Not only is Dawn Dumont a writer to keep your eyes on, she is also a lawyer, a journalist, a stand up comic, an actor, a broadcaster, and a screenwriter. Humour and tenderness lace together her narrative of growing up in the poverty, alcoholism and loving community of the Okanese First Nation, a place this Cree author calls the smallest reserve in the world.
She writes with deep affection as she reflects on the child she once was and the community she grew up in. This semi autobiographical debut novel is woven together as a collection of short stories. Some reveal a world of casual cruelty and bullying against a backdrop of hard core loyalty. Others take us into realms of the absurd. Her nerdy love for literature punctuates them all. Each chapter is imbued with a deep love and compassion for family. What we see are parents doing the best they can and succeeding in spite of their own struggles, flaws and failures.
Two chapters in particular stick out for me. When I tried reading to my partner a section from A Weighty Matter, where her mother cooks tripe, I couldn't get through it from laughing so hard. (I have my own memories of tripe that I try to avoid reminiscing over.)
I tried to collect a quote about Conan the Barbarian from The Way of the Sword, but honestly, the entire piece is so loaded with painful truth and screaming hilarity that I almost gave up. Here is a small segment.
This book is a read for grades 8 and up. There is some swearing, but who hasn't heard colourful language by the time they are 13?
My niece, Casey Stepaniuk, turned me onto this book. Read her review here on goodreads. She writes much more eloquently than I about the joys and marvels of this book.
To celebrate Canada's 150+ years of colonialism, I committed to reading at least 50 books by indigenous Canadians this year.
This is the first of them.
You can bet your hard earned cash that more of them will be by Dawn Dumont.