CBR11 Bingo – Own Voices
When it comes to diversifying my reading list, I’m trying to be more intentional about including voices from Canadian Indigenous communities. Canada, for all its wonderful awesomeness, has an atrocious history (and even current relationship) with its Indigenous population – and so often, has kept so much of it quiet. Stories keep coming to light now about the horrors that ripped these families apart, the way entire communities were destroyed, and yes, despite what many of our politicians say, it IS appropriate to label it as genocide. Canadian history as taught in public schools didn’t feature ANY of these stories when I was growing up, and I’ve found it so eye-opening to be deliberate in making reading selections as an adult that highlight these voices.
This book could have checked off the square for Award Winner or Listsicle as it has been met with rave reviews in Canadian literary circles (but I really wanted that middle square, lol).
Birdie is the story of Bernice (“Birdie”), a Cree woman who is making a journey, a sort of vision quest from her home in northern Alberta to Gibsons, BC (the reason to land in Gibsons being tied up mostly in an undying love for Jesse from The Beachcombers). From the start of the story, we see her occasionally drifting in and out of a dream/trance like state where she finds herself elsewhere, observing events from her past. Shortly after landing a job in Gibsons, she enters one of these dream states and doesn’t exit it for weeks. Her boss is concerned and summons her cousin and aunt to come help. As ‘Auntie Val’ and ‘Skinny Freda’ arrive, their presence effects Birdie and her memories are steeped with memories, stories, reflections, and Cree traditions.
As these memories are revealed, is becomes clear that not only is this trance a spiritual experience, it’s also a physical and mental response to trauma that she has experienced (trying to avoid spoilers here..).
While the first part of the book is a bit hard to follow, just because of the seemingly random, scattered, thoughts of these dreams, where the chronology is all over the map, I ended up really appreciating this book. It’s a heartbreaking story of a beautiful Cree woman, and the hard life that she lives… but it’s full of the beauty of the Cree culture, the power of women banding together and the bonds that are formed in hard times.