More Than Brothers
by Peter Razor
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Pub Date 01 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2022
Michigan State University Press, Makwa Enewed
A Note From the Publisher
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 16 members
As someone who has been learning more about First Nations American history, I was really intrigued to read this one. I loved the inclusion of native language as well as the inclusion of culture. This novel did highlight the racism and abuse experienced by First Nations people during the implementation of U.S. government boarding schools.
Wiijiwaaganag focuses on two boys; the first is Niizh Eshkanag, an Anishinaabe boy forced to go to a residential school. This school will attempt to strip him of his name, language and culture. Roger is the nephew of the school principal and is going to be attending the same school. The boys quickly learn that they have many of the same values; they stand up for their classmates and have strong morals. When summer comes, Roger decides to run away to experience Niizh Eshkanag's life, much to the dismay of many White Americans in the area. The boys set off on an adventure. We see many of the problems they run into aren't because of the Anishinaabe, but the Caucasian community, who feel they need to right a wrong.
The duality of using ojibemowin and english for dialogue was a little distracting at first. But when thinking of the book's central themes, I believe it is essential to include the ojibwemowin as a matter of principle to counteract the attempts at removing the language. There was also a translational key in the back of the book, a character list, and some teacher's tools, which were all very helpful. I wish I had seen them earlier in my reading!
The writing isn't anything special. Some scenes could have been very suspenseful and exciting but fell flat. The plot, characters and setting made up for it. They were all fleshed out and felt very vivid and real. There is a lot of fantastic nature imagery during Niizh Eshkanag and Roger's adventures.
Often, in stories involving residential schools, it's all the negative experiences of the indigenous children. It's important to tell these tales as residential schools were horrendous and were swept under the rug for too long. Still, some people want to read happy books, so they aren't likely to read these types of books and learn about those experiences. Seeing a white child's positive experience with the Anishinabe group was a lovely way to shine a positive light on the indigenous culture while acknowledging and including the horrors of residential schools. Many of the problems Roger ran into were due to the Caucasian people in the community thinking that they knew what was right.
I hope people take the time to read this book. It may not be the most straightforward book to read, but it is well worth it.
I want to thank Netgalley and Michigan State University Press for an e-ARC of Wiijiwaaganag: More than Brothers in exchange for an honest review!
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