*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Tracking the Caribou Queen
Author: Margaret Macpherson
Publisher: NeWest Press
Publication Date: October 15, 2022
In this challenging memoir about her formative years in Yellowknife in the ’60s and ’70s, author Margaret Macpherson lays bare her own white privilege, her multitude of unexamined microaggressions, and how her childhood was shaped by the colonialism and systemic racism that continues today. Macpherson’s father, first a principal and later a federal government administrator, oversaw education in the NWT, including the high school Margaret attended with its attached hostel: a residential facility mostly housing Indigenous children.
Ringing with damning and painful truths, this bittersweet telling invites white readers to examine their own personal histories in order to begin to right relations with the Indigenous Peoples on whose land they live. Tracking the Caribou Queen is beautifully crafted to a purpose: poetic language and narrative threads dissect the trope that persisted through her girlhood, that of the Caribou Queen, a woman
As the synopsis suggests, Tracking the Caribou Queen, is a very challenging and painful memoir about one white woman’s younger years growing up in Yellowknife alongside an Indigenous community where her father served as a principle and administrator overseeing education within a residential school. Macpherson addresses her white privilege head on, acknowledging the wrongness of her upbringing and the aggressions and microaggressions committed within her community. Her accounts are incredibly difficult to read and process as the pain and destruction perpetuated by not only the author (self-acknowledged) and her community lay bare the racism that pervaded, and continues to pervade, society.
Well-written and unflinchingly honest, Macpherson’s memoir chronicles her childhood and coming of age while reflecting decades later on her own naïveté and perpetuation of a racist system. In confronting her memories and actions of the past, she works towards a better version of her present self who acknowledges her mistakes, admits her wrongs, and works towards a difficult and complex notion of reconciliation.
Though the author does provide a note at the outset of the book explaining her intentions and writing, the language is nonetheless difficult to encounter. The author wishes to expose with the utmost transparency, the errors of the past. Without acknowledging and confronting our wrongdoings, we cannot begin to move forward.
I would have loved even more to see this book written as a joint venture in partnership with an Indigenous author or group. While I appreciate Macpherson’s openness and her journey to delve into the truth, the landscape is already saturated with far too many white voices. It is an acknowledgement of her own truth and perspectives, but still lacking is the voice of the community that was so assaulted. Thinking of this story critically, we still only see the Indigenous community through the white lens. Though these truths must be shared, I wonder if there was a more encompassing and equitable method to include all voices.
It certainly is a thought-provoking addition to the landscape of Canadian writing. I hope that you will find it as engaging and provocative as I did.