October 20, 2018

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MUSKRAT Review: Bearskin Diary

MUSKRAT Review: Bearskin Diary

Carol Daniels lays bare the life of Sandy, a Cree woman torn from her mother and kin at birth through the Canadian government’s 60s Scoop set in place to destroy Indigenous families. Adopted by Ukrainians, Sandy narrowly avoids a life in foster care, and although escaping one certain trauma, Sandy’s story touches on many others as she skillfully maneuvers her way through a successful journalism career while living as a visibly Native person in the brutality of white society.

Author, Carol Daniels. Photo Courtesy of CBC.ca

Throughout the book, Daniels shines light in the dark places of settler society that plague Indigenous peoples: racism; the effects of colonialism on Indigenous relationships and intimacy; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; and the struggle of self acceptance.

“…I hate the fullness of my lips…I hate the darkness of my skin and the colour of my hair… Why are my eyes so dark?… What are my roots? Where is it that I truly belong? Her solitary sorrows present themselves as insecurity, the real reason she looks at other Indians on the street as greasy bums, echoing the same words she heard used to describe her during childhood.”

As Sandy gains confidence through career achievements, she pushes forward the reality that Indigenous people will create Indigenous spaces, whether new or taken back – “Generally, covering politics is for veteran reporters. It’s a coup for her to be able to take this assignment… She says a prayer… she is wearing mukluks, even her footsteps are silent.

Meeting kin from the Cree community, connecting with her Mother’s spirit, uncovering lost history, and letting go of illusions creates a momentum in the novel that is tangible and tantalizing. As Sandy slowly reconnects with her culture, she begins to realise that the ideas she has constructed about herself have been shaped by colonialism and that its undoing through kin and ceremony will be her liberation.

Daniels shows us what upsetting the status quo can look like; she gifts us with possibility and hope. We can overcome, believe in ourselves, be what we want, and shift this colonized world.

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About The Author

Melanie Lefebvre

Melanie is a Métis/Irish mother, writer, and visual artist. Her freelance career spans 20 years with experience in short stories, journalism, communications, public relations, human resources, and education. She is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, English Language Arts Network, and the Quebec Writers' Federation.

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