Read Champion Et Ooneemeetoo by Tomson Highway Robert Dickson Online


Champion et Ooneemeetoo Okimasis, jeunes Cris du nord du Manitoba, sont arraches a leur famille et places dans une ecole catholique residentielle du Sud. Alienes par une culture qu on leur impose, ils luttent pour leur survie. La Reine blanche, personnage mythique, veille sur eux et les ramene vers l univers magique dont ils sont issus. L un deviendra musicien et l autre dChampion et Ooneemeetoo Okimasis, jeunes Cris du nord du Manitoba, sont arraches a leur famille et places dans une ecole catholique residentielle du Sud. Alienes par une culture qu on leur impose, ils luttent pour leur survie. La Reine blanche, personnage mythique, veille sur eux et les ramene vers l univers magique dont ils sont issus. L un deviendra musicien et l autre danseur. De leur art, un monde nouveau emergera....

Title : Champion Et Ooneemeetoo
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9782894231661
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 353 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Champion Et Ooneemeetoo Reviews

  • Jenny
    2019-04-09 09:35

    This book makes me wish that we all spoke Cree and that Tomson Highway could've published this book in his birth language (as he says he composes his works in his head in Cree, and has to wrangle them into English so they can go on the page).This is a Canadian literary treasure. It's about family, god, love, death and life. It shows the destructive power of the residential school system of the '50s and the AIDS epidemic of the '80s, both of which the characters face (in fact, this book is a fictionalized version of Highway's own life story). For me as a white reader, it provides a view into the internal life of a culture that is so different from the Western establishment. Because of this, it takes a bit more work, especially in the last third of the book to parse the ideas of circular time and trickster gods. The effort is well worth it, though, and it's a book that has stayed on my shelf for years since I first read it.

  • Jennifer (aka EM)
    2019-04-02 05:40

    Amazing book that manages to combine myth, magic, shape- and time-shifting with a gritty reality, a down-to-earth humour and an essential sadness. Take the humour and whimsy of Thomas King or Sherman Alexie; the lyrical poeticism and depth of character of Louise Erdrich; the poignancy, raw pathos and passion of Richard Wagamese and Joseph Boyden. Anchor it in a playwright's sensibility for the visual and the dramatic, and you have Tomson Highway: an original and founding voice in Indigenous literature.

  • Lydia
    2019-04-21 05:27

    If people are looking into human history millennia from now, I hope they find this book. If aliens were to take form and come to my house, I'd hand them this book. Highway takes the two lives of two young men, Champion (Jeremiah) and Ooneemeetoo (Gabriel) and gives you everything about their lives. The Residential school system, their lives in Mistik lake and the men they become. Jeremiah, afraid of his Indian identity, and Gabriel, battling with his own queerness. This book is visceral -- it mentions blood, sweat, tears, cum, shit, all without flinching, without looking away. It points out the absurdity of colonialism and dips into one of my favourite things -- pointing out the ridiculousness of the English language. Cree is like a code, spoken softly, spoken secretly, two boys like spies against the world. Music, in this book, behaves like a language. A language that transcends all barriers. It lifts Jeremiah out of residential school and, after ten years of not playing, lifts him out of his own personal struggles again.I can see Gabriel so clearly, so vividly, that sometimes, while reading his chapters, I would cry. I feel his presence beside me. I wanted to wrap him up in my arms and protect him and tell him I love him. Every time he danced, I felt it. Every time he smiled, I felt it. Every time his heart hurt, I felt it. This book is redemption and ruin all at once. And somewhere, out there, Weesageechak, the trickster, the raven, the coyote, the Fur Queen, is dancing, laughing, singing. And somewhere, out there, Tomson Highway heard.

  • Kimberly
    2019-04-13 08:29

    I really wanted to like this book but for some reason I just couldn't take it anymore. I gave up after reading 90% of it and coudln't continue, even though I had only 30 pages left. I think four years of university have finally taken its toll, to the point that I have the urge to vomit when I read something so extremely literary. I really hated Highway's writing; everything is so chaotic and the story jumps around and it's so fragmented and everything is just flashing by. The font of the book also bugs me tremendously. Somehow large, double-spaced Constantia ruined everything visually. Honestly I have not suffered so much because of a book before. I HATED this book. I was so bored and pained by it and it got worse when I forced myself to read on because it's for class. I was honestly TRAUMATIZED. Honestly. It gave me so much trauma and physical/mental suffering. This is probably an extremely biased judgement, however, considering I am near the end of my academic pursuits. I'm really sorry for this extremely negative review because it's not a true review. I didn't absorb much because I was so stressed about school and about finishing it on time. Maybe it really was the font and I don't know... Sigh...things are starting to explode I guess. For now though, it's a one-star...I will revisit this book again when I feel ready for it...years and years later...

