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'A beautiful avenue for me to get my own grief written down': Karen McBride on writing 'Crow Winter'

Crow Winter tells the story of Hazel Ellis, reconciling her grief after the death of her father. She returns home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, and starts to have visions of an old crow, who says he's there to save her. 
Karen McBride is the author of Crow Winter. (Justina Phippen, HarperAvenue)
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Crow Winter tells the story of Hazel Ellis, reconciling her grief after the death of her father. She returns home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, and starts to have visions of an old crow, who says he's there to save her. 

But the old crow turns out to be Nanabush — or trickster — so Hazel has a hard time navigating what to believe.  

It's a story that parallels the life of author Karen McBride, who started writing the book to help her cope with the loss of her father.  

"I had a bunch of feelings — as you can imagine — just boiling up inside of me, and I didn't really know what to do with them," said McBride. 

"Writing had always been a passion of mine ... it just became a beautiful avenue for me to get my own grief written down on the page and, ideally, help someone else with theirs." 

In Crow Winter, Hazel realizes there's more to overcome than her sadness. The quarry, which lies on her father's land, is stirring with magic that crosses the boundary of this world and others. 

The imagery of doorways to other worlds was intentional, and a reflection of what it feels like as an Indigenous woman living in Canada, said McBride. 

"We're always trying to redefine what it means to be Indigenous in the places that we are now," said McBride. 

"I find that being stuck — in between — in the same way that Hazel and Nanabush do is quite the representation of what it means to be Indigenous." 

Like McBride, other Indigenous writers are taking on supernatural themes, such as Eden Robinson and Cherie Dimaline. 

"I think it's our way of taking our stories back and telling them in our own terms," said McBride. 

"I think it's just fantastic to see us take our own stories and to play with them and sort of continue that idea of oral tradition that these are living and breathing stories. We're just giving them new life by telling these stories, saying we're still here and we're still telling story."