CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009
Initiations: A Selection of Young Native Writings.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2007.
104 pp., pbk., $16.95.
Canadian literature (English)-Native authors.
Native youth-Canada-Literary collections.
Canadian literature (English)-21st century.
Teenagers' writings, Canadian (English).
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Dana L. Coates.
But dreams do not die with us, and the power of a nation does not disappear because a leader passes. It doesn't disappear because the boundary lines change. It is an ever changing thing that is carried by the hearts and minds of its people. By men and women with peace and a good mind that use words to communicate not sting, who create ideas not conflicts, who choose life over survival. As long as there is even one chance to have this kind of dream, I think I can believe in it because it is one that I don't have to achieve on my own, even if those who had it first have long been gone.
This anthology, Initiations: A Selection of Young Native Writings, is hot off the press. Marilyn Dumont, the editor of this splendid anthology, compiled a collection of writing by Aboriginal youth in Canada which was then published by The Dominion Institute and Theytus Books.
The anthology consists of various stories written in a three year time span during the Aboriginal Writing Challenge – a national writing initiative. It is also known as the "Our Story Challenge," created by the Dominion Institute in 2005. The contest proposed a challenge to Aboriginal youth (in two categories 14-18 and 19-29) to write something that recreated a time in Aboriginal history. The winners were selected to be published in Initiations.
There are diverse genres in the anthology ranging from poetry, poetic prose to fiction and non-fiction, to biography, personal essay and even songs. The material in Initiations vividly reconstructs historical events and historical people. Topics include: residential schools, banning of potlatch ceremonies, racism, signing of treaties, European's first arrival, battles, artists, and heroes. Modern issues also exist such as gang shootings, band elections, and protests. Many valuable life lessons are also included in these readings.
The reader is taken on an adventure across Canada to the daily lives of various Aboriginal groups – some who lived many years ago and some who lived in more recent times. Two worlds are addressed in many of the stories – the Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal worlds. This is well expressed in "Across the Barricade" by Alicia Elliott.
History books have historically been biased, containing only one perspective – that of non-Aboriginals. The stories in Initiations: A Selection of Young Native Writings will enlighten the reader, bringing a fresh perspective, one that had previously only been known through oral tradition. Now, with these stories written down, Initiations will no doubt educate both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal youth on the history of Canada.
Initiations: A Selection of Young Native Writings is a must-read. Some stories are very enjoyable while others are sad and will evoke deep emotions.Initiations has some language and content not suitable for immature readers.
Dana L. Coates is a grade 6 teacher in Norway House, MB. Dana was recently published in Northern Writers, Volume 1.
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