Tuesday, August 10, 2010
One-Minute Book Review: All That We Say Is Ours
All That We Say Is Ours: Guujaaw and the Reawakening of the Haida Nation (Ian Gill)
This book was constantly pulling me in two directions: one, where I enjoyed the format and the content, and another where I couldn't wait to be through with it.
For all intents and purposes, I totally judged this book by its cover. I *loved* its name. It is so simple and powerful, and reflects the title naming process that I (try to) emulate in my essay writing. What I understood to be the format - a mix of oral history, interviews, the author's reflections, legal history, media of the time, and so on - intrigued me as well.
I didn't so much appreciate the writing style. When the (non-Native) author took the text in his own direction, it was so clearly not the voice of the people that I found myself reading in a British accent in my head. He used western idioms and quoted mostly non-Native scholars.
Of course, he has the right to - it's his book and I, as a reader, have chosen to give it a chance. And that is where I started to kick myself in the butt. While reading this book I also picked up Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden and This is an Honour Song edited by Leanne Simpson and Kiera Ladner. Particularly as I reached the last couple of chapters I kept thinking, Life is simply too short and there are too many talented Native writers for me to be spending my time on a book like this.
Now, this review could quickly turn into a post about my idea of non-Native people writing about Native peoples. So I will turn to one thing (of a few) I liked. The book ends with (spoiler alert - d'uh) a speech given by Guujaaw (the subject of the book) about the late Bill Reid. The last line of his speech epitomizes a feeling I get that is so hard to describe. It feels like I was born to be Anishinabe, and that that fact is somehow incredible to me.
Final thought: This book might be interesting for Canadians looking to learn a bit more about Haida culture and worldviews, environmentalism and First Nations' experiences in Canadian courts, but it's always better to hear a story told by the people who live(d) it.