Michelle Good, author of the award-winning novel Five Little Indians, will be visiting Vaughan Public Libraries via Zoom on Tuesday, September 27, 7:00 pm, three days before the National Day for True and Reconciliation. I’m inviting all of you to join us for an evening of meaningful conversations. Please register now on Eventbrite!
Five Little Indians has received phenomenal success, for many good reasons. First, for a book that deals with such a painful, heavy topic, it is surprisingly readable and captivating. Michelle has chosen a unique focal point. The book does here and there describe the devastating suffering that the residential school children had to endure, but the horrific crime that happened in the residential schools is not the focus of the book. Instead, the book emphasizes the hardship that the five protagonists had to struggled through while they tried to make their way into the society after the residential school – the outright racism they still received despite they were finally speaking perfect English, the lost connection with their own family (both physically and emotionally), the mental trauma that continued to haunt them even after the cruel physical abuse had stopped … With precise and profound insights, Michelle has skillfully crafted five unforgettable characters, each with a unique story.
The five protagonists’ stories are all based on true cases. Michelle is a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. She had worked for Indigenous organizations for twenty-five years before she obtained a law degree. She has been advocating for residential school survivors for over fourteen years. This direct experience with the residential school survivors offers a firm ground of solid materials for Michelle to build her characters and tell their stories.
The traumatic residential school experience impacted all Indigenous communities collectively, but the damage done to each individual is specific and none are the same. There is no way to simply create an “archetype,” so Michelle choses to sculpt five protagonists instead, and the detailed, vivid portrayal of these characters has clearly touched many readers. Michelle’s wise choice of using fiction, as opposed to non-fiction, has made this dark era of the Canadian history much more accessible to other Canadians or even international readers.
As an immigrant whose home country just ended Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s, when I first (almost 20 years ago) heard of Canada’s residential school system, a century-long systematic oppression tool, had just closed its last residential school in 1996, I was shocked. But what was more terrifying to me was looking at the condition of the reserves! Today, the Indian Act still exists. As a regular general public member who’s outside of the Indigenous communities, I have many questions. What exactly is Truth and Reconciliation and what need to be done before we can achieve Reconciliation? Should the Indian Act be eliminated or just amended? If the latter, how? What exactly should the relationship between the Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government look like? It would be beyond this author event’s scope to discuss these topics, but I’d like to invite you all to listen to what the Indigenous scholars said about the Indian Act. For further reading, please check out a book from my colleague Janet’s BiblioCommons list Truth and Reconciliation:
We acknowledge that this author event is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers’ Union of Canada.