The Book Nook
Le Coin Lecture
Curl up and grab one of these books to help you navigate the work that's ahead.
This list is meant to help, challenge, and encourage discussions around DEI, Anti-Racism and Emerging Leadership practices.
October 15, 2023
Credit: Fernwood Publishing
Decolonizing Equity by Billie Allan & Rhonda Hackett
By: Taharima Habib
What's this about?
Stealing is a historical fiction novel told through the eyes of Karen “Kit” Crockett, a nine-year-old Cherokee girl living in the American Midwest during the 1950s. Kit’s father is white and a war hero, and purported to be a descendant of Davy Crockett. Her mother is Cherokee, and a descendant of the indigenous people who survived the Trail of Tears. After losing her mother to tuberculosis at age 6, Kit is left to help her grief-stricken father carry out the household duties.
One day, a young woman named Bella moves into the house that used to belong to Kit’s Uncle Joe. Bella, like Kit, is also brown skinned, and the two soon develop a mutual friendship. Kit often stops by Bella’s to share her catch from the river, and in turn, Bella treats her with motherly care and attention. Unbeknownst to them however, their interactions are being monitored by an older, white, Christian neighbour, who disapproves of Bella’s lifestyle. After a series of tragic events, Kit is sent to Ashley Lordard, a Christian boarding school, which is the setting from which she recounts the story.
About The Author
Margaret Verble is an indigenous author and member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Verble’s first novel, Maud’s Line, was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and her second novel, Cherokee America, was listed as one of The New York Times Notable Books of the Year in 2019.
Indigenous Literature, Residential Schools, Children’s Rights, Religion. Trigger warning for sexual abuse.
What We Liked
Verble’s Kit Crockett is a reminder that children have an innate inner wisdom that adults, and authority figures in particular, intentionally squelch. Utilising Kit’s perspective to highlight the hypocrisy of Christianity, and adults in general, was an excellent way of exploring certain “truths,” and myths that society has accepted as truth.
What we remember: The candor and naiveté with which Kit narrates the story was reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ narration in the film Forrest Gump. Kit’s way of expressing “going elsewhere” in her mind when having to deal with difficult situations such as abuse and her father’s trial, perfectly captured the response of trauma, and the way we learn to detach as a survival mechanism.
What this book is : An honest examination of the Christian residential school experience, and the religious mindset and racism that facilitated these institutions.
What this book isn't : While Verble herself is Cherokee, the story is not a first-person recount of her own lived experience. Verble researched government and Christian boarding schools for Native American children, and highlighted the Christian experience in particular, because she wanted to make a point about the “destructiveness of Christianity to Native American people.”
Why Read This Book
As we approach the day of National Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, Stealing is a timely novel that adds to the conversation surrounding residential schools in North America. The fictional format of the story enabled Verble to develop and share rich characters and back stories that will resonate with readers on a deeper level, than a similar narrative presented through mainstream news publications.
“If I thought the Bible would be a comfort to you, I wouldn’t care if you read it. But it’s not a comfort to people. It causes more torment than any one thing I’ve seen, except war. And people put a lot of energy into trying to understand it that they should be putting into things worthwhile, like working and loving and being thankful we’ve got beds to sleep in and food to eat and that nobody’s trying to kill us on a daily basis.” (p.119)
Get the Gist
Read a summary interview of the book and author of the book by Berkshire Magazine.
How does it fare?
“Kit has a timeless voice, descriptive and observant, weaving a complicated story about racial and religious bigotry, violence and, yes, the stealing of children. This powerful novel should join classics like Ernest J. Gaines’s “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” Helena Maria Viramontes’s “Under the Feet of Jesus” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
– Susan Straight, The New York Times
““Stealing” is a masterclass in storytelling, an evocative and accessible exploration of American history that does not deliver a screaming statement on the impact of forced Christianity on the Indigenous population. Until it does. But by the time the message arrives, it’s not received as a lecture but with relief in the knowledge that the characters have a grasp on the bigger picture of their realities. Margaret Verble has harnessed the art of how to shoot straight to the heart of a story, and it is an experience that should not be missed.”
– Leah Tyler, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution