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review 2017-11-22 20:20
Surprisingly entertaining Canadian & Cree First Nations read about overcoming your past and owning your power.
Strangers - David Alexander Robertson

Disclaimers: I'm reviewing an uncorrected proof ebook version acquired via NetGalley, I'm choosing to leave an unbiased review, and I'm not qualified to comment in-depth on aboriginal representation.

 

More disclaimers: Um, so I just want to note for the record that I already named characters Cole and Ash in BLIND THE EYES before I read this book. No plagiarism. I guess Canadian authors just think alike? lol.

 

I loved this WAY more than I expected to. To get a few critiques out of the way, the cover looks a little off to me (more indie or MG maybe?), so I wasn't expecting a lot of polish. The first few pages are also a little disorienting, because the author launches with a different perspective from the main POV, incorporates supernatural elements immediately without explanation, and references past events without backstory at first. All of which turns out to be great in the scope of the story, but it feels like jumping in the deep end.

 

This is the story of a 17yo Cree First Nations teen who left his rural home community in elementary school and is attending high school in Winnipeg at the time the story opens. A supernatural being is trying to lure him back to his hometown. His aunt and grandmother don't want him to return for reasons that aren't explained at first, but we discover that there's past trauma and bullying to contend with. Cole also has some superior abilities that may be more than natural. There's a lot going on in the plot:

 

-trickster spirits, ghosts, unexplained supernatural/paranormal phenomena
-murder mystery/thriller
-romance? maybe?
-bullying, trauma & clinical anxiety (incl. struggles with medication)
-rural vs. city enmities/tension
-First Nations/aboriginal experience (on/off reserve, resourcing, discrimination)

 

As a Canadian, and as someone who actually lived in Winnipeg during her childhood, there was a lot that felt familiar in this, including issues raised that I'm not sure if a foreign reader would pick up on or not. The author (based on his Goodreads bio) does live in Winnipeg and is a member of a Cree First Nation, so this is an #ownvoices book with (to the best of my knowledge) good representation.

 

I liked how the struggles that First Nations people experience within Canadian society were included within the scope of the story, but that the focus was on the characters and their experiences. It can be hard to write good fiction that represents real-world issues without breaking character or bogging down/diverting the plot (see: preachy dystopias for one), so I thought Robertson did an excellent job of including accurate world-building in service of the story. For instance, there are medical emergencies in the scope of the story, and it's referenced a few times how help is requested but the government takes a long time to respond, ignores the pleas, or doesn't send the help needed in a timely manner. Remote communities struggle for resources and lose people to the cities where there's more opportunity, jobs etc.

 

Some Cree words are used (and translated in place), some ritual and beliefs are incorporated, but the narrative doesn't suffer at all from the exoticisation of aboriginal culture. (Though maybe American readers will feel like it's "exotic" Canadian culture?) If anything, the hockey-playing, tiny-remote-community, one-restaurant-in-town setting felt so recognizable to me that it would have been boring if not for the strong character writing and murdery-plot.

 

Cole and his friends are relatable as teenagers struggling with a variety of issues: tragic pasts, tension with childhood friendships left behind, current identity and past identity, sexual identity and relationships, trust issues with adults who're keeping secrets . . . Also, the writing of "Choch" the trickster-spirit was hilarious. That's probably what tipped this story from a good read to "when's the sequel coming out?" for me. His clowning felt instantly recognizable and, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious. It was a great counterpoint to the dark thriller plot that could have headed into way more emo territory without him.

 

I'm totally down for reading a sequel/series about a Canadian First Nations teen with superpowers and his trickster spirit sidekick/tormenter/guide/whatever.

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review 2016-02-04 17:10
The Inconvenient Indian / Thomas King
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America - Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
 
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
 
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope -- a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.

 

”[For] me at least, writing a novel is buttering warm toast, while writing a history is herding porcupines with your elbows.”


I might never have read this book, had it not been a selection for my real-life book club. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s novel The Back of the Turtle last year—it was one of my 5 star selections. His humour and style are both very appealing to me and reading it was like buttering warm toast. But I’m not much of a non-fiction history reader. I feel like I did my time reading history while taking my Canadian Studies degree, and now I want to concentrate on fiction and non-history non-fiction, if you understand me there.

So, I approached this book with trepidation. And what can I possibly say about Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian? It is well written—I would expect nothing less from so able an author. He herded his porcupines well.

