Book Review: Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters
Reviewed by: Christine Smith (McFarlane)
After another assault on a First Nations girl (Rinelle Harper) in November 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, dozens of acclaimed writers and artists came together to add their voices to a call for action - to address the deep rooted and horrific crimes that are continuing in our country against our Indigenous sisters.
The result of this call for action is the book “Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters” which is a compilation of pieces of writing from various writers and is edited by Joseph Boyden. It features contributions from such writers as Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood, Gord Downie, Tanya Tagaq Gillis, Lee Maracle, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje, amongst others.
Kwe means woman in Ojibwe, and more specifically kwe means life giver or life carrier in Anishnaabemowin, the Ojibwe language. Women are the backbone of our respective communities yet they are the ones who are three times more likely to face violence- attacks and murder than any other of their gender.
The words written in Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters are strong, powerful and evoke many emotions. There were many pieces that struck a deep chord in me. As an example, I bring you the words of Susan Musgrave in her poem titled “God Loves a Drug Dealer-Graffiti-
“She forced you to cut your hair, hack it off
in front of those you counted as friends but failed
you in the end. Next time she’d make you
shave your eyebrows, too she said, and sent you
back onto the street with what was left of your dignity.”
The poem is poignant in the sense that it speaks of the destroying of one’s soul, and the addictions that quiet the despair of our young ones, and leaves them with no voice.
Lastly, I admire the piece of Joseph Boyden when he says;
“Hey boys, what are we to do? Hey men, why don’t we question this sickness that beats inside too many of us? Shall we healthier ones spend our lives staring, not knowing what to do, just stand and look at our shoes or touch our faces and ask forgiveness for horrors we feel no part of? What are we men to do about this? Do we stand by and watch?
How will we raise our own boys?
"Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters" is a good compilation of various writers. However this book is just a beginning and we must move beyond awareness to action. I also feel that there were a few writers who didn’t write about the situation this volume calls for- our Missing and Murdered Sisters.
This book is published by an imprint of Penguin Canada Books Inc. Proceeds from the sales of this book will support Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters. It is 106 pages.