In Search Of April Raintree
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From the back cover...
In Search of April Raintree is the story of two Metis sisters growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Removed from their family at an early age, the sisters are raised in separate foster homes. The powerful and moving account of April and Cheryl Raintree has become one of the best-known texts by a Native Canadian Author.
In this new edition, ten original and compelling essays accompany In Search of April Raintree. The collection illustrates the complexity and diversity of scholarship on the novel, and suggests the continuing relevance of the text for many readers. The essays address such issues as racism and the socialization of Native children, "truth-telling" and the representation of social discourse, and First Nations history and the quest for identity.
Two days ago I picked up this book, read the first chapter and thought to myself,"hmm, this looks interesting"!
I was right. Just finished it and really enjoyed it.
The story of two half bred girls, sisters. Indians, One who looks white, the other who looks like a Metis and is proud of that. The white looking one does not want anything to do with her Indian heritage because she is ashamed.
I liked it a lot.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Going to the big Dutch Castricum meeting tomorrow at the beach and I'll bring this book in the hope to find a new reader. Enjoy!
I finished reading this book a while back and thought it was really interesting. Somehow, I never realised that there are native Canadians just as there are natives in the US, Australia and elsewhere. Essential reading, really.
I'm glad that April managed to survive her childhood and was kind of surprised that Cheryl, who had the more 'fortunate' childhood of the two sisters, does not survive. I guess April's childhood taught her to cope and what she wanted from life at a young age. The fact that April got through her childhood without physically getting harmed made her rape even more tragic than it already was. I think that chapter of the book was really well written, you really feel the horribleness of it all without it being very graphic. I was impressed by the way April deals with it during the trial and later in life.
I'll browse through the essays before releasing the book later on.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
The interesting thing about this book is when it starts to talk about identity, and the internal confusion created by fostering children to families of a different race, if the only other contact with members of their own race was through the warped public vision of "the drunks on Main Street", and racist and prejudiced taunts by the surrounding society. Even positive discrimination can be damaging, as shown by the highly romanticised image of First Nation society presented by well-meaning people such as Cheryl's foster parents, an image which does not match reality. In April and Cheryl's case, they are even more confused in their search for identity because they are neither white nor "full-blood" Natives, but Métis, of mixed blood. I had never heard of the word Métis, and it seems that at the time this book was written it was a hotly-debated political issue, as such people were discriminated against by white society, but were also unable to claim "Status" as Natives and thus not allowed to claim any of the benefits available to this group. I remember driving through Canada in 1990 and listening to debates about Native issues on the radio during an election. I'm not sure what the outcome is, nor if the issue has been laid to rest. It seems to me that the only way to resolve it is to integrate everybody into one society, without judgment and racism, allowing everyone the freedom to celebrate their own identity, at whichever level they feel most comfortable. The paradox is that this approach can lead to the loss of minority languages and traditions, but at least part of the way of life can be preserved by those who wish to by taking part in celebrations, re-enactments, religious ceremonies, and perhaps this can only occur by keeping alive the traditions in Reservations where the outside world is kept at a distance.
After reading the critical essays, one of the things which puzzles me is why it is so terrible to lose your cultural identity. It might not be politically correct to say so, and I can see that the complete loss of a way of life is regrettable, particularly when the culture lost is so rich and attractive in many ways. However, it is the way of the world that culture does not remain static, and is influenced by many things including war, famine, technological developments, invasion and migration. For example, I was born in England, and successive waves of invaders pushed the original inhabitants to the extremes of the country, influencing culture, language, agriculture and landscape. More recently, immigrants from the Commonwealth have changed the face of the country and enriched its culture and cuisine. If I look at my own family, my great-grandparents and those of my husband all came from Ireland, and yet neither of our families has any link to Ireland now, and no trace of Irish culture. The only trace was that my grandparents brought up my mother as a Roman Catholic. We now live in the Netherlands where our children are being brought up bilingual, and as we are all English, I can see that this leaves them and us as slight outsiders, but still well-integrated into the majority society. My husband's brother is married to a Czech lady, and my uncle lives in Australia. In this mobile world full of immigration and intermarriage, is it realistic to expect to continue living with the same ways and traditions of 200 years ago? However regrettable it is that the Europeans overran the New World and however brutally they did so, we cannot turn back history, but only try to prevent racism and create equal opportunities for everybody.
As you can tell, this book raised many questions about my own identity, with immigration being a highly political topic in the Netherlands and many other countries at the moment. The book itself was an interesting tale, raising all sorts of topics for discussion in Canada and throughout the ex-colonial world. The story was told in a plain, non-literary style, but for me it is only important as a springboard for the critical essays and further discussion.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
This book has been released as part of the following BookCrossing challenges:
- The Ultimate Challenge - read and release books, with extra points for a monthly theme
- Reduce Mount TBR (To Be Read) - read and release books on the TBR list since before the end of 2011. My reading goal is 75 books.
- Pages Read Challenge - read a self-set target number of pages in 201w. My goal is 26,000.