I was anxious when I opened the package and looked at the book for the first time. I have never written a textbook before. I’ve written curriculum for years but writing a textbook gave me an especially worrisome case of “who do you think you?” It wasn’t a unique feeling; I get it every time I publish a book.
Every book feels like a good idea when I start out. Then I bury myself in writing and don’t create the space to think about whether I should have started it in the first place. But it’s always the same; when I open the package my stomach ties itself in a knot and I get lost in a flurry of self-doubt and an assault of “is it perfect?” sorts of questions.
It turns out each one has a glitch…something I wish were different. This one doesn’t have anything on the spine. How did that happen? The first book I wrote had a disconcertingly orange cover and I couldn’t make peace with it. We redid it for the second printing so I’ve put that behind me, but there is always something.
My new-book anxiety prevents me from reading my books for a few weeks; wonder if I find a huge mistake?
But Making Change contains many voices other than mine. It is a result of teaching for a dozen years or so and even my voice is mostly what I’ve learned from the students’ assignments and discussions. The other contributors to the book are Hwiem’, Marlene Rice, a Cowichan elder, Qwuy’um’aat, Eyvette Elliott, a brilliant young Cowichan woman, Frank French, from the Chippewas of the Thames and Simuletse, Stuart Pagaduan, the Cowichan artist who did the illustrations and who summed up the content on the back cover. So while Making Change is mine, because I put it together, it’s not only mine. In one way that makes it even more worrisome because I want the book to honour the amazing contributors and I want them all to love it.
My anxieties aside, the multiple voices and perspectives make it a textbook with a difference. It sheds a light on the complexities of managing housing on reserves. It dignifies the hundreds of housing managers across the country who are working within a colonial system that was not designed to be successful yet who are still finding ways to make profound change. The rich contributions invite you inside the struggle so you can share in the solutions—a place most people never visit. You could skip the bulleted lists of how to manage meetings or communicate with tenants and just look at Marlene, Eyvette and Frank’s grey boxes. They are worth the read.
If you aren’t someone who reads management textbooks and who is unlikely to purchase Making Change from Vancouver Island University let me share with you the back cover, by Simuletse, Stuart Pagaduan, which sums it up beautifully.
“Our houses are not just physical places that keep us warm. Our people have always had a spiritual connection to our homes. The beautiful cedar beams are seen as living beings, not just something to make a roof.
In modern times the housing conditions we have experienced have been part of the great displacement of our people—fragmenting how we live—the way we practice our culture, the way we prepare our food, the way we live together as families—the conditions have been a total game changer and we are still reeling from the effects. Housing causes us conflict in ways we don’t always even understand.
Housing managers have been forced to work in a system with unequal opportunities, a lack of adequate funding and often not even enough support from their own Chiefs and Councils. It seems like no one wants to really address the problem it is so daunting.
But there are some really good people stepping up and making the change that needs to happen—housing managers across the country who are not willing to settle for less with low expectations. They are adopting new ways of thinking that are uplifting our spirits. They are making the change needed so we can pass on new and positive feelings and thoughts about housing to our children.”