Thursday, May 26, 2016

Birdie - An Indigenous Book Club Month Selection ...

She ... gets fed love.
She is better when fat with 
the love of women.
Tracey Lindberg

Hi Everyone!

Earlier this year, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, proposed an Indigenous Book Club Month for June and I wanted to give you a heads up that June is fast approaching (how is that possible??) and to make some suggestions for your book club or individual indigenous reading.

My own choice for this month is to reread Tracey Lindberg's wonderful book, Birdie, a Canada Reads shortlist winner and a book that has brought greater heart knowledge to my understanding of the long reaching effects of colonization and the residential school system. It seems from the reviews that people either love or are totally confused by this book. I am one of those who love it.

Seen through the lens of intergenerational trauma, posttraumatic stress and the power of women to both betray and hold caring space for each other's growing wholeness, Birdie's story is one of relationship - relationship with self, relationship with family and relationship with the wider world.

This, in many ways, is a book about care-giving, or the lack of it. The story line is that of Birdie, an obese, impoverished, abused young Cree woman, who journeys from northern Alberta to Gibsons, on the BC Sunshine Coast, consciously searching for Jesse, a character in her favourite TV show, The Beachcombers, while at the same time unconsciously on an inner journey searching for her own healing and wholeness.  As she sinks into seeming dissociation from the present, she is cared for by her Auntie Val who is well, the memory of her mother Maggie who is not, and her cousin Skinny Freda and landlady and bakery boss Lola who are somewhere in between. Each has been wounded and has coped in her own way and each expresses her caring according to the degree of her wholeness.

The fluid chronology of the Birdie narrative, slipping seamlessly between present and past, while disturbing and confusing to some, made perfect sense to me as a trauma therapist. While described as characteristic of a vision quest, this meandering in and out of "reality" and "the present moment" is also the experience of one whose sense of time and continuity has been jangled by trauma's intrusive memories and disorienting flashbacks.

Birdie is a story of hope, healing and transformation and I highly recommend it, especially to those who can restrain their analytical minds and just go with an empathic response to another's experience.

Other books by indigenous writers, recommended by CBC, that you might like to consider are:

1.  A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King
2.  My Mother is Weird by Rachna Gilmore
3.  Halfbreed, The Book of Jessica, and Stories of the Road Allowance People by Maria Campbell
 4.  The Outside Circle (collection)

Other authors to consider  include Joseph Boyden, Richard van Camp, Leann Simpson, Marilyn Dumont, Jeanette Armstrong, Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, Louise Halfe, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Eden Robinson and Richard Wagamese.

Have a great read!

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