By Rick Garrick

SUDBURY — M’Chigeeng authors Marty Wilson-Trudeau (60s Scoop adoptee) and Phoenix Wilson were recently recognized with the PMC Indigenous Literature Award in the Children’s Category for their Second Story Press children’s book, Phoenix Gets Greater. Joseph Kakwinokanasum, from James Smith Cree Nation, was also recognized with the PMC Indigenous Literature Award in the Young Adult/Adult Category for his Tidewater Press book, My Indian Summer. The two awards were announced by First Nation Communities READ 2023-2024 on Oct. 2.

“It’s absolutely amazing — I’m very honoured and humbled because the other books that were in my category were all fantastic, amazing books written by wonderful authors and illustrators,” says Wilson-Trudeau, a secondary school drama teacher in Sudbury. “Our book is about my youngest son coming out as a two-spirit person and what we did as a family to accept him and make him feel like he could be authentically himself.”

Wilson-Trudeau says it was a great experience working on the book with her son.

“We bonded and we did the exchange of ideas and how to go about writing this and writing that,” Wilson-Trudeau says. “It just kind of strengthened not our mother-son relationship but respecting each other’s ideas, and on that note it strengthened our relationship.”

Wilson-Trudeau says they created the book while Phoenix, who is now pursuing post-secondary studies in Toronto, was in Grade 12.

“It was very quickly written and even more quickly accepted to be made into a book,” Wilson-Trudeau says. “I said to him that I’d really like to write a book because it could help families and other children out there that are two-spirit and he said OK.”

Wilson-Trudeau says she wrote the skeleton of the story and Phoenix added to it that evening.

“The next day, I sent it out to the Second Story Press and she called me within about 20 minutes and said, ‘We’ll take it,’” Wilson-Trudeau says. “It’s a story of bullying and my son growing up always knowing who he was but never coming out and saying it because he was getting bullied, and then him coming out to his brother and myself and us accepting him for who he is. It’s just this beautiful tale of family and acceptance and Phoenix being brave to say who he really was.”

Wilson-Trudeau says she used to write short stories and longer stories and always wanted to be a writer, but she put writing on the back burner to pursue her teaching career.

“The love of writing has always been there, even when I was a young kid,” Wilson-Trudeau says. “There’s a lot of creative aspects [in theatre] but I’m telling somebody else’s story in theatre. This way, when I write a book, I’m telling my own story.”

Wilson-Trudeau says she has had a very positive response from people who have read the book.

“People that I’ve encountered at different writing festivals and my own publisher and the women that work for her [have been] very positive, really wonderful,” Wilson-Trudeau says. “I met this teacher … and when she found out I was the lady who wrote Phoenix Gets Greater, she was like, ‘I read this to my class, it’s amazing.’ So it’s really great to hear the positive effects that this book has had.”

Wilson-Trudeau says working with the editor at Second Story Press was a wonderful learning experience.

“I was very happy with everything,” Wilson-Trudeau says. “As a child, I could have never imagined that I would be here and I would have done this.”

Wilson-Trudeau says she is currently working on a graphic novel based on her experiences as a Sixties Scoop survivor.

“It’s loosely based on my life as a Sixties Scoop survivor and the whole aspect of being lost and not knowing who you are because you’re cut away from your culture,” Wilson-Trudeau says. “[It] will be for older kids so they can really understand how it is to experience loss and loss of culture.”