Media Release: Powerful First Nations Speaker Places Resilience at the Heart of Life’s Work

Tilly by Monica Gray Smith

Tilly by Monica Gray Smith

When Monique Gray Smith shares her message at the Brain Development and Learning Conference in Vancouver July 24-28, she will truly have come full circle. “So many wise and wonderful people helped me during my recovery [from alcohol addiction]. What a gift to be able to give back to the community by sharing some of what I have learned.”

Now a successful author, consultant, and motivational speaker, Gray Smith has come a long way from the 11-year-old girl who began drinking with friends during school lunch breaks. And yet, somewhere inside was a core of strength and determination that allowed her to mature into a thoughtful, articulate communicator who is constantly amazed and delighted by how powerful Indigenous teachings, families, and communities can be. Her talks at the conference will focus on encouraging health care and educational professionals to weave Indigenous culture into all aspects of their programming and practice.

Though the Brain Development and Learning Conference is open only to professionals in the field, anyone can pick up a copy of Gray Smith’s book, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience. Members of the public will have a chance to meet Monique Gray Smith and purchase her book during a signing at the Westin Bayshore Hotel [see details below].

Published as a work of creative non-fiction, Tilly is loosely based on the author’s life experiences. “Like Tilly I began to drink at the age of eleven,” Smith admits. And, like Tilly, it didn’t take long before Smith’s drinking was a problem. Gray Smith, too, was blessed with encounters with people who helped her not only find a way to recovery, but also to a deeper understanding of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“What struck me was just how resilient our communities are,” Gray Smith says, describing how her life’s work as a consultant and motivational speaker now focuses on ways for communities to heal and move forward. “Nurturing, loving, and fostering the potential of each and every child is one of the most profound ways to make a positive difference in the world. Doing that in an appropriate cultural context is essential.” Her talks at the Brain and Learning Conference will explore these ideas, but her book, Tilly shares this message in a very personal way.

“Yes, there is a lot of my story in Tilly,” she says, “but as I wrote the book, the stories of many others came to me as well and I feel honoured to share them with a wider audience.” In Tilly, characters speak about the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and TB hospitals. They also talk about the importance of traditional teachings, dreams, family, and community. Though written from an Indigenous perspective, in fact, the lessons learned apply equally to anyone interested in building stronger communities.

Monique Gray Smith will be signing copies of her book Tilly at:

Westin Bayshore Hotel – Market Area

1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver, BC

Thursday July 25: 12:45 – 1:30 pm and 4:00 – 4:30 pm

Friday July 26: 11:00 – 11:30 am

What People Are Saying…

“What a gorgeous read! Wow! I’ve been waiting for a book like this for years. Mahsi cho, Monique Gray Smith, for digging so deep to create something so loving and nurturing for the world.” Richard Van Camp

I have a completely new understanding of what it means to be Aboriginal in Canada.” Rachel Franklin

A brave new voice ready to take her place among the great contemporary storytellers, Gray Smith breaks her own trails as she explores what it means to be Indigenous in a modern world.” Christy Jordan-Fenton

To request review copies or arrange author interviews, please contact Diane Morriss at 1-800-370-5228 or

About the Book:

Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience

Tilly has always known she’s part Lakota on her dad’s side. She’s grown up with the traditional teachings of her grandma, relishing the life lessons of her beloved mentor. But it isn’t until an angry man shouts something on the street that Tilly realizes her mom is Aboriginal, too—a Cree woman taken from her own parents as a baby.

Tilly feels her mother’s pain deeply. She’s always had trouble fitting in at school, and when her grandma dies unexpectedly, her anchor is gone. Then Abby, a grade seven classmate, invites her home for lunch and offers her “something special” to drink. Nothing has prepared Tilly for the tingling in her legs, the buzz in her head and the awesome feeling that she can do anything. From then on, partying seems to offer an escape from her insecurities. But after one dangerously drunken evening, Tilly knows she has to change. Summoning her courage, she begins the long journey to finding pride in herself and her heritage. Just when she needs it most, a mysterious stranger offers some wise counsel: “Never question who you are or who your people are. It’s in your eyes. I know it’s in your heart.”

Loosely based on author Monique Gray Smith’s own life, this revealing, important work of creative non-fiction tells the story of a young Indigenous woman coming of age in Canada in the 1980s. With compassion, insight and humour, Gray Smith illuminates the 20th-century history of Canada’s First Peoples—forced displacement, residen­tial schools, tuberculosis hospitals, the Sixties Scoop. In a spirit of hope, this unique story captures the irrepressible resilience of Tilly, and of Indigenous peoples everywhere.

CREATIVE NON-FICTION • Ages 14+ • 190 pp • 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN 978-1-55039-209-8 • paper • $19.95 • July 2013 release

About the Author:

Monique Gray Smith holds a diploma in psychiatric nursing and is an expert in aboriginal education in the early years. She  is a mixed-heritage woman of Cree, Lakota and Scottish ancestry and a proud mom of young twins. Under the umbrella of her own business, Little Drum Consulting, Monique is an accomplished consultant, writer and international speaker. She is well known for her warmth, spirit of generosity and focus on resilience. Monique has been sober and involved in her healing journey for over 20 years. She and her family live on Coast Salish territory in Victoria, B.C.

CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDITS in over 20 professional fields

31.5 hours, Category 1 CME credits available for both the US & Canada
Conference brochure:
To Register:
SAVE MONEY: Scholarships are available.

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