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Review of IMPACT: Colonialism in Canada by

IMPACT: Colonialism in Canada

by Warren Cariou

I picked this up several years ago and am finally diving into it. It’s not what I expected—I was looking for something with essays, including personal essays, but this includes a lot more poems and other, shorter and more artistic pieces. IMPACT: Colonialism in Canada is an anthology that makes quite a statement. If it’s what you’re looking for, it’s going to satisfy. In my case, it wasn’t quite what I wanted, but don’t interpret that as a bad thing.

Let’s talk about storytelling and colonialism.

When my ancestors came to this land that has become Canada, we set out to take away the stories. English and French became the lingua franca. Residential schools and other strategies separated Elders from youth and broke the line of oral storytelling that had been unbroken from time immemorial. Don’t practise your arts. Don’t dance your dances or sing your songs. Don’t tell your stories.

I think a lot about the fact that so many stories by or about Indigenous people are told in English or French rather than their original languages. IMPACT is a book that meditates on this by telling us stories, personal and political and old and new, in an attempt to help demonstrate the wide-ranging effect of colonialism.

Yes, you will get stories in here about residential schools and other more “obvious” signifiers of colonization.

But you also get stories about fitting in. About being an Indigenous woman. About food and family and love and hatred and the difficulty of navigating growing old in a country that doesn’t often treat you like you are human.

This is not an academic book, and that’s probably a good thing. If you don’t want academic discussions of colonialism; if you want personal and emotional connections through poetry and song and careful reflection, you’ll get it here. I think the average Canadian wouldn’t do much wrong picking up this book.

That generality, that lack of focus in its attempt to include so many voices and conceptions of the effects of colonialism, ultimately is why I didn’t enjoy this as much as I could. That is not a problem with this book, just an incompatibility with what I want: I want to read more focused books about colonialism, books that discuss the impact of colonialism within specific spheres. So if you are looking for depth rather than breadth, you should keep looking.

IMPACT is a nice little anthology, but its appeal is for the general, not the specific.


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