I met Eden Robinson in August 2010, when I attended a gathering of educators in Kamloops, B.C. I was working in Aboriginal Education at the time, and the English First Peoples 10-12 courses were coming available in our province. We gathered to search for understanding, share experiences, and explore ways to promote the courses in our communities.
English First Peoples 10-12
These are wonderful courses that feature authentic First Peoples texts and Principals of Learning to fulfil the required secondary language course requirements. This means that a student can choose to experience First Peoples words and cultures, rather than the usual standbys in the book room like Lord of the Flies and Shakespeare. In communities where there is a significant Indigenous population, Elders enhance the experience, and the curriculum can be personalized and flexed into any number of learning experiences.
Eden Robinson joined the circle of provincial educators and spoke about her experiences. Her novel, Monkey Beach, is a recommended text for English First Peoples 12. I haven’t read it for a few years. It’s time for a reread and a review. It’s always good to know exactly where the risky bits are located, so in the Teacher Resource Guide, you’ll find the following page-numbered cautions:
throughout – underage smoking, profanity, fighting and violence
52 – drug use, violence
65 – violence (fight)
93 – underage drinking
108 – recalling experiences in a residential school
127-128 – verbal abuse
144 – disturbing imagery (describing a death)
156 – fighting
157 – joyriding
204 – drug use
210-211 – adultery, murder
220-221 – mockery and stereotypes of voodoo and witchcraft 230 – use of an Ouija board in a joking manner
251-251 – use of racial slurs and verbal abuse
255 – reference to abuse occurring in residential schools
258 – rape scene
272 – sexual content, disturbing imagery
286 – sexual content
293 – disturbing description of dead body
296 – drinking and drug use
365 – disturbing reference to an abortion
368-69 – disturbing imagery
369 – violence (murder)
As always, Eden Robinson takes risks and opens windows. What do I love about this woman? She tells the truth.
Her characters are real.
And her delivery is real.
She’s also charming, witty, funny, and an amazing storyteller.
And she signed my copy of Monkey Beach with this:
Yowtz Wendy. May good spirits guide you.
Thank you, Eden Robinson. They do. And may good spirits continue to guide you too.
Son of a Trickster
Eden’s latest novel, Son of a Trickster, was released this year. You can read my review online at the Ottawa Review of Books.