An acclaimed author’s love letter to Survivors
- Memory McLeod | April 12, 2023
Celebrated Cree Author Michelle Good says her debut novel ‘Five Little Indians’ is a love letter to Indian Residential School Survivors and their descendants.
The Red Pheasant First Nation member dedicated the book to her late son Jay and to ‘every terrified child taken’.
“I wanted survivors to read this book and see themselves and their cohort in it − to feel acknowledged, seen, heard and understood,” said Good. “Lots of survivors are messaging me, in particular, intergenerational survivors saying, ‘Now I understand why my father is the way he is, why my mother is the way she is, now I understand.’ That’s really meaningful. One of them said ‘I see myself in every single character.’ ”
The success of her first novel took her by surprise. Initially, she thought it would be picked up by “a niche audience of those aware of the realities,”
Good says the best part of it all has been the conversations it creates.
“This little book, it reaches and inspires to think about things differently,” she said. “If you can do that in your life, that's a pretty amazing thing. So I'm pretty satisfied with what I set out to do, in terms of the non-Indigenous reader.”
Five Little Indians has either won or been short-listed for nearly every literary prize in Canada, which elevates the profile of the book.
“I've received hundreds of emails from readers and their responses range from ‘I just didn't know, but now I'll never forget,’ ” said Good. “Another said, ‘This was just amazing to me. I’ve treated aboriginal people, or Indigenous people poorly all my life. Your book has changed my understanding. Thank you for making me a better person.’ ”
Being the Saskatchewan Library Association’s selection for ‘One Book One Province’ has given her the chance to not only travel the province during the month of March, but it's given her the opportunity to meet hundreds of people from all walks of life.
The tour ands in Regina at the Mâmawêyatitân Centre Library on Wednesday April 12th with the author being interviewed by CTV indigenous journalist Nelson Bird.
The fictionalized stories of the five survivors in the novel have captivated readers all over the world and prompted organizations such as the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan to reflect on their stories as a book club selection.
“We can see how the story is written to the non-Indigenous people to educate them and to humanize the story of the residential schools,” said Intercultural Connections and Anti-Racism Engagement (ICARE) coordinator Risa Naytowhow. “It’s been translated into French to help other cultures to learn from as well. It shows the vulnerability of the young characters and the reader can't help but root for them.”
In May, Good is releasing, Truth Telling: Seven conversations about Indigenous life in Canada, which is a collection of personal essays.
She said both books are about looking at Canadian history through an Indigenous lens.
Good says the response from the public has left her hopeful about the future and about reconciliation.
“We’ve gone from nobody being permitted or welcomed to talk about [our experiences] - to talking about it on the world stage. It is phenomenal for us to accomplish that in one lifetime.”