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Michelle Good Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Five Little Indians (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Michelle Good is a literary fiction author from south Central British Columbia best known for her debut novel “Five Little Indians.” Since she was little the impact of residential schools has been something that she has thought about. Good is a Cree lawyer and writer and a member of the Saskatchewan based Red Pheasant Cree Nation. Both her mother, her grandmother, and cousins are residential school survivors and her novel is a fictional account based on their real-life experiences. She started writing the manuscript for her debut in the mid-1990s, but it was not until much later that she got serious with it. Michelle became a lawyer and was a representative of some survivors of a residential school when she realized that the story of residential schools needed to be told. She had realized that Canada and Canadians do not understand the impact of these schools on individuals that had to endure them. In her novel, she intended to communicate the facts of the number of learners that were forced to go to these schools and the manner of coercion that was employed by the authorities.

Good had initially been documenting the experiences of her clients in factual format but felt that it would be better to tell it as an engaging tale as this was better than the factual diatribe. As a person of mixed heritage, she has access to the lived experience and reality of people that went to residential schools. Her mother is of Cree origin but got married to a non-native man which at that time meant that he would lose her status which she did. Michele was thus born without status and went on to have a childhood in a non-Indigenous environment. When she was a little bit older, her mother began telling her the stories of her experience which she found very shocking. One particular incident in which a girl hemorrhaged to death from TB would stick with her for a long time and in some part is core to the telling of the story in the novel. Michele talked about residential school and compared it to boarding school even though it was anything but. However, Harper who grew up in a non-indigenous context and had read about boarding schools from British stories, knew these schools could not be like the conventional boarding schools she read about.

Even though Michele Good would tell the stories of her experiences in residential schools in a matter of fact way, it had a lasting impact on her. She was horrified by what they had to endure and set out to inquire from other people how it must have been like. Michele began thinking about how experiences echo through a person’s life and sometimes through several generations. It also comes to influence the lives of individuals and communities in all aspects of living several years after the event. She never set out to write about the many experiences at residential school but rather what she was interested in was the backdrop. It was important for her to portray the life of the survivors after they left school. Michele wanted to portray what it felt for one to be ripped away from family and then spit out again with hardly any support. The survivors had to do these while struggling and suffering significant trauma. Even though she never went to a residential school her mother’s experiences had a huge impact on her perception of them. Native American communities are still suffering the aftereffects of living through their experiences. Even though writing the book was not part of her healing, she believes it is a unique letter to everyone that survived the suffering of residential skills. She hopes that she can awaken Canadians who believe everything is well in Canada to realize that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Five Little Indians” was master of fine arts project for Michele Good at UBC. She was then working as a lawyer and felt the need to put a societal spin on the effect of residential schools. She felt that many people deemed the schools something to be left in the deep dark past with many thinking people should just let it go and move on. Michele thought the work would be better written as a type of safe space for people to gain better insights rather than a full on attack. As such, it is a story rather than a political position or argument. Good believed that Canada had a cognitive dissonance in that the citizens believe it was a nice country with hardly any dark past. She knew otherwise as she had been told about residential schools from survivors and how horrible they had been. Her characters move to Downtown Eastside in Vancouver where they get onto different paths. Some resort to reconnecting with their native culture, some to alcoholism and drugs, others are into protest movements and advocacy and some go into education. Michele challenged herself to write characters that are responsive, loving, capable, resilient and strong human beings. Nonetheless, they still have to carry a lot of baggage from their past and this impacts their daily lives.

Michele Good’s “Five Little Indians” is a novel that provides insights into the terrible abuse Native American children went through in the residential schools. The author focuses on the experiences of several children that were forcibly removed from their homes in a heart-wrenching expose that takes the humanity of the victims into account. The survivors had told their stories to panels set up to investigate the scandal many years after the event. These panels found that religious institutions and government policies had been responsible for fostering destructive practices. Many children that had survived the residential schools had come out scarred for life having had no contact with their communities or families for years. Their parents had been forbidden from visiting which meant they lacked any form of comfort and family support. They had thus been sent out into the world without any form of financial support, counseling, or job placement that resulted in some of the getting into alcohol and drug abuse or falling victim to sex traffickers. The purpose of the schools was to remove the language and indigenous culture from the learners. This was achieved under conditions of inadequate health care and poor nutrition which makes for harrowing reading.

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