Show and Tell: Selections from our Personal Archives and Libraries

How we remember, and what we hold dear, differs from person to person. All of us have personal archives we keep to preserve memories that are precious, that document our families, our histories and record important events. It could be a simple piece of ephemera we love and cannot part with (a ticket stub from our first concert, for example), or photographs of ancestors that offer clues to our origins, or anything we have set aside and saved for a myriad reasons. Similarly, our personal libraries hold volumes that have emotional value to us, not just for the words contained in it, but as a reflection of a time in our lives, we found them particularly relevant. This could be the first book of poetry that made us fall in love with verse, or the dog-eared copy of a classic novel that led us to our current passion for libraries and library work. This blog series explores selections from the personal libraries and archives of members of the Rare Books and Special Collections team, and perhaps other colleagues from UBC Library and beyond. We hope our stories will help you reflect on what is meaningful at this time in your, and in our, collective histories.

— Krisztina Laszlo, Archivist

Hiller Goodspeed, Circulation, Copying and Shelving Assistant

My family’s relationship with my dad’s family has always been a strained one. I know and have met many relatives, but we don’t have a relationship that has continued into my adulthood. In my early 20s, I wanted to work on this, so I connected with various uncles and cousins of mine. My “Uncle Roger” (technically a 2nd cousin) reached back and we began what is now a real friendship.

Uncle Roger is a jack of all trades…to be honest the term “renaissance man” is more fitting, even if embarrassingly so. He’s an experienced architect and lawyer, as well as the family historian. He collects books, art, posters and has lined the walls of his home with framed materials. He also has an antique printing press and darkroom in the basement of his suburban home in New York state. He’s a guy who knows things – weird things and odd facts about a wealth of different topics.

I was delighted at Roger and my burgeoning friendship because I could finally ask someone questions about my family history, in particular one I had about signet ring I inherited from my Grandfather. The inscription on the ring reads “Bona Celeritas” (translated “Good Speed”) and the symbol of a monk reading on horseback. As it turns out, the symbol was taken from Goodspeed’s Book Shop, a preeminent rare bookseller that operated in the Boston area from 1898 to 1995. I learned that familial relations to the bookseller Charles E. Goodspeed are tentative at best, but it could be assumed that we are all descendants of the Roger Goodspeed, who arrived in the Plymouth Colony in 1637.

Claire Williams, Forestry Archivist

I have always loved learning about my grandparents; hearing stories about their families and their lives. Perhaps this was partly due to a set of bedtime stories my Grandmother recorded for my sister and me to listen to while we fell asleep when we very young. I can see the audio-cassettes in my mind, translucent plastic with colorful tape, carefully labeled in my Grandma’s neat penmanship. I don’t know what happened to those cassettes, they may have burned in a house-fire my family had when I was 10. However, I do have a few treasures I’ve collected over the years. It may be my natural inclination to acquire and preserve the records of the past, and pour over the stories they contain, that led me to want to be an archivist. Here is a sample of some of my grand-parents’, great uncle’s, and great-grandparents’ records I’ve held onto.

 

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Being able to tell your own story is powerful. Below, we have pulled out a few memoirs we have at Xwi7xwa Library and available online through UBC catalogue that illustrate the power of Indigenous People telling their own stories.

Halfbreed by Maria Campbell depicts the realities that Campbell endured and, above all, overcame. Maria was born in Northern Saskatchewan, her father the grandson of a Scottish businessman and Métis woman–a niece of Gabriel Dumont whose family fought alongside Riel and Dumont in the 1885 Rebellion; her mother the daughter of a Cree woman and French-American man. This extraordinary account, originally published in 1973, bravely explores the poverty, oppression, alcoholism, addiction, and tragedy Maria endured throughout her childhood and into her early adult life, underscored by living in the margins of a country pervaded by hatred, discrimination, and mistrust.

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma.

From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle is the winner of the 2020 Indigenous Voices-Memoir category. It is an heartwarming and heartbreaking exploration of what it means to live in a society surrounded by prejudice and racism and to be cast adrift, and in the end, about how love and support can help one find happiness despite the odds.

Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel by Lee Maracle is a gritty portrait of a turbulent home life and harrowing adventures on the road, from the mud flats of North Vancouver to the farm fields of California and the fringes of the hippie subculture in Toronto. Renowned author Lee Maracle’s groundbreaking biographical novel captures the spirit of Indigenous resistance during the Red Power movement of the 60s and 70s, chronicling a journey towards political consciousness in the movement for self-determination.

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience by Helen Knott is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption.

Creating Space: My Life and Work in Indigenous Education by Verna J. Kirkness reveals the challenges and misgivings, the burning questions, the successes and failures that have shaped the life of this extraordinary woman and the history of Indigenous education in Canada.

One Story, One Song by Richard Wagamese invites readers to accompany him on his travels. His focus is on stories: how they shape us, how they empower us, how they change our lives. Ancient and contemporary, cultural and spiritual, funny and sad, the tales are grouped according to the four Ojibway storytelling principles: balance, harmony, knowledge and intuition.

Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl by Anahareo; edited by Sophie McCall captures Anahareo’s and her husband Grey Owl’s extensive travels through the bush and their work towards environmental and wildlife protection. This autobiography covers the daily life of an extraordinary Mohawk woman whose independence, intellect, and moral conviction had direct influence on Grey Owl’s conversion from trapper to conservationist.

Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes is told in layers that blend Indigenous stories and metaphor with social and spiritual journeys, this enchanting memoir traces the author’s life from her difficult childhood growing up in the Tlingit community, through her adulthood, during which she lived for some time in Seattle and San Francisco, and eventually to her return home.

The Library has launched an on-campus pick-up service to enable UBC students, faculty and staff to access items in the collection that are not available in electronic formats.

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