Welcome to Read this Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that needs to jump onto your TBR pile! These books come from all sorts of different genres, age ranges, and formats. This week, I’m sharing a book that I read for a Nonfiction November / Indigenous Heritage Month crossover.
From 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Journalist Tanya Talaga investigates these deaths and discovers that each one of them moved from rural locations in the northern part of the province to attend high school.
Talaga pieces together the students’ lives, trying to better understand why each student died. Woven throughout these students’ stories is the dark history of the residential school system across Canada and its lasting effects on Indigenous communities across the country.
She connects the seven students’ stories with that of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Native boy who froze to death while running away from a residential school. After Wenjack’s death, an inquest was called and it made four recommendations for improvement to residential schools. These recommendations were never implemented.
Now the residential schools have closed, but that created a vacuum where many Native Nations struggled to create brand new educational systems from scratch with little to no funding. As a result, many Indigenous parents living in rural, Northern locations felt like they had little choice but to send their middle school and high school-aged children to cities in the south. Removed from their families and communities, many of these students struggled to adjust to their new lives in the city.
Residential schools. The murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls, and 2Spirit people. The mental health crisis in Indigenous communities. Everything is connected. The atrocities of North America’s colonialist systems are an ongoing, ever-present devastating dark cloud over Indigenous youth. Talaga returns again and again with more evidence, copious notes, and first-hand testimonies illustrating her points. Talaga’s work on this book earned her the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing and the RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction.
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That’s it for this week. You can find me over on my substack Winchester Ave or over on Instagram @kdwinchester. As always, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. For even MORE bookish content, you can find my articles over on Book Riot.
Happy reading, Friends!