Why I’ve Retired my Best-selling Book

“Throwaway Child” Cover

Today, I retired my best-selling book, a novella entitled Throwaway Child, and here’s why.

I wrote Throwaway Child in 2012 as an attempt to bring awareness of the Canadian Native residential “schools” to the fore. At the time, I was still reeling from the fact that this travesty was left out of most history courses. I had not learned of this dark chapter in Canadian history until I took a course on Native education in university in the late 80s, and I was shocked, to say the least.

If you have not read it, Throwaway Child follows the case of a child’s skeleton found in the basement of a building that was once used as a Native residential “school.” It follows forensic anthropologist Palmer Richardson, archaeologist Molly McBride, and police detective Michael Crestwood (also featured in The Mummy Wore Combat Boots and Phase Shift) as they investigate what led to the child’s death and burial. It has been in publication for nearly ten years and has sold the most copies out of any of my other books, but given the fact that the murderer proves to be another Indigenous child at the school, and in light of recent events, I have decided to retire the story.

You see, the children interred at the residential schools were the victims of such abuse that to make the murderer (accidental though it may be) Indigenous and a child no longer seems fitting. This is particularly true in the wake of the discovery of so many unmarked graves of Indigenous children who lost their lives while inmates at these “schools.” I cannot justify turning an innocent victim of systemic genocide, cultural or otherwise, into the perpetrator of the very crime being visited on so many others like her. I also cannot help but wonder if the story wouldn’t have been more satisfying if I’d put Palmer in charge of excavating one of the mass grave sites to determine the abuse that had been visited on the untold numbers of children who never left the “schools.” Imagine how much more satisfying the story would have been had it climaxed in handcuffing an administration-level official who had either participated in the travesty or turned a blind eye to the abuse.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to unpublish Throwaway Child with my apologies for falling short of accomplishing the very goal I set out to meet with it’s publication.

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Call for Canada Day as a national day of mourning

Yesterday marked the third mass, unmarked grave found in association with Native residential “schools.”

For the uneducated, Native residential “schools” were a ploy by Canada’s early government to facilitate the “civilization” and Europeanization of Canada’s Native population. In existence in Canada from about 1880 through 1996 (yes! 1996!), these so-called schools were nothing short of concentration camps into which all Native children were shunted as a matter of law. This was a joint endeavour between “Christian churches and the Canadian government as an attempt to both educate and convert Indigenous youth and to assimilate them into Canadian society.” The net result of this horrific practice was the cultural genocide of generations of Native people, and as recently discovered, the actual genocide of (among others) innocent Native children.

I hesitate to call these places schools. School is supposed to be a place of learning and enlightenment where people leave better off than when they arrived. I doubt there are many (if any) Indigenous people who would claim this describes their experience there. Those of us who knew of the existence of these institutions have long suspected there were many children who entered their doors never to exit. That statement is mind-boggling enough, but now that the sheer number that is the body count shaping Canada’s shame is coming to light, we, as Canadians, should be shocked, sickened, and mortified.

In the last month alone, the remains of 215 individuals in Kamloops, 751 in Saskachewan, and 182 in Cranbook, B.C. There were 130 of these places in operation in Canada over the approximately 100 years of their existence. Do the math: if we take an average of the three known mass graves thus far uncovered, we are looking at approximately 50,000 children slaughtered and buried in unmarked, mass graves. Disposed of in the same way as trash before organized garbage collection. This is not okay (to say the least).

Today is Canada Day, a celebration of Canada’s confederation on this day in 1867. Residential “schools” came into existence barely 10 years after that. Lighting fireworks at bar-b-ques in celebration of Canada as a country has been the way we’ve always celebrated, but not this year. Anyone lighting fireworks and cooking meat over an open flame in honour of Canada’s confederation this year should be ashamed. I will be marking this dark day in history by lighting a memorial candle in memory of all those who perished at the hands of our government. We should never forget the human toll paid so Canada could be established as a country. Do not celebrate the bloodshed and bodies felled; mourn them instead. Mark the existence of Canada Day, not with celebration but with sorrow, honouring those whose way of life and actual lives were unceremoniously taken so that we might live here.

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A Day in the Life

This is the first in a series of poems (and possibly rants) I plan to write about teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible doors locked so I have to use my hands—

Once, twice, three times, four—

on the same handles used by several hundred students

and several dozen teachers.

