But if you are of a scholarly bent, or if you are already deeply engaged with a study of Indigenous writers and narratives, this volume (and the lengthy related discussions) is an essential addition to your bookshelf.
The volume is structured around four questions: How Do We Learn to Be Human? How Do We Behave as Good Relatives? How Do We Become Good Ancestors? And How Do We Learn to Live Together? Each section begins with a lengthy quote (first, by Lee Maracle and next by Linda Hogan, third by Gwen Benaway and finally Waawaate Fobister) and there are so many references to literary works within that the narrative swells with all these words (and so many women’s words among them).
Only occasionally does the researcher’s voice, the author’s voice, speak directly to the reader. As here:
“I belong to all of these lines, the intact and the unravelled, the tangled and the torn. Like all human begins, I’ve inherited some stories that have woven their way into my consciousness of self, but others remain unheard, unspoken, unremembered. There are gaps in our shared kinship that will never be bridged, absences too complete to fill, but there are some frayed edges that knit together with only minor scarring to show.”
It would have been a different book with more of this, and I’m not saying that I would have wanted that instead, but perhaps more of it, in addition. But Justice does refer to Tomson Highway’s 2017 volume, From Oral to Written: a celebration of Indigenous Literature in Canada, 1980-2010, which is a little more celebratory and a little less analytical, so perhaps simply adding more books to the shelves is the best answer. (That’s often the case, no?)