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April Raintree, by Beatrice Culleton.

July 15, 2016

April Raintree, by Beatrice Culleton.  Pegus Publishers, 1992 , 196 pages.  First published, 1984.

3 stars

An Indigenous account of two Metis sisters, one who affirms her First Nation heritage and one who rejects it.

April Raintree is the main character in this book.  She was also taken from alcoholic parents as a young child, along with her sister, Cheryl.  They were sent to foster families, several of whom were kind and supportive, and one were both girls were treated horribly by the mother and the other children.  April is light-skinned and able to pass as white.  She looks down on “drunken Indians” and longs to put her Metis heritage behind her and become rich and secure.  Marriage to wealthy man makes this possible, but does not end her problems.  In contrast to April, Cheryl is deeply committed to her background and wants to become a social worker to serve those she regards as her people.  As they become adults, the sisters argue over their opposing lifestyles.

Beatrice Mosionier Culleton was born into a Metis family in Manitoba, Canada, in 1949, and shares some of experiences of her characters.  She and her three siblings were removed from alcoholic parents when she was three and raised in different foster families.  Years later her two sisters committed suicide.  She is now involved with a coalition for Native Child Welfare and is the author of books for children as well as novels for adults.

Culleton has written a book that vividly displays the traumas of Indigenous children removed from their families.  This is suffering that deserves to be recognized and addressed.  I wish, however, that Culleton had had more skill as a writer.  Although I am sure that the stories she tells are true, the plot and the characters in it often seem implausible.  April’s quick assent into high society and her continued wealth are particularly unbelievable.

Although April Raintree is a useful book, I have reservations about recommending as literature.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2016 6:08 pm

    It’s awkward trying to say this without sounding patronising but I’ll try… some of our indigenous authors in Australia had terrible childhoods like this too, with disrupted schooling being a very common feature, with obvious consequences for their literacy. In adulthood they are rightly being encouraged to tell their stories, and some of them – like some of the Holocaust memoirs written by people with disrupted schooling and English as a second language – betray a poignant lack of experience in reading and writing.
    I don’t enjoy reading such books, because they are a reminder of how our societies failed so cruelly to nurture and respect our First Nations. But I generally find them worthwhile reading, despite their limitations.
    Thank you once again for contributing to Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers. Your support is much appreciated, not just by me, but by the authors and the peoples represented in the reading list thanks to you. *hug*

    • July 21, 2016 12:10 pm

      Thanks. You did an excellent job of discussing this problem.

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