It is tough. Tough on the dominant society, as it should be. For me, it was tough to read. I imagine as a white Canadian reading this, I felt very much like men feel when they read feminist critiques of modern society. A bit bewildered—okay, I know that things need to change, but how? I didn’t come out of this book with a clear idea of what should be done or if there is anything that I can do to improve the situation.

I would have appreciated a bibliography or a few notes or something—to point me to other reading material should I decide to pursue one of the topics he references.

An important book in the Canadian conversation and one that should be read widely, perhaps taught in our high schools.

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review 2015-08-14 04:53
Tiddalick: The Frog Who Caused a Flood
Tiddalick - Robert Roennfeldt

This was a kids story my husband remembered from his own childhood, and we've been looking for it on and off for quite some time; on a quick errand for a friend yesterday, MT saw it on a shelf while he was waiting in a line.

 

Based on an Australian Aboriginal story, Tiddalick is a frog that drank all the water in the land, and the other animals had to figure out how to make him laugh, so he'd let all the water back out.  I figured he'd eventually have to pee it back out, but that would make for a less dramatic ending, I guess.

 

It's a cute story, and it's well illustrated, and it made me smile at the end.

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text 2014-08-15 13:32
Thoughts on place of scraps
The Place of Scraps - Jordan Abel

Dedicated to the Indigenous peoples of North America, the place of scraps juxtaposes poetry and visual art with excerpts from Marius Barbeau’s "classic" anthropological study Totem Poles.

 

Text and black and white photographs collide. 

A full set of paragraphs on one page is presented on the following page with only select words evident, suggesting a new meaning. 

The ‘his’ of history appears like a settler’s declarative statement upon arrival in a homeland.

 

Sometimes only the punctuation remains, and readers must wonder at the decision, for instance, to include the indigenous language only in parentheses in Barbeau's work.

 

Curators and collectors claimed articles as small as beads and as large as totem poles, often in the name of preservation not extermination, and Jordan Abel invites readers to reconsider elements of this his-torical process and its legacy for today’s descendants.

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text 2014-06-06 08:44
10 Dark Secrets Australia Doesn’t Want You To Know - Post found at BuzzFeed

*edit - note from Imagine* This is something i was never taught it school even though it is a part of my country's history. i feel like that is a crime and injustice. and hope that we can change. help me by re-posting this.

 

1. Highest rates of Child Suicide in the World.

child suicide

Australia is home to the highest rates of Child suicide in the world. Please don’t be confused, this is not the national rate. I am talking about rates inside Aboriginal communities. 20 years ago, suicide in Aboriginal communities was unheard of, but with increased government pressure on remote communities it became more prevalent since the year 2000 and the numbers went off the charts after the governments military backed intervention (that breached human rights) started in 2007.

It was found that child suicide increased by 500% in 12 months after the intervention started. The Intervention is still happening now after the government decided it was worthwhile to extend it for 10 years.

 

2. Worlds lowest life expectancy rates

Life expectancy in some Australian Aboriginal communities is less than or equal to 3rd world countries in sub-Saharan west Africa (around 37-40 years).

 

3. Black Imprisonment rates 5-8 times higher than in South Africa during Apartheid

gail

Incarceration rates of Black Australians are 5-9 times higher than the rate of incarceration for Blacks in South Africa during the last 10 years of Apartheid. This is the most complicated topic to explain. Of course there are some Indigenous Australians who should be locked up. However there are thousands of men and women who are in jail for breaking laws that only apply to Indigenous Australians (such as drinking laws). Many are also affected by mandatory sentencing laws which sees the power of discretion taken away from the judge and subsequently forces many first time offenders straight to jail. Other reasons include simply missing a court date due to travel requirements or ill health.

 

4. First attempt at Genocide

In 1911, 123 years after the British Illegal Arrival, the Indigenous population had dropped from 750,000 to just 31,000! The official explanation is “disease” but when you dig deeper you will learn of the frontier wars and massacres, many of which are documented but strangely denied and not recognized by the government to this very day.

bloody hell

 

5. Second attempt at Genocide (Breeding us out)

In 1997, the Australian Government found itself guilty of Genocide (Bringing them ome report). 
The report focused on the policy known as the stolen generation (forced removal of Aboriginal children) after the report went public, all that was offered to victims and their families was an apology with no chance for compensation of any kind and right now in 2014 the Government is taking more children from black families than ever before!

