Back one year later, thinking about the Attawapiskat First Nation. Its Chief, Theresa Spence, is heading into her 12th day of a hunger strike,
an act of leadership and heroism that has coincided with the explosion of the #IdleNoMore
movement. I'm urging all Canadians reading this to join in solidarity with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in a call for dialogue, collaboration and action. Demand that PM Harper meet with Chief Theresa Spence
to make meaningful, immediate progress on the issues of poverty, climate degradation, social injustice and political disenfranchisement that continue to plague Canada's First Nations - and all Canadian people - and erode Canada's democracy. ETA, 11/22/11:
The Attawapiskat First Nation, located just north along the shore of James Bay from the setting of Through Black Spruce
and mentioned in several different places in the novel,is in crisis. A state of emergency has been declared
as a result of "'Third-World' living conditions" in which the 2,000 residents, many of whom are children and elders, have no running water, poor or no sanitation facilities, and sub-standard housing. And, it's winter.
This story has barely made the headlines in the mainstream press, and in the three weeks since the emergency was declared, there has been absolutely NO ACTION on the part of federal or provincial governments to respond.
Read this, and weep: What if They Declared an Emergency and No One Came?
Then, please consider signing this
Happy to have made this the final book in my 2011 GR reading challenge. Great characters, unique setting, remarkable dialogue and voice. Highly authentic evocation of the Canadian Aboriginal perspective and experience from a bunch of different angles - deeply moving, atmospheric, a spiritual journey embedded in a real one (two, actually) across the rural northern landscape and the southern cities of Toronto, Montreal, NYC. The structure - two voices, uncle and niece - telling each other their stories in alternating chapters was beautifully handled, never gimmicky. The dialogue
was so authentic -- I have northern Ontario ears (slightly out of practice), and I could hear these voices clear as ice in my head.
Ever good, eh?
So much to love - but here's the nub of it, my favourite thing, the most horrible thing really but this novel nailed it so perfectly and with such subtle power: the subjugation of Aboriginal culture, spiritual identity, individual personality, the vitality and destruction of family relationships, the impossibility of assimilation leading to the obliteration of choice, cultural genocide -- these horrific, heartbreaking things ran like a river through this book at a visceral, yet submerged, only rarely surfacing, level. Never hammer-over-the-head political, but there - as theme, as imagery, as symbolism, as setting. So bleak, and yet also strangely optimistic (by the end), or perhaps the better description is resilient. Just a huge testament to resiliency, and therefore hopeful. Every now and then, I thought: this book is treading dangerously close to cliche. Symbolically (I mean, c'mon - the bears? the stoic, silent Indian?). Yet, every time I heard a slight warning bell in my head, the authenticity of the voice, the veracity of the detail, won me back over.
And at the heart of it, a great story.
Truly, truly love this book.