August 18, 2013

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids

by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books
256 pp.
Ages 12+
September 2013

Looks Like Daylight would appear, on the surface, to be the stories of 45 young people who were interviewed by Deborah Ellis about their lives, their aspirations, their ancestry, their cultures. But the book is so much more than just the profiles of these kids, ages 9 to 18.  It is a history of rich cultures, often assimilated or obliterated, of neglect and abuse, of poverty and ostracism, of fortitude and determination, of work and pride.  It's a comprehensive and moving portrayal of young people whose voices many of us never hear.  This is our chance to listen.

An expressive introduction by Loriene Roy, university professor and director of a national reading club for American Indian students, is followed by the narrative profiles of the youth with whom Deborah Ellis visited, interspersed with a selection of quotes by prominent Aboriginal leaders.  The author begins each narrative with relevant background information regarding historical events, statistics, nations, distinctions, and details which may provide insight into the kids' stories. The kids belong to a wide variety of nations including Ojibwe, Nipissing, Navajo, Pueblo, Inuit, Haida Gwaii, Mi'kmaq, Mohawk, Cree, Lakota, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coast Salish, and Métis, and identify themselves according to their parents' and grandparents' heritage.  With forty-five narratives, the wealth of information provided is comprehensive.

Some of the stories in Looks Like Daylight deal with racism, foster care, art, self-esteem, traditions, pollution, alcoholism, residential schools, activism, science, language, environmentalism, leadership, gangs, armed forces, horses, suicide, sports, powwows–the list goes on and on.  But each narrative ends with the future as the young person sees it–often hopeful, always realistic, sometimes heavyhearted.  Regardless, these kids are the bright lights in that dark history of First Peoples, a history these young people inherited. "We're a very hurting people." (pg. 95) But most of them look forward to a future of making a difference and making things right.  As Jeffrey, 18, declares,
"It's a big responsibility, but it's no bigger than what our ancestors did for us.  And what we do, we do for the Native youth who will follow us, seven generations from now.  It's on us now." (pg. 144)
Looks Like Daylight should be required reading for every government agency in North America, for every teacher and administrator involved with young people, for every law enforcement and justice officer, for social workers, for historians, for urban planners, for granting agencies, for medical personnel–for anyone whose life takes them into interactions with others, Indigenous or other.  With a wealth of additional resources, Deborah Ellis ensures that readers get the big picture.
The people in the government who make decisions for us have no idea who First Nations people really are.  They have no clue.  They lump us all together.  They think we're all the same.  ~ Waasekom (pg. 243)
It provides a compendium of history and insight into the lives of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Native American youth, as raw and hopeful and tragic and rich as they may be.  In bringing the reality of  these Aboriginal young people up close, bruises and beauty, this may be Deborah Ellis' finest work.

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All royalties from the sale of this book go to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like abook that should be in all school libraries. Deborah Ellis has done so much for the children of the world through her books.