In general I’m not a huge reader; I’ve got a short-list of beloved books I re-read from time to time the way I do with movies I can watch over. Most of the time I’m too busy writing and singing however on that short-list of books I love is the Beatrice Mosionier tale of two Metis sisters, called In Search of April Raintree. I had a hankering to return to this story after only having read it once in high school. For anyone who’s familiar with this heart-rending story, perhaps its resonated with you too. I know Beatrice Mosionier was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, and as her bio shares, she is the youngest of four children and she grew up in foster homes. In 1983 In Search of April Raintree was published and it has become a Canadian classic – again I can see why.
There’s a lot one could focus on in terms of the many themes and questions this tale offers: the question of parental rights with regard to their children’s health and well-being; identity and self-image; racism and violence; addiction, stability and healing. Some might even say its about triumph and reclamation. Mosionier is a writer of considerable craft who writes with an open style that I personally find effective in eliciting strong emotional responses.
In reading April Raintree again, I became intrigued by the complex relationship between two sisters, April and Cheryl. In the opening sections, the author crafts a close and supportive relationship between them, and this relationship forms the dramatic tension through which other events in the story are explored. These other events often come in the form of barriers and obstacles to them being fully at peace with their identities. Being apprehended by Children’s Aid, separated from their mother and father (and baby sister Anna) and put into various foster care homes both made April and Cheryl’s relationship even stronger and even more vulnerable at times. Their intimacy as sisters is reflected poignantly through letters that they found a way to share back and forth over years, and the brief yet often intense time periods they would get to spend together, first as little girls in the system and then later on in life once they were independent and ‘free’.
April and Cheryl shared similarities and differences in terms of their questioning, acceptance and understanding of indigenous issues, history and their own identity. Each had enormous strength of spirit, as well as hardship; making their ways in a society that is, at times, indifferent, hostile, and violent; one sister embraces her Metis identity and the other tries to leave it behind. For anyone who hasn’t read it I’ll spare the explicit and even tragic details however, I will say that its in their journey I found myself gripped, personally touched and often inspired to think about identity, cultural pride, and resilience as it applies to myself or the many folks I’ve met in my life who remind me somehow of April or Cheryl.
For anyone looking for a good read I do suggest you get a copy of In Search of April Raintree. Available online!