In an apocalyptic future Canada, Indigenous people have been forced to live on the run to avoid capture by the Recruiters, government military agents who kidnap Indians and confine them to facilities called “schools.”
Orphan Frenchie (Métis) is rescued from the Recruiters by Miigwans (Anishnaabe) along with a small band of other Indians from different nations, most young and each with a tragic story. Miigwans leads the group north to find others, holding on to the belief of safety in numbers. Five years later, Frenchie is now 16, and the bonded travelers have protected one another, strengthened by their loyalty and will to persevere as a people. They must stay forever on alert, just a breath away from capture by the Recruiters or by other Indians who act as their agents. Miigwans reveals that the government has been kidnapping Indians to extract their bone marrow, scientists believing that the key to restoring dreaming to white people is found within their DNA. Frenchie later learns that the truth is even more horrifying. The landscape of North America has been completely altered by climate change, rising oceans having eliminated coastlines and the Great Lakes having been destroyed by pollution and busted oil pipelines. Though the presence of the women in the story is downplayed, Miigwans is a true hero; in him Dimaline creates a character of tremendous emotional depth and tenderness, connecting readers with the complexity and compassion of Indigenous people.
A dystopian world that is all too real and that has much to say about our own.
(Science fiction. 14-adult)
A sweeping environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that duly considers the ravages of nature and man.
In light of the 2010 devastation of the BP oil spill, environmental historian Davis (History and Sustainability Studies/Univ. of Florida; An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century, 2009, etc.) presents an engaging, truly relevant new study of the Gulf as a powerful agent in the American story, one that has become “lost in the pages of American history.” Once the habitat of the highly developed, self-sustaining Calusa indigenous people, the rich estuary of the Gulf is the 10th largest body of water in the world, and it forms the sheltered basin that creates the warm, powerful Gulf Stream, which allowed the first explorers, such as Ponce de León, to make their ways back to the Old World. Davis meanders through the early history of this fascinating sea, which became a kind of graveyard to many early marooned explorers due to shipwrecks and run-ins with natives. Yet the conquistadors took little note of the abundant marine life inhabiting the waters and, unaccountably, starved. A more familiar economy was established at the delta of the muddy, sediment-rich Mississippi River, discovered by the French. The author focuses on the 19th century as the era when the Gulf finally asserted its place in the great move toward Manifest Destiny; it would “significantly enlarge the water communication of national commerce and shift the boundary of the country from vulnerable land to protective sea.” The Gulf states would also become a mecca of tourism and fishing and, with the discovery of oil, enter a dire period of the “commercialization of national endowments.” The story of this magnificent body of water and its wildlife grows tragic at this point—e.g., the “killing juggernaut” of Gulf wading birds to obtain fashionable feathers. Still, it remains an improbable, valiant survival tale in the face of the BP oil spill and ongoing climate change.
An elegant narrative braced by a fierce, sobering environmental conviction.
Nigeria serves as a prism refracting the myriad experiences of both former and current inhabitants.
In two different stories in Arimah’s debut collection, characters have the supernatural ability to drain emotions from other people, for good or for ill. In “Who Will Greet You at Home,” a Nigerian woman participates in a tradition of making children out of inanimate materials and having them blessed by older women in hopes that they will become real. But these blessings come at a price—in her case, "Mama" blesses the child in exchange for the protagonist's own joy, “siphoned a bit, just a dab…a little bit of her life for her child’s life.” In the title story, figures known as Mathematicians are able to use precise algorithms and equations to relieve negative emotions from customers who can afford it. This power over feelings is as good a metaphor as any for storytelling. And Arimah has skill in abundance: the stories here are solid and impeccably crafted and strike at the heart of the most complicated of human relationships. Against a backdrop of grief for dead parents or angst over a lover, Arimah uses Nigeria as her muse. The characters exist in relation to a Nigeria of the past—the ghost of the Nigerian civil war, especially, looms over many of the stories—as well as present-day Nigeria, either as citizens or expats. Arimah even imagines a future Nigeria in which it has become the “Biafra-Britannia Alliance” in a massive geopolitical shift resulting from devastating climate change. This speculative turn joins everything from fabulism to folk tale as Arimah confidently tests out all the tools in her kit while also managing to create a wholly cohesive and original collection.