Celia’s Song

Herizons - - Arts & Culture -

Lee Mar­a­cle

Cor­morant Books

Re­view by Rachel Carl­son In 1975, Lee Mar­a­cle pub­lished her au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal novel, Bobbi Lee: In­dian Rebel, and be­came one of the first Aboriginal authors printed in Canada. Since then, Mar­a­cle has con­tin­ued her fight against colo­nial­ism and pa­tri­archy with sev­eral works of po­etry, fic­tion and non-fic­tion.Her lat­est novel, Celia’s Song, is an un­flinch­ing ac­count of one fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ence of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trauma and heal­ing.

The novel opens as the shape-shift­ing nar­ra­tor, Mink, watches a two-headed ser­pent slither from its post above a for­got­ten long­house door.The snake’s heads, Loyal and Rest­less, bat­tle for supremacy as they make their way along the coast of Bri­tish Columbia and through Nuu’chal­nulth ter­ri­tory. Rest­less grows strong on the lin­ger­ing af­ter­math of colo­nial­ism, while Loyal stokes the fire of re­siliency. Their dual in­flu­ences of dis­cord and har­mony shape the lives of Celia James and her fam­ily.

Celia’s fam­ily and com­mu­nity tend the still open wounds left by sys­temic poverty, Euro­pean epi­demics, near cul­tural era­sure and the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.No­body but Mink knows the heal­ing song Celia car­ries within her­self, but she is a re­luc­tant vi­sion­ary. She drifts on the mar­gins of her fam­ily’s com­plex re­la­tion­ships and re­mains lost in the af­ter­math of her son’s sui­cide.But, as Rest­less’s in­flu­ence grows, a ter­ri­ble tragedy strikes one of the com­mu­nity’s youngest mem­bers. Ul­ti­mately, Celia, her fam­ily and her vil­lage unite against Rest­less’s vo­ra­cious ap­petite and be­gin to su­ture the wounds of colo­nial­ism.

Like the heal­ing process, Celia’s Song is by turns painful, funny, trau­matic and joy­ful.It is a nar­ra­tive with strong, im­per­fect women at its core.They are both heal­ers and ar­biters of jus­tice. They be­come the el­ders who reimag­ine stolen tra­di­tions and re­claim the songs that make life worth liv­ing:

“With­out song, the body can­not grieve the dead, send them off to an­other di­men­sion, can­not work or love.With­out song, the body can­not re­cover from loss, from di­vorce, can­not ex­press its yearn­ing, and can­not dream.Four gen­er­a­tions of men and women have not been al­lowed to sing.With­out song, all that is left is the thinnest sense of sur­vival.”

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