Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Finished!! Canada Challenge 3 - I am a good Canadian!!
I did it! I did it! I completed the Canadian Challenge 3 Eh?!!! Third time must be lucky, this is the third year I attempted this challenge, and I am so thrilled and proud of myself for completing it. MOstly because I want to prove to myself that we have good, interesting, fun, intriguing books to share with the world. This year, I proved it to myself. AND I still have books on my TBR mountain for this challenge, so I'm ready for next year's challenge!
The last two books I read for this challenge, I read this month:
The Rez Sisters, by Tomson Highway. I read this play in university many years ago, and I was anxious to see how I found it now. It is just as moving and funny as it was 19 years ago, I am very happy to say. The Rez Sisters won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play when it came out in 1986, and was nominated for the Governor General's Award. This is a very big deal, not just because it is a play, but because it is written by an Aboriginal Canadian. Tomson was born in Northern Manitoba, far from the city. He was educated at a Roman Catholic boarding school - a product of the residential schools, which were charged with erasing native culture from the minds of the young people sent there, so they could take their place as Canadians in the cities, speaking English and no trace of otherness left. I'm not going to get into a rant here about what that says about Canadian colonialism and views of many white people towards natives. I mention it because, despite being sent to the residential school, Tomson survived, and went on to become - is - one of our leading figures in Aboriginal writing in Canadian literature. There is nothing strident, there is no bitterness, in The Rez Sisters, or in Dry Lips Outta Move to Kapuskasing, his other famous play, which I had the privilege of seeing performed at the National Arts Center when it came on tour in the 1990's. The Rez Sisters is funny and bittersweet, a tragicomedy in two parts: before a group of women from a reserve go to the World's Largest Bingo in Toronto, and after. In a form of gentleness rarely seen in fiction, Highway illustrates through his characters - 7 women on the reserve, and Nanabush, the figure of a seagull who is also the Trickster figure - what life is like on the reserve, and how these women relate to one another. Each of the women is clearly drawn, from Pelajia the eldest at 53, to Zhaboonigan the youngest at 24, her niece. All of the women are related to one another, sort of, which is exactly what living on the reserve is like, and is also a pun on the native belief that we are all related. The funniest part of the book is how they raise the money to get from the reserve to Toronto. The heartbreaking moments are two - the death of one of the characters, and what has happened to Zhaboonigan, who is also mentally handicapped. Read this play if you want an idea of what Aboriginal humour is like, about their honesty and how their dignity is all we have left them, but it's all we all have in the end anyway. This is a glimpse into another world that turns out to be about all of us. Still beautiful, after all these years.
The other book I read was Chester, by Melanie Watt:
Chester is an irrepressible cat who is determined to make the book about him, despite Melanie the author attempting to write about a mouse who lives in the country. Chester is obviously a strong character, charming, funny, and this book will appeal to everyone. This is how cats are. Really. For cat lovers, kids, and everyone else (except dog lovers, though dogs do make an appearance here). Delightful Canadian children's book that I highly recommend.
So, there you have it, my final two books for the Canadian Challenge 3. I'm thrilled to look back on all the good books I read this year (see my sidebar for the list). Canadian books - poetry, plays, journals, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, some of what I read this year - are worth discovering. I look forward to the next challenge, due to begin tomorrow. Won't you join me?