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-04-03 10:25

    Different books bring different pleasures. Sometimes it's the plot, tense and urgent and carrying me along. Sometimes it's characters, people I come to love and want to see what happens to, and who make it hurt when bad things come. Most rarely of all, I think, it's the writing itself, the kind of writing that wraps you up and carries you along, that, rather than being at best unobtrusive, leaves me searching for just the right turn of phrase to capture how the prose makes me feel.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Ishita
    2019-03-24 08:45

    Achingly beautiful, Highway presents a vibrant novel that drives home the repercussions felt by residential school survivors, for the rest of their lives. Without victimizing them, he places his main characters, Jeremiah and Gabriel, in a position of strength as masters of their own lives and fate, while intertwining traditional Cree storytelling with their urban lives. Filled with alluring prose and magical realism, this book is a passionate eye opener to this disturbing period of Canadian history.

  • Rachel
    2019-03-25 10:19

    4.5 (ROUNDED UP TO 5) STARS FOR "KISS OF THE FUR QUEEN" BY TOMSON HIGHWAYWow. What a gorgeous, beautiful, heartbreaking book that takes a look into Cree culture and the horrifically dark period of Canadian history regarding residential schools. Kiss of the Fur Queen follows the lives of two Cree brothers, Champion and Ooneemeetoo, who are sent to residential school and forced to assimilate to the dominate Catholic and white culture around them. Their hair is cut, their traditional attire banned, their native tongue forbidden, and their names changed - it sounds like something right out of a dystopian novel, and while these two brothers and their families may be fictional, the circumstances and events can be taken straight out of a history book.The book is not a look at residential schools themselves, but rather takes a look at how the oppression and sexual abuse they faced at them molded who they were as adults and onwards in their lives. The book doesn't end right when they are old enough to go to high school, or move to a new city. Their memories and experiences follow them, and I think this was a great choice on the author's part. In Canadian history, students are often taught of the horrors children faced, but not of how it affected them later in life. Kiss of the Fur Queen doesn't stray away from discussing abuse and its effects on future relationships, homosexuality in the 1950s, and the pain that comes from division and not quite belonging to the "dominant" culture or the one you were born into. None of these things are easy to read about - it's dark material - but it's important that everyone faces the facts of what conditions Aboriginal children were placed in just due to who they were.The writing itself was very poetic and beautiful, and I think was very appropriate in regards to the mythology often referred to within the book, however my one criticism of the book is that sometimes it was too much to fully understand what specifically was happening in certain scenes. A bunch of metaphors and lyrical text were put in place of things that would have been better explained directly. Sometimes I would have to read passages multiple times before full clarity clicked in and I was able to resume reading. Overall, this has been one of the best books I've read this year and I absolutely recommend that people pick it up and read more about Cree culture and the dark parts of Canadian history that people don't like to talk much about. It's not an easy read in terms of what you would want to bring to the beach, but it's worthwhile and you will walk away from it feeling like you've just gained so much more understanding and compassion for these people.

  • Abigail
    2019-04-18 03:16

    This book is a very interesting and captivating story. Its a wonderful book and I hope to find the time to reread it. It traces the impact of Residential Schools and forced assimilation on two brothers, both of which experienced horrific sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, and both of which had wonderful talents, one musically and the other in dance. It shows the way their lives deteriorate as a result of the Residential schools and how much healthier and ambitious they were living and trapping with their parents, as well as how much happier their parents and community were before Reserves. Ultimately, it explores the homosexuality of one brother and the failure of the other, while at the sane time weaving in Aboriginal traditions and the trickster. The novel is political, it is heartbreaking, and it is wonderful.

  • Michal
    2019-04-22 06:41

    The writing was excellent and the story was very well-told. However, this is not an easy read, and the transitions between "real life" and the dream-like sequences are often confusing. That being said, you begin to really care about the two brothers and their lives. The sadness in this book is almost palpable, evokes emotion, which to me is a sign of good writing. I have a strong suspicion that I would enjoy this novel more if I were to read it again. Reading some of its reviews (after the fact) helped explain a few things that would have enriched my understanding of some parts of the story.

