BY ANGELA MEADY
ON Oct. 31, the Thunder Bay Public Library welcomed Tanya Talaga, author of the book Seven Fallen Feathers : Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City.
She was in the city to host an important event at the Dennis Cromarty High School, but had been invited to meet with librarians, directors, board members, the Indigenous liasions for the city and the library and interested members of the public about her powerful book, and she signed a copy for the library’s permanent collection.
This is a book that everyone should read. Talaga, who is an investigative reporter and author, tells the story of the seven Indigenous high school students who died in Thunder Bay between 2000 to 2011.
It is a difficult read, and a profound story which even the author still cries over when she rereads certain portions. Beyond the shocking news, beyond the statistics and the rumours and the investigations, this is a story of seven young people who travelled to Thunder Bay with all the hope of their families going with them because there is no adequate upper schooling for them at home.
One by one, you learn the individual’s stories of their last day and the reactions of the families, friends, other students, searchers, communities and other persons and agencies who interact after the tragedies. With a meticulous eye for detail and a sensitive and nuanced understanding which comes from the author’s own roots being in Fort William First Nation and having spent her summer here, Talaga describes a city and culture impaired by the legacy of years of racism, poverty, neglect and violence.
This is a book which will grip you, make you think and help you understand better what has led up to the horrific experiences of young people cut down too soon. It connects the local experience to the larger experience of Canada and is a cry for justice, human rights and respect. The cover of the book features a poignant painting by Christian Morriseau depicting the seven fallen feathers.
One of those feathers, is Kyle, the artist’s own son. Like the author’s words, this painting is a requiem for the fallen. Each one lived in hope, was a unique and beloved soul, and each one is remembered by those left behind.
Through this book, which is nominated for the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction, you can meet the seven, and be inspired and encouraged by the sharing of their stories to work for justice, harmony and a better future for everyone.
The book is available at your library for borrowing and also will soon be available as a book club in a bag with ten copies for sharing.
Angela Meady is with the Thunder Bay Public Library (www.tbpl.ca).
@Your Library appears in The Chronicle-Journal each Sunday. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Check out the blog at tbplatyourlibrary.blogspot.com.