There There

There was an Indian head, the head of an Indian, the drawing of the head of a headdressed, long-haired Indian depicted, drawn by an unknown artist in 1939, broadcast until the late 1970s to American TVs everywhere after all the shows ran out.

Disclaimer: even more () than usual; I don’t want my ignorance about other’s people culture to show too badly.

I feel like I can share how I’m discerning a certain kind of mood, element in books written by different contemporary Native (north) American authors. It’s not just in the style they use (non-chronological without clear pointers of time, multiple character points of view), also the subject. Life as a native in North America doesn’t seem to be very good a lot of the time.

After doing a bit of research on this story, it turns out that the conscious stream of thoughts around the same things, connecting every character in passing, was on purpose. There’s a focus on oral tradition with (some) Native people and this book should feel like that. Which changes things a bit.

With that, you get not just a people’s history, but the huge amount of weariness, pain and discomfort that comes with it. Plenty of minorities stories are slowly shared and heard more often, but what about the people that were first on the North American continent? So yes, maybe there’s a recurring element, but maybe that’s because that’s just something essential that has to be shared before anything else can.

There There, Tommy Orange, Penguin Random House 2018

The Orenda

We had magic before the crows came.

My first (consciously experienced) Canadian author, very probably the first story I read about the First Nations People. Now that I’m in Canada I feel kind of obliged to know more about the history of the country, and what better way than to discover it through (fictional) stories?

The Orenda tells about ‘New France’ and its influence on the native people of the country in the seventeenth century. Also known as colonialism, European diseases wiping out populations and destroying land and communities. We view this happening through three story tellers: Snow Falls, a daughter from an enemy tribe, taken. Bird, an important man in his community and the one that adopts her to fill the place that the deaths of wife and children left. And Christophe, the Jesuit priest that so very desperately wants “those sauvages” to come to the light that’s God.

It’s not an easy story to read, and not just because as the reader you know only how much more destruction will follow. Boyden starts out very strong and appealing, but seems to get lost near the middle of the book. Situations start to feel repetitive, and, even though I understand that we have to learn about the scary fundamentalism of the white saviour, Christophe’s chapters start to drag like he’s lost in a desert.

The Orenda is loosely a part of a trilogy, and I have already been told that the other two are (much, much) better. In this case, there’s still enough interest to give an author another chance. And maybe¬†The Orenda can be edited in the meantime.

 

The Orenda, Joseph Boyden, Penguin Groups 2013