“Attention Staff: Please sign the log sheet located on the filing cabinet upon entering the room.”

I must sign into the “private” office I share with up to eight colleagues

“Maximum number of occupants: 5”

but only five of us can access our possessions at any given time.

“High Touch Surface: Remember to disinfect after every use.”

“High Touch Surface: Remember to disinfect after every use.”

“High Touch Surface: Remember to disinfect after every use.”

Fridge…microwave…printer.

“Maintain physical distance”

In a room where students sit no more than four feet apart

“Face mask required for entry”

with ill-fitting masks.

The students arrive all too soon,

forgetting that I have asked them to remain in their seats

and get my attention

before asking a question.

The double the normal length lesson begins.

Some students are with me while

others catch up on sleep,

and I am envious.

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“Supergirl” Season 4 is Super Duper!

Warning: spoilers are likely to follow.

Thanks to Netflix, I was just able to catch up on Supergirl season 4, and I was blown away. Now, I know I’m coming late to the party, but I’m going to whoop it up anyway, so if you’ve already watched the season and screamed accolades from the rooftop, imagine that I’m right there with you.

Supergirl, for those of you who don’t know, is Superman’s cousin who is also on Earth, wears a similar costume, and fights bad guys, just like Superman. At the core of the Supergirl story is a trio of strong female characters (Supergirl/Kara, Alex, and Lena) who are joined this season by Nia Nal, but more on her later. Nevermind that the season 4 has plenty of elements from Superman lore, like Brainiac, Lex Luthor, and even Superman himself, and aside from the fact that actors from other Superman productions–such as Erica Durance who played Lois on Smallville, Helen Slater who played Supergirl herself in the 1984 movie, and Dean Cain who played Superman on Lois and Clark–are featured in roles. Supergirl season 4 is impressive for the values it imparts. Here are my observations.

A timely message

Given the state of the nation and that racism and hatred and mistrust for immigrants has risen to the forefront over the past few years, Supergirl is to be praised for demonstrating how xenophobia can only lead to a nation’s destruction. Rather than human immigrants, aliens (as in from other planets) are the targets. They are referred to as “roaches” and told to go home. Near the climax, they are even banned from Earth and a satellite goes into orbit to shoot down approaching spacecraft. Though it’s interesting that we see the leader of the racist Children of Liberty–Ben Lockhart’s–origins (played with sexy scowls and determination by Sam Witwer), at its heart, the season is a parable for where we are heading if we give into our fear of the unknown and buy into stereotypes. In other words, allowing hate to grow and lashing out at our fellow man will assure nothing short of our own destruction.

Typically, literature–and science fiction in particular–is used to hold a mirror up to our society, but according to LiteraryTerms.net, one of the traits of science fiction is “to explore what could happen if certain events or circumstances came to be.”And while I’m not suggesting that Supergirl demonstrates what might happen on Earth if we become a safe haven for aliens in danger on their own planet, I am suggesting that it takes our persecution of those we perceive as different to the extreme. Angry mobs, protests gone wrong, and burying democracy in favour of a police state are only a few of the things that could seriously happen if we stand by and let racism flourish.

Nia Nal is a Superwoman

Nia Nal is the new character introduced this season. She is trans character played by a trans actress. Her character is a half-alien who belongs to a race of dreamers (they have prophetic dreams) that are passed on from mother to daughter. Nia’s parents expect her sister to have the ability, but instead, Nia is the one to inherit the power. This is a puzzling reveal for Nia’s sister, a genetic female, who observes that Nia shouldn’t have the power because she’s not a “real woman”. I think this turn of events is fabulous. To me, it says that in her heart and in her mind, Nia is a true woman. And the fact that the Supergirl‘s writers set the story up this way, it says that this is true of all trans people. If a person–in this case, Nia (Nicole Maines)–believes herself to be female, who are we to judge? Nia has no qualms about letting the world know that she is trans and in the Supergirl universe, no one so much as bats an eye at her admission. The situation is a brilliant example of art depicting life the way it should be.

Watching season 4 of Supergirl has only cemented my enthusiasm for this television show. I can’t wait to see season 5!

Do you watch Supergirl? What do you think of the series and plotlines? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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