On Beginnings, Intellectual Generosity, and Gratitude
‘Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.’ Gilda Radner
Fortune, she smiled upon me the day I met Deanna Reder in 2001 at the University of British Columbia. We were graduate students together in the Department of English and each recognized in the other a kindred spirit. I was immediately in awe of Deanna’s intellectual vivacity as much as I was sustained by her warmth, humour, and respectful irreverence, all encompassed in that wonderfully distinctive laugh so integral to any conversation with her. It was the joyful manifestation of an unfailing optimism, of passionate belief in the necessity of a central presence of Indigenous perspectives in the academy, and for the possibilities of change for a more equitable future.
When I joined Wilfrid Laurier University Press as acquisitions editor in 2006, one of my first tasks was to assess and determine a path forward for what was then the Aboriginal Studies series. My primary aim was to centre the series on Indigenous voices and to root it in Indigenous editorial direction. Deanna immediately came to mind as the person ideal for this work. While she was immediately interested in the opportunities such a role offered, she did require some convincing. She was quick to note her status as a newly appointed assistant professor with a PhD just recently completed, but I had confidence that what was required in this case was not necessarily publishing experience but energy, commitment, and a vision, all of which she had in abundance. She gave me the benefit of the doubt and blithely moved forward.
It has been one of the great privileges of my career to work with Deanna in a relationship of mutual mentorship, as a scholar, an editor, an author, and as a friend. When we started this work, I assured her we would learn together, and we have learned so much from one another, though challenges and successes. I am deeply grateful for her trust in me, in Senior Editor Siobhan McMenemy, when I passed to her my editorial responsibilities, and in the Press to take on this work. We are grateful for the opportunity she gave us collectively to support her and contribute what we could to the Indigenous scholarly community in determining the course of their published scholarship.
The Press, the scholarly community at large, and most critically, a generation of Indigenous scholars, have been fortunate to have her guidance, encouragement, and enthusiasm in creating the rich conversation space that is now our Indigenous Studies series. The impact she has made through her tireless efforts in building this series is immeasurable, in the authors and scholars she has nurtured and supported, and in the critical attention to expressions of Indigenous lived experiences and knowledges through literatures and all forms of storytelling that she has advanced.
As Deanna prepares to pass editorship of the series to her successor, I want to express my deepest gratitude for it all. Miigwech, my friend.