For the debut post in WORDY by Nature’s new Book Review blog series, Nadia Adam reviews Tracey Lindberg’s Canadian Aboriginal novel, Birdie.
Birdie is the debut novel by Indigenous rights activist, and Canadian law professor, Dr. Tracey Lindberg. The novel features a Cree-Métis woman, Bernice Meetoos—or Birdie—who runs off to fulfill her teenage wish of meeting the Aboriginal character Jessie—a cast member of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) long-running television show The Beachcombers. Bernice withdraws from the present to free herself of a traumatic past; her recovery is captured in the form of a spiritual quest. Supported in her recovery by a small cluster of loved ones, Bernice recalls her painful life—infused with dark humor, quirky comments, and imbued with captivating forms of Cree storytelling.
Birdie is a rich and piercing take on a Canada known for its split persona between its national image of kindness, and its historical roots in colonialism. Through the novel’s confines, Lindberg demonstrates a space for a female Indigenous voice—an infrequent sound in the authorial canon—one that eloquently and poignantly expresses Canada’s unique edifice. Through the novel Lindberg suggests by seeing each other as extensions of family or sistercousins, we may feel responsible for one another, and feed reconciliation with an open and honest dialogue.
Skirting the edges of the novel are pertinent Canadian topics such as the missing Indigenous women, social and economic disparities within Indigenous communities, and Aboriginal homelessness. Lightening the difficult tale is Lindberg’s brilliant use of biting humor and bright wordplay, including her striking use of portmanteaus such as sistercousin, littlebigwomandaughter, and fortheloveofgod, which are scattered throughout the novel.
As reconciliation necessitates action, fiction rises as a mode of empathy; readers are sutured into an individual world that is not merely informed by tropes and stereotypes, but which allows humanization to occur through conversations. Birdie is a novel inviting just that.
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