  • B. Mason
    2019-03-29 07:33

    Tomson Highway's experience as a playwright is evident in his first novel but he uses action and theatricality in his prose to his advantage. The narrative of the brothers skips along through years and it is the individual moments of conflict that ripple and resonate through the story even if lacking in a taut sense of cohesion. The scenes woven together display the personhood of these characters and though at times some of the dialogue seems a bit overwrought (the mall church comparison springs to mind) perhaps the effect is necessary, to communicate voices that were silenced for so long, and to speak loudly about injustice that is so quickly shunted. Definitely worth a read!

  • Jessica Levitt
    2019-04-17 07:35

    W.O.W. I've not read an exhaustive collection of first hand accounts of the effects of residential schools on First Nations youth, but those I've read always leave me with such a feeling of hopelessness. How could the Catholic church and Canadian government botch this missionary/assimilation attempt so badly? And how will they ever repair the damage? I love Tomson Highway's writing style. His use of language is frequently extraordinary and his ability to blend different story lines leaves my head spinning in an effort to keep up. I must get my hands on his plays...

  • Jessica
    2019-04-21 07:30

    We discussed this fascinating and poetic tale on Hello Hemlock in September, thanks to the beautiful Emily's suggestion! One thing I will add to my video review is that, despite its beautiful prose and approach to these themes, there are many triggers for those sensitive to sexual abuse and the abuse of children. Read with caution and awareness, and if possible, push through to the end <3

  • Makenzie
    2019-04-20 11:25

    Just finished and I am going to SOB. Incredible. The constant use of magic realism made me love it so much.