The belief was and still remains that if a child is brought up in a white family they will go on to marry a white partner and the colour of their children and grandchildren will be lost within 2 or 3 generations.

stolen generation

 

6. War & Massacres

Most Australians will tell you that Australia has never been home to any wars. That is what is taught In Australian schools, but it is simply not true. From the late 18th century until the mid 20th century many wars and massacres occurred. Some conflicts lasted no more than a week while other conflicts lasted for over 5 years. Australians are proud of their recent war history overseas and it is commemorated each year, but when we try to honor our own black warriors who died on home soil, we are stopped by a line of police EVERY YEAR!

 

7. Australia Day is Invasion day

Australia’s national day (Australia day) is on the anniversary date of the illegal arrival of the English settlers. When you think of what this arrival meant to Indigenous Australians you know it’s not a day to celebrate and Australia refuses to change the date while at the same time claiming to be working towards reconciliation!

 

8. No Democracy for Blacks

When we try to have our voices heard by the world we are continually met by walls of police who together with the nations media, systematically silence us. What is the problem with peacefully marching through a park (pictured) on Australia day to remind people of the insensitivity it promotes? In May, when Prince William and Kate came to Australia many Indigenous Australians were removed from crowds and denied the chance to communicate (with protest signs) against the illegal occupation. Don’t preach democracy if you can’t let me be Aboriginal.

 

9. The Final Attempt at Genocide Happening Right Now

Lets see the facts:

Excerpt from the Convention on the Prevention and 
Punishment of Genocide.
“Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

© Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The government is still guilty of Genocide under part C and E of the convention on the prevention of genocide. Dark secret 5 highlighted how the government is now stealing more aboriginal Children than ever before. Now I want to shed some light on how the government is guilty of part C.

The government can no longer chain us up or contain us in concentration camps like in years gone by. So now they are trying to destroy our communities in a variety of different ways, in the hope that we will relocate to major towns. Here are some examples in point form:

  • Cutting off basic medical needs.
  • Ignoring needs for basic infrastructure such as public transport.
  • Labelling remote communities as pedophile breeding grounds (In the media and with suggestive warning signs at the entrance of remote communities).
  • Taking away community work programs.
  • Neglecting aboriginal housing programs.
  • Withholding and freezing bank accounts.

All of the measures have been implemented for one main goal. The government wants to completely put an end to Indigenous Australians living on our traditional home lands.
They want us in larger towns, living, working and following their western values. Reports show that we are far more healthier and happier when we live traditionally on our home lands, however the government does not respect our desires for health and happiness as that would mean, letting us stand in the way of their quest to mine our mineral rich land that we never ever want taken away.

What the government fails to understand is that our connection to our country is real and strong. No matter how dire our communities become we will never leave, but unfortunately the younger generation is failing to cope under the current neglectful measures now in place. Even children from war torn countries have more hope for the future.

This is truly the final attempt at Genocide on my people and it can only end in two ways:

  • An international intervention to stop the illegal freeloading government.
    *Allowing the illegal government to win and let our race die out completely.

 

 

10. Government censoring (My story)

my story

 

Australia is a huge land and it has always been impossible to communicate and unite with all Indigenous Australians.
The world never heard our screams in the early days of invasion and up until now, most of the world is unaware of the history and plight of indigenous Australians. Many people believe that white people naturally come from Australia or they don’t even know that we (Aboriginals) still exist. But now social media has given us a way to have our voices heard. In the last 2 years many indigenous Australians have gained access to social media and I recognized that this would be a great way to bring our people together, share our stories and unite and fight against the oppressive government and restore hope for our future. Unfortunately the government also sees the potential for us to be successful in this way and 
subsequently any facebook page with lots of public support that organizes nation wide rallies and protests suddenly becomes “blocked” to all Australians without any explanation. 
Also pages that I run have continually been attacked with racist posts and pictures, while death threats have also been “In-boxed” on many occasions.

 

(*Edit - Another not from Imagine* while i dont 100% agree with everything that said in this article, i do know some of it is a sad fact about Australia that needs to be shared. 

Now before you believe or dis-believe anything in this article I ask that you do your own research and come to your own conclusions. as i have, though this article is a good starting point for getting the message out there.)

 

For the rest of this article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/pemulwuy/10-dark-secrets-australia-doesnt-want-you-to-know-pz24

 

 

 
Source: www.buzzfeed.com/pemulwuy/10-dark-secrets-australia-doesnt-want-you-to-know-pz24
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