________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover Will's Garden. Rev. ed.

Lee Maracle.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2008.
190 pp., pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-894778-59-6.

Subject Headings:
Indian teenagers-British Columbia-Juvenile fiction.
Indians of North America-Rites and ceremonies-Juvenile fiction.
Family-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Myra Junyk.

*** /4


Louie, the Speaker of the Smoke House, who addressed the small group of guys that were going to go through their ceremonies this winter, called this time in our lives our "days of decision." He had said the number of decisions would rack up. We would have to make life long decisions about direction, about belief, about attitudes and about conduct. We would have to make them alone, in the dark, in our imagined selves. We would have to learn to live with those decisions. Some of our relatives would agree with what we decided, others would disagree, some might cause us pain, but we are instructed to make decisions freely, carefully, considerately, and hold our ground.

I wasn't sure, but I don't think Wit's last words made a difference to me. I would have to make this decision alone and hold my ground. The decisions are racking up, just like he said. Who to give the rose garden to, what to do about school, about being a Sto:loh man and now about Wit, who comes wrapped in that package called homosexuality. I am beginning to feel too young to be doing this alone.

Will's is preparing for the Becoming Man Ceremony, a very important turning point for a Sto:loh young man in British Columbia. Will's entire extended family is making capes, blankets, chokers, breastplates, armbands and barrettes. Will creates a beautiful beaded cape depicting his mother's rose garden which evokes memories of his past. In his supportive family, Will and his siblings take comfort and solace from the positive loving role models of his parents and his grandparents. Will yearns to have his own loving relationship.

     Will's life is also changing in other ways. He has decided to sit at the "nerds' table" for lunch in the high school cafeteria. Even though they are not Aboriginals, he finds that Wit, Joseph and the other nerds are becoming his friends. At first, Will struggles with the fact that Wit is gay, but this does not impact their growing friendship. Joseph and his father even agree to help build the day-care centre on the reserve. When Will meets Lei-Lani, he is instantly attracted to her. Will Lei-Lani be Will's future wife?

     This revised edition of Lee Maracle's 2002 novel about the coming-of-age story describes the Sto:loh Aboriginal culture in British Columbia. In this matriarchal society, women control most of the decision-making power in the household. Decisions are made in the best interests of the entire clan. It is a very different approach from the individualism of white culture. Will's "memories" of past events in his history speak to the incredible strength and determination of his family members — in particular, the women of the clan.

     Maracle's descriptions evoke the beauty of the British Columbia setting of this novel. "At night when the moon wrestles with dark fluffy clouds like she's doing now, I feel like I can remember backwards and forwards." The movement between past and present in Will's mind is sometimes confusing for readers. The novel explores family relationships, prejudice, stereotyping, sexuality, bullying, residential schools and first love. Maracle celebrates Aboriginal culture and traditions but does not shy away from the complexities of Aboriginal life.


Myra Junyk, the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, is currently working as a literacy advocate.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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