  • Shonna Froebel
    2019-04-24 07:21


  • Pamela
    2019-04-19 09:38

    (view spoiler)[ I was very disappointed in this book. I loved Tomson Highway's play, The Rez Sisters. But this felt like it did not hang together. I felt there were difficulties in bridging myth, magick and Native experience with the contemporary world. That doesn't mean that there was nothing here. He evoked all sorts of emotions, and presented all sorts of important themes: residential schools, abuse by priests, the trickster, AIDS/HIV, the loss of a culture, a generation, a life. But I just didn't care enough about any of them. It feels hollow. The ENDING (and Gabriel's death); this felt hard, this felt connected:And as he moved ever closer, Gabriel Okimasis could decipher the words and the numerals printed across her sash, syllable by syllable, letter by letter: 'The Fur Queen, 1987.'Through the smoke and candle light, the Fur Queen swept into the room. Covering the bed with her cape, she leaned to Gabriel's cheek. The creature of unearthly beauty was floating towards him carrying something in her arms, something round and made of silver, carrying the object at waist level, like a sacred vessel, like an organ, a heart perhaps, a lung, a womb? He was the champion of the world. And then the Queen's lips descended. Down they came, fluttering, like a leaf from an autumn tree, until they came to rest if only for a moment, though he wanted it to last a thousand years, on Gabriel Okimasis's left cheek. There. She kissed him. And took him by the had.Rising from his body, Gabriel Okimasis and the Fur Queen floated off into the swirling mist, as the little white fox on the collar of the cape turned to Jeremiah. And winked. (hide spoiler)]Oh my. Heart and soul. Why not always?"Blinded by the darkness, the caribou hunter Abraham Okimasis lay locked inside his coffin. Though he found the satin lining strangely soothing, he could move nothing, not his wrists, not his neck, not his toes. And all he heard was wind, like the singing of a woman, the most beautiful song he had ever heard, teasing him, taunting him, daring him to venture out and find her."The brothers are connected all through this, just the brothers. Is that true?"Jeremiah played a northern Manitoba shorn of its Gabriel Okimasis, he played the loon cry, the wolves at nightfall, the aurora borealis in Mistik Lake; he played the wind through the pines, the purple of sunsets, the zigzag of a thousand white arctic terns, the fields of mauve-hued fireweed rising and falling like an exposed heart."Abraham Okimasis as a character is not present enough. But he started it all, with a wish, a prayer, and a hope. But he became champion and the Trickster (in the guise of the Fur Queen) saw him. It doesn't mean he lacked spirit."Jeremiah's father would tell his adoring children of arguments he had had with the fierce north wind, of how a young pine tree had corrected his direction on his homeward journey and thus saved all their lives, of how the northern lights had whispered truth into his dreams. And his soul was happy, his spirit full and buoyant, his smile a gift from heaven. Time alone, he said to them with just so many words: The most precious time one human being can have during his too few moments on Earth."Jeremiah returns from residential school, and his love for his culture is infinite, but damaged."Jeremiah strained to see over his brother's shoulder and his smile grew radiant. He yearned to reach right through the window, scoop up a the toy village in the cup of his had, kiss it tenderly, and put it in the pocket next to his heart. He could already taste the Cree on his tongue."Beautiful, descriptive."Across the lake, a lone wolf raised its howl, the string of notes arcing in a seamless, infinitely slow, infinitely sad glissando, then fading into silence, leaving the hearts of its listeners motionless with awe. Then two wolves joined the first in song. One of Abraham's dogs, tethered to trees behind the tent, answered, then a second dog, and a third, until a chorus of weeping souls, as if in mourning for one irretrievably lost, filled the night air, numbing the pain of the woman now deep in her labour in this snow-covered tent on this remote island."The Trickster, Native mythology, open and wide, destiny, and magick. If only he had continued in this vein."One trillion miles above the aboriginal jamboree, the ghostly foetus continued its airy descent towards Earth. And only medicine women, shamans, artists, and visionaries were aware that a star-born child would soon be joining their dance."Here is story, and somewhat of an explanation (if an explanation is possible) of the fur queen, and her role (or is it the trickster really?)."This book, of course, is a novel--all the characters and what happens to them are fictitious. Moreover, some liberty has been taken with the chronology of certain historical events--the Fur Queen beauty pageant, for instance. As a certain philosopher of ancient Greece once put it, the difference between the historian and the poet/storyteller is that where the historian relates what happened, the storyteller tells how it might have come about."This is good stuff about Raven and other tricksters in Native literature:"A NOTE ON THE TRICKSTERThe dream world of North American Indian mythology is inhabited by the most fantastic creatures, beings and events. Foremost among these beings is the 'Trickster,' as pivotal and important a figure in our world as Christ is in the realm of Christian mythology. 'Weesageechak' in Cree, 'Nanabush' in Ojibway, 'Raven' in others, 'Coyote' in still others, this Trickster goes by many names and many guises. In fact, he can assume any guise he chooses. Essentially, a comic, clownish sort of character, his role is to teach us about nature and the meaning of existence on the planet Earth; he straddles the consciousness of man and that of God, the Great Spirit.The most explicit distinguishing feature between the North American Indian languages and the European languages is that in Indian (e.g. Cree, Ojibway), there is no gender. In Cree, Ojibway, etc., unlike English, French, German, etc., the male-female-neuter hierarchy is entirely absent. So that by this stream of thought, the central hero figure from our mythology--theology, if you will--is theoretically neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, or is both simultaneously.Some say that Weesageechak left this continent when the white man came. We believe she/he is still here among us--albeit a little the worse for wear and tear--having assumed other guises. Without the continued presence of this extraordinary figure, the core of Indian culture would be gone forever."Thus it BEGINS, gloriously, with dogs, beautifully, with dogs, with vision, with pain, with hope."'Mush!' the hunter cried into the wind. Through the rising vapour of a northern Manitoba February, so crisp, so dry, the snow creaked underfoot, the caribou hunter Abraham Akimasis drove his sled and team of eight grey huskies through the orange-rose-tinted dusk. His left hand gripping handlebar of sled, his right snapping moose-hide whip above his head, Abraham Akimasis was urging his huskies forward."'Mush!' he cried, 'mush.' The desperation in his voice, like a man about to sob, surprised him.Abraham Akimasis could see, or thought he could, the finish line a mile away. He could also see other mushers, three, maybe four. Which meant forty more behind him. But what did these forty matter? What mattered was that, so close to the end, he was not leading. What mattered was that he was not going to win the race.And he was so tired, his dogs beyond tired, so tired they would have collapsed if he was to relent.'Mush!' the sole word left that could feed him, dogs and master both, with the will to travel on.Three days. One hundred and fifty miles of low-treed tundra, ice-covered lakes, all blanketed with at least two feet of snow — fifty miles per day — a hundred and fifty miles of freezing temperatures and freezing winds. And the finish line mere yards ahead.The shafts of vapour rising from the dogs' panting mouths, the curls of mist emerging from their undulating backs, made them look like insubstantial wisps of air."'Mush!' the hunter cried to his lead do. 'Tiger-Tiger, "'Mush.'

