Tunchai Redvers' Fireweed (Kegedonce Press) is an unmissable powerhouse of a debut. A poetry book that is literally dedicated to the Indigenous youth who Redvers works with through her non-profit organization, the four-part collection is wise, raw, and precise in its language as it explores the trauma, individual and collective, experienced by Indigenous people.
A two-spirit writer of the Deninu K’ue First Nation, Redvers uses the image of fireweed, a northern flower, to delve into hurt, healing, and identity. Her final section is titled "Seeds: the spreading", showing her hopeful and determined approach to an improved future with Indigenous people centred in their own stories.
We're thrilled to welcome Tunchai to Open Book today, where she shares with us through our Dirty Dozen challenge, where we ask writers to reveal 12 little-known facts about themselves. Tunchai's responses brim with charm and wisdom; this is a writer you'll want to follow closely. She tells us about the meaning of her name and how it connects to the collection, the very easy grocery list you could use to prep for hosting her, and her favourite (and very relatable) method of self-care.
The Dirty Dozen with Tunchai Redvers
1. As a teen, I was super into Russian historical fiction. I don’t entirely know what about this super specific genre I found so fascinating and entertaining, but I loved a good romance wrapped up in turbulent socio-political contexts. My favourite book from this time was called The Russian Concubine, and I was super upset when I accidentally left my copy behind at a hotel in India while travelling.
2. I really disliked my name growing up. It was so different, and any time someone tried to pronounce it or say it, they got it wrong or made a huge deal out of it. I would often get bullied because of the mispronunciations. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable with my name, and over time I began to reclaim it. I love my name now, and think it is so special to carry a name in my traditional language. It means “flower”, and fittingly, my first book – which is the story of my healing – has a flower as the title of it.
3. When I was 16, my dream/goal in life was to start a non-profit organization. I had no idea this would actually happen only a number of years later. At 21, I started a non-profit organization with my brother – and now I get to lead an amazing national team of folks dedicated to promoting life among Indigenous youth!
4. The foundation of my diet consists of hummus and soda water, and everyone who knows me, knows this.
5. Crying is my preferred method of releasing emotions, experiences, or energies on a regular basis. I cry when I’m happy, grateful, sad, overwhelmed, angry, tired, and so on. It’s great for sinking into emotions and letting go of things. Sometimes if I feel like I need to cry, I’ll watch a sad movie to help facilitate the tears.
6. I’m a drag king performer! I perform throughout Toronto and sometimes travel for gigs as well. I love representing as an Indigenous king, and performing is something that brings me so much joy.
7. I never knew any of my grandparents. This was always something that I’ve had to navigate and reconcile with – because that meaningful grandparent connection was something I saw so many others have, and I didn’t.
8. Putting pesto on grilled cheese is the best thing you’ll ever do. It’s all about the perfect bread to cheese to pesto ratio.
9. I love to travel. I love to consider myself a nomad, just like my ancestors, but instead a nomad that roams beyond my traditional, home territories. I tend to feel fairly comfortable and extra curious in environments that are outside of my general comfort zone or reality. I love learning and sharing culture, and think it’s so beautiful when we can build cross-cultural connections.
10. I used to play competitive hockey and boxed for a number of years! I need an equal balance of creative/emotional and athletic/physical outlets in my life.
11. I have many tattoos. Tattoos for me, are a way to reclaim my body, exert autonomy, and tell my story.
12. I am horrible with technology, and despite being good at social media sharing and branding, it actually gives me quite a bit of anxiety. I would prefer to live without phones and constant connectivity, but we’ve become so dependent on it as a society and within our own relationships. My favourite self-care is to disconnect, to put away the phone, social media, and laptop, and reconnect with my self, my body, the land, and people around me.
If you loved meeting Tunchai Redvers through the Dirty Dozen series, be sure to check out her collection Fireweed (Kegedonce Press)
Tunchai Redvers known to spirit as White Feather Woman, is a two-spirit social justice warrior, writer, and wanderer belonging to Deninu K’ue First Nation. With Dene, Métis, and Scottish roots on her maternal side and English, Italian, and Irish roots on her paternal side, she was born and raised in Treaty 8 territory, Northwest Territories. Now living in southern Ontario, she is the co-founder of We Matter, a national organization dedicated to Indigenous youth hope and life promotion. Recognized nationally and internationally for her work, her advocacy and writing centres the reclamation and indigenization of identity, mental health, and healing. She spends most of her time resisting, loving, and travelling across territories, and considers herself a nomad just like her ancestors. She finds safety in the words: be proud of who you are, be thankful for those who love and guide you, and never forget where you came from.