My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: March 26th, 2019
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Recommended Age: 15+
Genres & Themes: Nonfiction, Essays, Indigenous Issues, Canada, Racism, Coming of Age, Poverty, Sexual Assault
I try to read both fiction and non-fiction books with a variety of themes – love, friendship, family, coming of age, racism, discrimination, abuse – but I think this is the first time I read essays from an indigenous author. I know she’d rather I didn’t label her but I needed to mention this because I try to read everything and anything and yet it’s very rare I encounter written works from native peoples. This has to change for me. I need to actively seek them out, because reading about poverty, abuse, sexual assault, racism and discrimination from different perspectives provides you with new understandings of these issues. If I only read about social issues discussed by white authors or African Americans as I tend to do, I am limiting myself to specific perspectives.
Alicia Elliott is a very talented writer. I rarely read essay works, because I prefer memoirs and I have enough essays to read for my university courses so I wasn’t sure how this collection of essays on multiple topics (as mentioned above) would work for me, and yet I couldn’t stop reading. This author’s voice is clear, powerful and surprisingly poetic. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s a sarcastic person like me and I found her sarcasm very engaging. I’ve heard sarcasm is a defence mechanism and maybe it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that Alicia Elliott is very strong. Writing these essays must have been tremendously hard for her because she goes into detail about her upbringing and abusive environment and family members. Maybe her writing about her past was like an exorcism for her, meaning that it may have helped her deal with negative events and relieve her chest from all the sticks and stones that made it heavy to begin with.
I don’t want to offer my opinion on the things the author discusses because she broaches so many important issues and this would become an essay in itself, but I can tell you she speaks with clarity and honesty. She’s not trying to convince her readers that the country she lives in (Canada) is wrong and that the people in it are wrong too, but she does recognize it is a flawed country with flawed systems in place and very flawed people. I didn’t read this book because I needed to hear all that – I’m already convinced colonialism hasn’t stopped breathing yet – but I read it because I wanted to hear what this woman had to say about so many topics we don’t discuss in my courses in enough detail. I ended up doing more than just listen to her though; I ended up participating in her discussions and wondering what I can change in my own behaviour and daily activities to become a better version of myself and become more aware in the world.
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