  • Alice Montgomery
    2019-03-31 05:45

    Kiss of the Fur Queen was probably one of the most important materials which helped me become more aware about Indigenous issues. Sometimes, reading about facts isn’t enough to understand the psychological and sociological impacts. In this instance, fictional novels are extremely important. They are a vehicle which can draw readers to a broader understanding. It is like walking a mile in another person’s shoes. While I cannot begin to comprehend entirely the trauma that residential schools have brought to Indigenous people after absorbing material, I would argue that it is a start.The novel begins with two Cree brothers living in a small community in Northern Manitoba. The brothers are happy and healthy, and even at a young age, they demonstrate a lot of artistic potential. One day, the eldest brother, Champion Okimasis, is swept away from his home and parents and carried off to a residential school hundreds of miles away. At this school, Champion is renamed Jeremiah. He is taught English in hopes of eradicating his native tongue. A few years later, Jeremiah’s brother Gabriel (original name Ooneemeetoo), is subjected to sexual assault from a priest at the school.Years later, Jeremiah and Gabriel find themselves living in the city trying to make their way as artists. At this point I found it rather interesting that Highway decided not to focus a great deal more on life at the residential school. This suggests that for Highway, the aftereffects of attending the residential school and being immersed in a society which seeks to eradicate Indigenous culture is much more devastating. It becomes clear that although the brothers have received an education which has allowed them to pursue their artistic interests, they become isolated individuals as a result. If they go home, they cannot fully adapt into their family life and culture. If they stay in the city, their Indigenous heritage turns them into outcasts. They appear to inhabit both worlds at once without fully being able to root themselves firmly in either world.This book is extremely valuable for a non-Indigenous Canadian or even American person if they wish to begin to understand Indigenous issues. The effects of residential schools may appear to be a facet of the past (the last one closed down approximately 21 years ago in 1996 in Canada), but the trauma is very much alive today. Although there is a slight blending of Indigenous myth that I certainly had no experience with, Highway writes in a particular way which is conscious of his audience. You do not need to be an expert in Indigenous culture to understand this novel, and any Cree words used in the novel are conveniently translated in a glossary at the back of the book.

  • Tara
    2019-04-03 03:26

    Amazing! Awesome! This book completely blew me away. I loved the lyrical writing, the wonderful characters, the evocative descriptions, the totally Indigenous humour, and the topics. This book was written almost 20 years ago and was so far ahead of it's time in terms of the topics it addresses about the Indigenous Canadian experience - the trauma of residential school, the dissonance between a traditional lifestyle and an urban lifestyle, the destructive effect of colonization on Indigenous communities, the difficulty of being a gay Indigenous person, the ideological conflict between traditional beliefs and Catholicism, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the influential role of Indigenous women. That Tomson Highway was writing about these topics 20 years ago blows me away...and makes me wish I had read this a long time ago.Although it can be heavy going at times, the author never abandons the reader there, and at it's heart this novel is about love. Love between brothers, the love of parents for children, and the love of self. It's also about creativity and how the ability to be creative is as necessary for a person's survival as food, water, air, and shelter are. And how creativity and humour and language and connection are at the heart of Indigenous resiliency. Love and creativity and connection are what carry the Okimasis brothers into the darkest parts of their lives and that's also what carries them out of those parts. Ultimately, I think, the ability to connect to their childhood selves and reclaim those selves is what transforms them both by the end of the novel. That, and the help of the Fur Queen - that Cree trickster who is with them from the beginning to the end of their lives.This is one of the best books I've read in a long time and I think I'm going to remember it for a very long time.

  • Arlie
    2019-03-24 10:34

    I don't think there are many authors who can write a story combining myth, history, and heartbreak, and humour. The story weaves between reality (mostly) with bits of dream sequences (reminded me a bit of Nega Mezlekia in feel). I loved how strong and powerful and beautiful the first few chapters were - Champion singing with gusto to the caribou, secure in the love of his family and their place on the earth. And then came the residential school where everything began to fall apart. The boys' responses to their abuse (pulling away, fear of intimacy, unhealthy promiscuity, and so forth) were heavy on my heart. I also loved the way Highway showed other issues that were/are part of life for indigenous people in Winnipeg (like violence against women) although they were not the main story. The questions of identity and place (both taken from boys at school) were so central to all of their decisions. This is the type of book whose characters linger with you.

