Review: Memory Serves
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)
Stories are an integral part of who we are as a people. For First Nations people before the time of contact, traditional storytelling was mostly based on the spoken word. For generations, children learned about their culture and their history through stories that their Elders told them. It was also used as a tool for entertainment. People of all ages gathered around a storyteller to hear funny stories that also served as important lessons through ancient tales.
To this day, aurality still shapes our lives, gives us meaning and brings us our stories. Memory Serves is an important book because it brings together the oratories of Lee Maracle’s words and speeches that have spanned a twenty- year period. The speeches contain the style of oratory that is important to her people- the Salish people and Sto: lo in particular. She speaks of memory, philosophy, law, spirituality, feminism and the colonial conditions in which her people have endured. Memory Serves speaks eloquently to its audience-the reader because the words spoken within the text are woven like songs being sung,
What is most noticeable in Lee Maracle’s work is how her words are formed and written. They are written almost in a circular nature-there’s no beginning, middle or end, they are ongoing unlike in Eurocentric literature. In Maracle’s work we see her words in an ongoing circular manner When asked about this Maracle said “that’s because I’m speaking and that’s how they speak in the longhouse.”
I love how Maracle recalls re-membering. She says “There is a multiplicity of ways to remember. Each individual brings their own gifts to the banquet of ways to remember. There are no standard ways to remember. No single methodology. Our remembering is connected to our emotionality, our physicality, our spirituality and our mentality that we dare not standardize the process for fear of leaving someone’s excellence out of the mix.”
There are many lessons and stories to be learned in Memory Serves. You learn new ways of looking at things, remembering things and most of all knowing things. Memory Serves is one of Lee Maracle’s greatest books.
Memory Serves is a part of the Writer as Critic Series at WWW.NEWESTPRESS.COM and sells for $24.95