April Raintree by Beatrice Mosionier (Young Adult Fiction)
When I chose April Raintree to read and review, I had no idea that it is already one of Canada’s most popular works of aboriginal literature. I was captivated by the description: “April Raintree is the story of two sisters, separated from their family and one another. Despite that, the bond between them grows as they navigate a society that is, at times, indifferent, hostile, and violent. Through this work of fiction, author Beatrice Mosionier reflects the all-too-harsh reality facing Indigenous people today – as well as a message of hope, healing, and reclamation.”
April and her sister, Cheryl, are Métis, a mix of white and Native American. Their story, told by April, starts in early childhood when they are taken from their loving, but alcoholic, parents and put into the Canadian foster care system. Sometimes living together, and sometimes forced to live separately, April and Cheryl experience both kind and abusive foster parents. April, who can pass as white, chooses to do so as an adult, while Cheryl, who exhibits more of the native features, develops great pride in her heritage. As time passes, society takes its toll on both of them, and their once-strong childhood bond is strained when they become adults. Tragedy follows them in many forms, and their story is not an easy one to read. Yet it is compelling and held my interest and attention; I found myself reading late into the night to find out what happened to them. The ending—simultaneously tragic and uplifting—left me feeling that my time was well-spent.
This book has many autobiographical attributes, giving it even more importance as a source of substantive information about how aboriginal people are treated in both Canada and the United States. At times, I found some of the dialogue too complex to be realistic for two children, but for me that did not detract from the message and the story that needed to be told.
As mentioned above, this is not an easy book to read for many reasons, but to do so is definitely worth the effort. I will be thinking about this story, these characters, and the reality they represent for a long time.
Based on the adult novel In Search of April Raintree, April Raintree has been revised specifically for students in grades 9 through 12.
Grandma gives April Raintree five stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews received April Raintree as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.