  • Amanda Poirier
    2019-04-03 08:18

    4.75/5 stars. This was such an emotional read for me. It was poetic, sad, and dark. I enjoyed the writing very much. The story was a bit confusing to me, but I think that is because Indigenous literature is not like normal literature. Indigenous writers tend to have a strange timeline to the plot and things don't always make sense the way most other writers do with their writing. I love the role of the Fur Queen, the white fix, Weesageechak in this book. I think that looking at the life of Tomson Highway this definitely had some major similarities to his life. I really felt that you could tell he came from only speaking Cree and Dene in his early life before residential school and I really like that. Great read for sure and I recommend this book to anyone in Canada interested in learning more about the history of residential school and Indigenous culture and issues despite what Tomson highway says about this book not having anything to do with his real experience.

  • Gaze Santos
    2019-04-15 03:32

    Perhaps I'm biased by the fact that the author was a professor of mine back in university. He was a very interesting guy who lived (and still lives) a singular life. And this literary shows in this book, which is actually a thinly disguised autobiography of sorts. He's a concert pianist, as well as a playwright and entertainer. Mr. Highway lived through a very tumultuous time in regards to living conditions of the First Nations people. When a child, he and his brother were sent to a residential school where indigenous children were taught to be "civilized"... just as the character in his book was. He also lived through the AIDS epidemic of the 80's... Which is also treated in the book. And through the book we are able to catch a glimpse of what it is like to get evicted from the very land of your ancestors. The book is not all doom and gloom however, it is suffused with a genuine zest for life as well as a liberal dab of magic realism. Thomson Highway's version of reality is very much infused with the old gods and spirits of his ancestries. And just because some of their homes have been paved over does not mean that they have left. A book that made me laugh and cry. But overall, revealed that magic is still around us if we have the eyes to look for it.

  • Evan Kirby
    2019-04-10 07:36

    Very well written, almost poetically so by Highway. I didn't quite love it or connect with it as much as I expect to, though. I actually felt that it seemed a bit rushed and would've done well in parsing out the lives of the two brothers, as the story is about them growing up together and discovering the world, thus preventing it from seeming so jarring when it would skip ahead in time making you have to double check the timeline.

  • Maggie
    2019-03-28 07:26

    such a strange book but i think i really liked it! Super interesting and unique; I would classify it as magical realism (it reminded me of "Like Water for Chocolate"). A great way to understand more about the effects that forced assimilation and Christianization had on Native Americans, and provided some good insights on how Native people dealt with traumatic experiences like the boarding schools and destruction of their home lands.

  • Megan
    2019-04-13 09:39

    Magical realism set in the tragedy of colonialism.

  • Natalie
    2019-03-24 08:39

    2.75 stars

  • litost
    2019-04-10 05:16

    Another amazing book by a Canadian author.

  • Barbara
    2019-04-09 08:36

    Gritty and surreal.

  • Brian
    2019-04-14 11:23

    What a wonderful novel. Definitely a must read. I couldn’t say it any better than this review that I borrowed from The Canadian Book Review.Tomson Highway is one of Canada’s best known playwrites, most notably the author of The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, both of which are Dora and Chalmer’s Award winning plays. Published in 1998, Kiss of the Fur Queen is Highway’s first and only novel; containing many autobiographical points, this book takes on a lot of issues. In North American Native literature there has been a trend of authors either being too hard on their own culture or glossing over the harsher realities of Native life. Highway, a Cree from northern Manitoba, walks a fine line between these two extremes with his writing. This novel takes place over the course of around 35 years; looking at how Natives were treated in Catholic residential schools, sexuality, art, and family.The story focuses on a pair of brothers, Jeremiah and Gabriel Okimasis, and their journey from birth to young adulthood; in each of the six parts of the book, a different stage of the brothers lives are narrated. As you start to read this it takes a few chapters to really get into the book and get used to the language. Canadian Native lit is often written with the same style as the oral narrative, which is an important piece of their culture; if you were to read a few pages out loud this will be very apparent. The dialog is as beautiful as would be expected from a playwrite of this caliber.The topics and themes of this story are very serious subjects and are, at several points in the novel, very difficult to get through, mainly because of Highway’s vivid writing. The Okimasis brothers are representative of the Native community as a whole in the early fifties; they are being pulled away from their Cree culture and thrust into the world of Catholicism and the indoctrination that would come with attending a residential school. There are horrifying scenes of abuse and molestation as well as heartbreaking scenes of torment directed towards the only two Natives at this school. As the story progresses the focus turns to Gabriel’s sexuality. As he confronts his homosexuality, in a time when this was not overly accepted, he descends into promiscuity and prostitution with constant flashbacks of the abuse he suffered at the hands of the priests. This part of the novel is so beautifully written but so hard to endure. There is so much pain in Gabriel’s life and past that he really doesn’t stand a chance to live a so-called “normal” existence.My one criticism of this book, and it is not exactly a flaw of the writing, likely more so a flaw with this reader, the details used when Highway is writing about dancing and music are so detailed, with so much technical terminology, it is sometimes difficult to understand what exactly is being said. Jeremiah and Gabriel, eventually become a world-class musician/playwrite and dancer respectively. These details though certainly give the story a level of depth and believability when looking at the brothers passion for their arts.This is a very sad book; at points there seems to be very little hope for the characters, and even at the end of the novel, it could be argued there is still none. In a short review it is impossible to touch on everything this book looks at. This is the type of novel academics could spend years and countless articles looking at. A beautiful novel, a moving novel, and an eye opening novel, I thinkKiss of the Fur Queen will definitely be looked at as one of the great Native novels of its time along side Three Day Road and Green Grass, Running Water.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2019-04-03 07:30

