My Con­ver­sa­tions with Cana­di­ans

Lee Mar­a­cle, 160 pgs, Book*hug, book­thug.ca, $20

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

For those fa­mil­iar with Lee Mar­a­cle’s long list of pre­vi­ous works, it should come as no sur­prise that the chap­ters con­tained herein (billed as “Es­sais” by Book*hug) are more con­fronta­tions than they are con­ver­sa­tions. “You are not in­vited into the text to re­spond,” she be­gins her in­tro­duc­tion, “and for that I apol­o­gize.” The text sets out early on to “scrib­ble a num­ber of chap­ters in re­sponse to a num­ber of com­mon ques­tions,” those be­ing, “What do I call you?, How does colo­nial­ism work?, What can I do to help?,” etc. How­ever, it soon be­comes clear that the text will not be so sim­ple— Mar­a­cle’s style of nar­ra­tion rarely sticks to the ques­tion at hand, choos­ing in­stead to weigh heav­ily on di­gres­sions, mem­o­ries, sto­ries, and bits of his­tory or sci­en­tific fact that seem per­ti­nent to the evolv­ing topic of con­ver­sa­tion. Some might find this nat­u­ral, or as Mar­a­cle puts it, “con­ver­sa­tional,” but others may grow frus­trated with a lack of cen­tral fo­cus, or a dearth of ev­i­dence and elab­o­ra­tion for large, po­ten­tially con­tentious claims. In her chap­ter ti­tled “Marginal­iza­tion and Re­ac­tionary Pol­i­tics,” for in­stance, Mar­a­cle says that the suf­fragette move­ment was rooted in the Hau­denosaunee sys­tem — whoa! Else­where, she be­lieves that the Ojibwe “hole in the sky” nar­ra­tive has helped form nu­clear mod­els for atomic war in North Amer­ica. These are large, in­ter­est­ing claims with enor­mous con­se­quences. They de­serve more than a pass­ing glance in a loosely-struc­tured con­ver­sa­tion.

Those who have en­joyed Mar­a­cle’s pre­vi­ous works will en­joy this one, too. Those who are un­com­fort­able with con­fronta­tion should take heed, and prob­a­bly read this any­way. (Joel W. Vaughan)

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