aboriginal Day.
There are very few books about Indigenous people and culture for children.
“I thought I’d write something about how I started singing,” said Louie. He said he wanted his story to inspire aboriginal resurgence and celebrate their brilliance.
He went to work, writing four rough drafts before sending a manuscript off to Medicine Wheel Education publishers.
Louie, at first, was worried that his writing would come off stale or predictable, but he was assured by the publisher that they were eager to work with him. The publisher told him that the types of concerns Louie had are common for new authors.
Four more rough drafts were written before the book was deemed ready to send to illustrator, Karlene Harvey.
Drum from the Heart is written for seven to 10-year-old children. It tells the story of a boy, proud of his culture and of his love for his mother and grandmother.
“When he is gifted a handmade drum by his mother, Ren learns the teachings of the drum that are also passed down to him. He discovers that through this special drum, he is able to connect to his culture and find a confidence in his voice to joyfully share in singing the traditional songs of his Nuu-chah-nulth nation,” reads the publisher’s webpage about the book.
“This book is intended for children of all cultures,” said Louie, adding that he hopes youngsters will be inspired to learn about their own cultures after reading his book.
According to Louie, fewer than 1 per cent of books available to children feature Indigenous content.
“We are underrepresented and sometimes misrepresented in the books that are currently available,” said Louie. “I will absolutely write more books.”
He hopes other Indigenous people will write stories to grow the number of these types of books for children.
Louie has a few manuscripts on the go.
“I would love to see books on the bookshelves showcasing our stories,” he added. He says there is a need for authentic representation of Indigenous people in literature.
And, while stories of trauma are important, it is also important to share uplifting stories like Drum from the Heart, which speaks to the love he experiences between him, his mother and grandmother.
“My grandma went to residential school, and she knew our songs, but she never sang in public,” said Louie. “But she passed those songs to me, and I am so grateful.”
Louie’s debut book will be released Feb. 1, 2022.
The 34-page colorfully illustrated book is available for preorder on the Medicine Wheel Education website at a cost of $16.99 plus shipping and handling.
Louie believes the price may change once the book is launched.