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Come Walk With Me: A Memoir

I feel the need to expand on my mention of Beatrice Mosionier’s new book, Come Walk With Me. I’m not a reviewer, thankfully, but I love literature. At our joint launch on Friday, I mentioned that I didn’t read much but I was trying to read more. Books like Come Walk With Me make me want to read more because they are about something near and dear to my heart. They are pieces of literature, like In Search of April Raintree, that can entertain while educating. This is one of the things I’m trying to do with 7 Generations. Generations is a work of sequential art. Beatrice’s book is a work of literature but her words are so vivid, so unflinchingly real, that the images come, just as though they were painted on a page.

As with many, I read April Raintree as a youth while in school. I read it again in University as part of a large assignment. I’m about to start reading it for what will probably be a fourth time…but as with one of my favourite books, Tom’s Midnight Garden (don’t ask why, though, I just love it),  I can revisit it, as though seeing a movie again and again (like The Fugitive, which I have seen upwards of 20 times). April is an iconic work of literature. When I was younger, I probably appreciated the simplicity of Beatrice’s storytelling along with the story itself. It’s not gimmicky, it just IS. I think Come Walk With Me is, appropriately, similar.

A friend emailed me while I was in Brandon and told me that she was disappointed when she heard that April Raintree wasn’t a true life story. I emailed back, as I was in the middle of reading Come Walk With Me, that I wasn’t so sure April wasn’t real, in a sense. What’s fascinating to read about Come Walk With Me, and engaging, is that you can draw parallels to Beatrice’s memoir and April’s life. Sometimes she’s Cheryl, sometimes she’s April, but so much of April’s story is informed by Beatrice’s own life. And I believe now that this is what made April so great. The emotions in it are real, the passion, the pain, the strength. It all comes from the heart, from experience.

Although not the same, I can relate to this style of writing; namely, writing the “real” as “fiction”. I recently finished a manuscript (finished is a stretch…I’ve been writing it for 5 years) and much of what’s in the novel has been drawn from my life, but fictionalized…and sometimes added onto, sometimes more, sometimes less. But the emotions are at times real, too, and those are the parts I love best (I named the Aboriginal girl in the book April, by the way. Yes, as a nod to April Raintree).

So as a memoir, and considering the previous ramblings of mine, Come Walk With Me works on several levels. First and foremost, it is beautifully and directly written. Beatrice is a gifted and engaging storyteller. What I found so amazing was that she found her child’s voice so convincingly. You see, as she grows up, the story is told from the head and voice of the age Beatrice is at the time. So, 6-year-old Beatrice’s life is told from the perspective of 6-year-old Beatrice, as though we are listening to her thoughts. It is a very cool way to tell a life story and I breezed so quickly through these pages. What surprised me, however, was how much I retained. At the reading on Friday, I was almost reading along with Beatrice as she spoke, recalling every scene she read from.

The story also works as a tool for awareness. The struggles Beatrice endured and overcame are often times indicative of what Aboriginal people historically went through. However, as is often case, the general public just doesn’t know what we have encountered as a people historically. To be honest, I didn’t really know much about CFS before reading Come Walk With Me. I realize now that is served as almost an extension of the IR Schools, and this was disturbing and painful. I hate to say that I was lucky to avoid so many of the things so many of our people face, but I was. Now I’ve made it my mission to learn about these things so I can speak intelligently about them. Beatrice’s book has helped immensely in opening my eyes to other issues I didn’t know a lot about. I feel that if a huge number of people read her memoir, it will create some really positive change. This is my hope with Helen Betty Osborne’s graphic novel as well. The truth is that people aren’t going to change if we don’t educate them. Racism is ignorance. Ignorance is fought with education. Beatrice’s book is important to read. Period.

Finally, it works as a companion to April Raintree. And I hope I’ve explained that properly. But anybody who has read April Raintree should read Come Walk With Me. Because it’s real, because it sheds light on so much, because it’s inspiring. Here is a woman who came from so many hardships and through her strength of character and spirit, has succeeded and found peace. She is a role model to our people and a testament to our strength and perseverance as a people. As we have endured through so many assaults on our culture over the centuries, she has endured. And this book should inspire others to endure, to tell their stories, to educate others.

I’m unspeakably honoured to have found friendship with Beatrice and I am looking forward to working with her on a few projects. I believe that our hearts are in the same place: the work I do in literature will always, in one way or another, be a way to educate and raise awareness of our culture, our people, our history, and our future. I will also always work to promote our Aboriginal artists, our writers…and Come Walk With Me is a book that I will promote and suggest to as many people who will listen.

Thank you for listening,

Dave

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