Dear Canada: These Are My Words
- Hardcover200 pages
Acclaimed author Ruby Slipperjack delivers a haunting novel about a 12-year-old girl's experience at a residential school in 1966.
Violet Pesheens is struggling to adjust to her new life at residential school. She misses her Grandma; she has run-ins with Cree girls; at her "white" school, everyone just stares; and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name-she is now just a number. But worst of all, she has a fear. A fear of forgetting the things she treasures most: her Anishnabe language; the names of those she knew before; and her traditional customs. A fear of forgetting who she was.
Her notebook is the one place she can record all of her worries, and heartbreaks, and memories. And maybe, just maybe there will be hope at the end of the tunnel.
Drawing from her own experiences at residential school, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation's history.
From Violet's diary:
We entered the girls’ dorm. It was empty. There were three rows of beds. Light green curved metal head frames with three metal bars in between, and the same-coloured curved foot frames. There were metal night tables between the beds, of the same colour. The floor had smeared green tiles going one way, and the next row another way. Like a checkerboard.
I was directed to the first row and to a bed that was the third from the end. There was a pile of stuff on the bed and there were lockers right across from the beds and that one was to be mine. I put the things that were on the bed into the locker. All the clothes had the number 75 written in black marker at the back of the neck, or on the tags at the back of the skirts. I was now #75. I wondered how many other girls had worn the #75 clothes.
As I closed the locker door, I turned and saw a girl in the tall mirror at the end of the room. She moved when I did and that was when I felt a shock go through me. That was me! I had never seen myself look like that before, and I began to shake and panic until I saw my eyes. There were my mother’s eyes looking back at me. I was still me. They could do anything they wanted to me, but I would still be me!
All my own things are gone. Now I have to wear strange clothes and aprons with the number 75 on them. I am now just a number.
The Supervisor came in and directed us to follow her. We went down the stairs and stopped at a door and she led us in a prayer that we had to repeat after her. I never heard that prayer before. Then we entered the dining room, where all the girls were already eating. We were directed to empty chairs, and plates of food were put before us. I was very hungry. I just put my head down and began to eat. I can’t even remember what we had for supper. The other new girl and I had to eat fast because the others couldn’t leave until we were done. Then we had to say a thank-you prayer all together before we could leave the dining room. I didn’t know this prayer either, so I had to just repeat what they were saying.
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