Born With A Tooth – Joseph Boyden

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“White men gave Indians a lot of gifts.  Hockey and electricity, prefab houses, snowmobiles, running shoes, pickup trucks, pavement and reserves.

In turn, Indians gave white men some gifts back.  Lacrosse and long hair.  Corn and the peace pipe.  Names for professional baseball teams.  powwows, Tonto, Custer’s Last Stand. Land.  Lots of land.  Thanksgiving.

It’s the gifts that are never mentioned, though, that we all feel the most.”

I think most of my friends are aware of my huge Canlit crush on Joseph Boyden.  Finishing Born With A Tooth means that I’ve (finally) read all his fiction books.  It was good, as I expected it to be.  Some of the stories were stronger than others, I wasn’t a particular fan of the over-the-top wrestling story (I’m sure fellow reader Dorothy would probably love it).  But the quartet of stories in the last section of the book, which were four stories of the same event told by differing perspectives, similar to his novels, were incredibly powerful.

I found it funny that the story, “Bearwalker,” reused the names of Xavier Bird and Elijah, who were the two main characters in Three Day Road, but this story didn’t exist in that same universe, since Three Day Road took place during the first world war while this story mentioned anachronisms like news camera crews and Elvis.  Boyden has, in a way, created a universe from the stories of indigenous people from Northern Ontario – the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything it encompasses.

He touches on the trauma of residential schools a lot, and how much Canada really fucked aboriginal people over.  In a way, this book of short stories is almost more political than his novels; it’s not afraid to be blunt and say what needs to be said, rather than mask it with a beautifully painted metaphor.

Anyway, this book was really good.  Heavy, but good.

Books read: 7

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2 responses to “Born With A Tooth – Joseph Boyden

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