    Tomson Highway oughta stick to playwrighting.The acclaimed dramatist (The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing) has penned a first novel that should have been rejected, politely, at the audition stage. An uneasy mixture of Gabriel García Marquez and Judith Krantz – magic realism with sex and careers – Kiss Of The Fur Queen chronicles the lives of two brothers, Champion and Gabriel Okimas. Terrible things happen to them at the Catholic school they're forced to enter. Later on, Jeremiah battles racism to become a concert pianist, while Gabriel struggles with homophobia to become a ballet dancer who has promiscuous-yet-mystical sex with strangers. Throughout, they're watched over by a dream-like apparition called the Fur Queen, the rez fairy godmother. Despite autobiographical elements, the writing lacks authenticity. The early passages are way too dreamily sentimental, and Highway clutters the book with clichés. People are "still as a rock" and use "every ounce of courage" and characters and situations pack up and leave, taking with them any tension they might have generated.Even on the level of dialogue, where a playwright should shine, Highway fumbles. One scene where the brothers discuss religion has more ideas than drama.Fur Queen does offer insights into what it's like to straddle two cultures – Jeremiah wonders how to say words like "concert pianist" and "university" in Cree. And the book's best writing comes in a colourful scene with Miss Maggie, a tough-talking arctic fox. Too bad the rest of the book doesn't have Maggie's vitality.

  • Rick
    2019-04-22 11:28

    This book just didn't work for me. It was the story of two Cree brothers from Manitoba and their experience in Residential Schools and how they dealt with that for the rest of their lives. The book certainly has value from that perspective. However, I have found some of the memoirs of Residential school survivors more enlightening, regarding those experiences. I found the writing style of this novel not overly appealing to me. The characters just didn't seem real enough... part of the problem was the mixing of the characters' visions with 'real-life' action, in a way that was difficult to follow at times. All the imagery and symbols in the visions were an important part of the book, but I have never enjoyed novels that make excessive use of imagery and symbolism .... some of it is great, but like anything else in writing, I find that very often, less is more. This book may have great appeal to some people with different tastes, especially since it is on an important subject for Canada, but I can't recommend it.

  • Laly
    2019-03-29 03:33

    Loved it!When they ask you to read things for classes you always feel a little at odds with it. I started this book not knowing what to think of it (I had liked the previous books though one not so much) but as I kept going... I loved it!There are a few things that made me cringe and want to close the book and take a deep breath, so I did. I'm not going to spoil this for anyone, so I'll just say that it was worth it even after the cringe-worthy parts. The ending was beyond perfect because it tied the story perfectly. The son went into the arms of the Fur Queen who kissed his cheek gently and took him by the hand. I cried from chapter 48 on, and it's never felt like my tears had been more deserved. Highway has a way to tie up music and modern/Indian culture that I had never seen before (though I've seen people try)that made me love the book and experience it in a way I didn't think was possible. Jeremiah's and Gabriel's stories are so complex and raw that they made me feel like I was looking through a window into the brother's lives.