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After a week of debate and discussion the novel Five Little Indians from Kamloops area author Michelle Good was chosen the winner in CBC’s annual Canada Reads contest on Thursday.
Five Little Indians follows five Indigenous kids who are taken to a church-run residential school in BC Barely teenagers they end up in downtown Vancouver where their horrific childhood experiences play out and pushes them in different directions. Over decades they cross paths and struggle with the thing they all share — trauma.
Good is a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and holds an MFA and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. As a lawyer she has steadfastly advocated for residential school survivors. Her novel by Ella was previously awarded the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and the Amazon First Novel Award.
“The awards are nice and are deeply satisfying as an author but most important to me, awards elevate the profile of the book so more hearts and minds are exposed to the story that I felt compelled to tell,” said Good in a statement.
“I wrote this book to expose the truth of intergenerational trauma, and how there is so little support in Canada for survivors to truly be able to heal, both on an individual level and at a community level. The primary relationship in this country is the one between Indigenous people and the rest of Canada, and this relationship must be reconciled before we can really consider Canada the country we want to be.
“Having the profile of the book elevated, it moves that desire forward, that necessity of reconciliation, meaningful and substantive reconciliation; it moves forward.”
CBC radio’s annual book debate starts out with five celebrity panelists championing their chosen Canadian books that speak to the theme of One Book to Connect Us. In the final round Good’s book beat Scarborough by Toronto author Catherine Hernandez, Scarborough was championed by Vancouver actor and activist Malia Baker
“I think it’s a story all Canadians need to read. Like I said on the show, I think a lot of Canadians struggle with the idea of reconciliation, and the best first step towards doing that is just having a better understanding of the experiences that residential school survivors have had,” said Good’s book champion Ojibway journalist and Vogue fashion writer, Christian Allaire, from Nipissing First Nation in Ontario.
“Michelle’s book so beautifully illuminates that through five complex characters that we can all relate to. Representing the indigenous community at large, I felt a responsibility to get this book right and to convey it right, so it means so much to me that I was able to do that. As the grandson of a residential school survivor, it’s really important for me that Canadians understand this history.”
The three other books in the competition were Victoria’s Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, Life in the City of Dirty Water by Manitoba’s Clayton Thomas-Müller and What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad a Canadian who now lives in Oregon.
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