Walking the Rez Road by Jim Northrup

Read: 25 July, 2018

The stories are very loosely connected. While the blurb on the back puts a lot of emphasis on the effects of the protagonist’s experiences in Vietnam on his post-service life, I found that only the first third of the book dealt with the war at all. After that, the stories had more to do with Rez life generally. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, and I did enjoy the expanding of Luke Warmwater’s identity – especially since we only catch glimpses of him across decades.

The stories themselves are short anecdotes, taken seemingly at random from a whole lifetime of experiences. They cover everything from being a soldier to playing Bingo with his wife to harvesting wild rice. They are “slice of life” stories, mostly without a specific point (at least at a surface reading) other than to simply exist in that moment. I enjoyed the writing style, which has a strong narrative voice, as well as the sense of humour.

I was really impressed by a few of the poems, too. Several of them packed quite an evocative punch.

The edition I read also had a number of non-fiction articles by the author, which helped to provide some of the context and subtext for the preceding stories.

Overall, this is a fairly short read, but an interesting one. Northrup’s individual perspective on Rez life is a valuable one.

Six Micmac Stories by Ruth Holmes Whitehead

I’ve recently started some research into fairytales and, while my focus has been on European myths, I have also been looking into other cultures.

I found this book to be very interesting. There are only six short stories, but they are well selected to cover a number of cultural aspects. I also enjoyed the short commentary provided after each story. It explained a bit about the symbolic significance of aspects of the story, as well as some cultural background necessary to appreciate the narrative.

Overall, it’s a a very short read, essentially a quick dip into Micmac storytelling. It’s by no means authoritative. The stories mostly have positive messages and, with the exception of a few scary moments, would be appropriate for kids.

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The Epic of Qayaq retold by Lela Kiana Oman

Read: 2006

As Qayaq’s siblings grow up, all leave home to seek their fortunes and never return. Qayaq, the youngest and last of his parents’ children, decides to go in search of his siblings. From there, the story cycles through episodes of Qayaq’s legendary journey over land and by kayak.

Qayaq has something of the trickster in him making these stories very interesting. In particular, I found the fluidity between the animal and human worlds very interesting. Qayaq is able to turn himself into animals and they into humans. Because the book is a collection of stories from an epic cycle each functions well alone and they make for a pleasantly varied experience if read all at once.

I especially enjoyed my edition because the edges of each page contained short summaries of the stories as well as illustrations that fit the action described. It may seem like only a small detail, but being able to see the Inupiat art along with the stories added a fantastic extra dimension.

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