Sunday November 27, 2016

Indigenous Reads book club panel on In Search of April Raintree

The Indigenous Reads book club panel from right: Ruth Shead, Miles Morrisseau and Veronica Johnny.

The Indigenous Reads book club panel from right: Ruth Shead, Miles Morrisseau and Veronica Johnny. (CBC)


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Have you been reading along with our Indigenous Reads book club? We've just finished Beatrice Moisonier's iconic novel In Search of April Raintree.  

It's the story of two sisters, April and Cheryl, who are separated at a young age and raised in foster families.  Each has a very different experience from one another, both positive and negative. But it doesn't save them from tragedy throughout their lives.

We've reconvened the Indigenous Reads panels to discuss the book with a batch of new panelists: former Unreserved producer Ruth Shead, Miles Morrisseau, a longtime Indigenous journalist and Veronica Johnny of the rock band, The Johnnys.

Miles Morrisseau on recurring themes:

Miles Morrisseau

Miles Morrisseau (Facebook)

"One of the themes that kept coming back to me was the burden of secrets and lies. It begins with mom and dad taking 'medicine.' April feels she has to protect Cheryl from this. And then of course, April is hiding her identity. She's embarrassed of her sister. Some of these foster families … the case worker comes by and they pretend everybody's happy. And then of course, Cheryl is hiding her real life from April because she doesn't trust her anymore. And that creates this break between them."

Ruth Shead on identity:
Ruth Shead

Ruth Shead (CBC)

"I see a lot of students now who are really exploring their Indigenous identity. Especially Métis identity which is something we don't talk about very often, or have spoken about very often in the past. People are understanding how government has defined Indigenous people for so long, now we're starting to define ourselves.

The whole idea of whether your skin is lighter or darker, where does that leave you on the spectrum of trying to decide who you are."  

Veronica Johnny on personalizing the story:

Veronica Johnny

Veronica Johnny (Facebook)

"As an arts educator what really struck me was the influence of their new caseworker, their new social worker, Mr. Wendell. And what a positive effect he had on Cheryl and that was the whole reason why Cheryl wanted to become a social worker.

I guess I really personalized this book because I had a teacher who took an interest in me — because many teachers did treat you differently if you were Indigenous — and the one teacher that didn't, that actually inspired me in grade five, continued to inspire me for the rest of my school career.

Click the Listen button above to hear the panel's full discussion of In Search of April Raintree.