This House is Not a Home
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Pub Date 01 Sep 2022 | Archive Date Not set
Fernwood Publishing, Roseway Publishing
After a hunting trip one fall, a family in the far reaches of so-called Canada's north return to nothing but an empty space where their home once stood. Finding themselves suddenly homeless, they have no choice but to assimilate into settler-colonial society in a mining town that has encroached on their freedom.
An intergenerational coming-of-age novel, This House Is Not a Home follows Kǫ̀, a Dene man who grew up entirely on the land before being taken to residential school. When he finally returns home, he struggles to connect with his family: his younger brother whom he has never met, his mother because he has lost his language, and an absent father whose disappearance he is too afraid to question.
The third book from acclaimed Dene, Cree and Metis writer Katłįà, This House Is Not a Home is a fictional story based on true events. Visceral and embodied, heartbreaking and spirited, this book presents a clear trajectory of how settlers dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of their land — and how Indigenous communities, with dignity and resilience, continue to live and honour their culture, values, inherent knowledge systems, and Indigenous rights towards re-establishing sovereignty. Fierce and unflinching, this story is a call for land back.
"Absolutely exquisite. Told with such love and gentle ferocity, I'm convinced This House Is Not A Home will never leave those who read it. I am in awe of what I've witnessed here. Mahsi cho, Katlia. Bravo!" - Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed and Moccasin Square Garden
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Average rating from 3 members
*Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!*
Everything about this book took my heart, ripped it to shreds, and somehow managed to put it back together again after so much heartache. I knew what I was getting myself into from the description, but this exceeded all of my expectations, and I wound up reading the whole book in one sitting. Before I go any further, I should mention that I am indigenous too, Potawatomi and Ojibwe, so I tried really hard to read it objectively, but it spoke to my soul and endeared it to me in a way that most books do not.
Told from a 3rd person omniscient POV, we follow Kǫ̀, a Dene man, through his life, from growing up solely on the land with the ways of his people in his culture to being taken from his family and forced into residential school, and everything that comes after with further forced assimilation and settlers on the land he grew up in. Not only does this novel show what happens to him in an external sense, like the changing of his life and everything he has ever known prior to boarding school, in an internal sense and how that has an impact on his psyche, and even his family.
Every indigenous person knows the history, no matter what tribe, it is essentially all the same. That is the hard thing about this book because you know where it's going and you feel that ache deep down in your heart because you cannot stop it. That's not to say it is not fresh and invigorating, because it is, only that one knows what is to come because of where we are today. What I also loved about this is the way the use of language is utilized, because prior to his time in boarding school, the dialogue is in the native language (though the author does a good job of explaining what was said in dialogue tags/following sentences) and during different moments in his life, there becomes a mix, to becoming predominantly English. It really shows the reader, in real-time, what he was experiencing and the struggle of having your native language taken from you, then having to relearn it.
I also love that the novel also does not focus predominantly on Kǫ̀ as it also includes other members of his family and the different ways they face what has happened to them. Everyone faces things differently and as we move into newer generations in his lineage, we see the adaptation they experience that comes far easier than it does for Kǫ̀ who remembers life before such changes. It really opens up the multiple realities of colonization, assimilation, and boarding schools, because it continued culturally long after it happened in a ripple effect, and this novel highlights that wonderfully.
I believe this is a novel that non-indigenous people can read before going into memoirs/non-fiction novels to learn the history. Even if it is a piece of fiction, I would say it is quite accurate and paints a vivid picture of history. For indigenous people, I think this novel would be a hard one to face, as it is definitely heart-wrenching to have the history shared in a way that lets you visualize it while getting attached to the characters, because in truth, they really are real-life people, as mentioned how it is inspired by a family the author knows of.
Overall, I love this book and will be recommending it highly to everyone.
Content warnings: animal deaths, blood, hunting, injured animals, death, hypothermia, miscarriage, mother forcibly removed from home, bullying, racism, assault, destroyed habitats, concussions, drugs, gambling, poisoning, murder, car crash, gangs, drug dealing, cancer, suicide, incarceration, Residential school: stolen children, cutting hair, stripping of name, abuse, forced assimilation, brainwashing, refusal to eat, choking, force-feeding, unmarked graves, illness, colonization, displacement, alcoholism.