Canada Reads

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Five Little Indians is a book by Michelle Good.

Championed by Christian Allaire

Christian Allaire is championing Five Little Indians by Michelle Good. (CBC)

Christian Allaire is defending Five Little Indians by Michelle Good on Canada Reads 2022.

Canada Reads will take place March 28-31. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.

Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.

Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can't stop running and moves restlessly from job to job — through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps — trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.

With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.  (From HarperCollins Canada)

Five Little Indians won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.  It was also on the 2020 Writers's Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. 

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book. CBC Books named her a writer to watch in 2020.

From the book

"Man, you went nuts!" Wilfred shook his head, laughing.

"Well, eff him. Geez, a guy should get paid what he's owed. This's why I want a place away from people. No BS." Kenny shook his head. "Now what the hell am I gonna do? No pay and no doubt he's blacklisted me. I won't get any more work this year, around here anyway."

"Well, I wouldn't worry about the pay part of it." Wilfred started emptying his pockets. He pulled a big wad of crumpled bills from his jeans pocket and then reached for his jacket pockets.

Kenny did a double take and laughed. "What the hell, man!"

"It was raining money. Thought I best get our share." Smiling, Wilfred handed a couple of wads to Kenny. "Come on, let's count it."

They counted, making neat piles of the ones and fives, tens and twenties. Kenny pulled out the forty Rosa had given him and added it to the pile.

"Remind you of anything?" Kenny nudged Wilfred with his elbow and smiled.

Wilfred looked up and burst out laughing. "Yeah, the raids. Man, we sure made out. The staff leftovers. They had such good food. My mouth is watering just thinking about it."

From Five Little Indians by Michelle Good ©2020. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Why Michelle Good wrote Five Little Indians

"My mother is a residential school survivor, as is my grandmother and cousins. I started writing this story in the 1990s. I think the seed really took shape really came to me when I was practicing law and I was representing survivors of residential schools. I was realizing just how much Canadians or Canada at large doesn't understand the impact of how these individuals suffered because of their attendance at these schools. 

It occurred to me that this needed to be told as a story — as something that people could engage in — with more ease than a factual diatribe.- Michelle Good

"The thing that I was observing was that we could communicate the facts of the number of children that were forced to attend school and the manner in which they were forced to attend school. 

"It occurred to me that this needed to be told as a story — as something that people could engage in — with more ease than a factual diatribe."

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

The Canada Reads 2022 contenders

Interviews with Michelle Good

Cree author shares the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

1 year ago
Duration 7:57
This Thursday will mark Canada's first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a federal statutory holiday. Cree author Michelle Good shares why she hopes Canadians will treat the day in a similar way as Remembrance Day.
Writer Michelle Good has won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language fiction. Her debut novel, Five Little Indians, follows five teenagers as they leave residential school and strive to find a place of safety in a world that doesn’t want them. Good previously worked as a lawyer advocating for residential school survivors. She joined Tom Power from Kamloops, B.C., to discuss her work and her amazing literary achievement. If you have been affected by the residential school system and you need support right now, help is out there. The Residential School Crisis Line is open 24-hours a day. The number is 1-866-925-4419.
Vogue writer Christian Allaire joined Tom Power to talk about being a Canada Reads panellist and why he's defending Michelle Good's Five Little Indians.
Earlier on the program we heard from some TRU Law students... ...who said they were disappointed, even disturbed, by a presentation given at a conference this week.
Michelle Good on her debut novel Five Little Indians, which follows five characters after they leave residential school.


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