Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours)

Harold Johnson. Univ. of Regina (UTP, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (180p) ISBN 978-0-88977-437-7
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Writing to his Saskatchewan Woodland Cree community, Johnson (Two Families) pointedly confronts the toll taken by alcohol and its spin-off effects, a vicious cycle of despair, illness, violence, trauma, injuries, and alarmingly high death rates that marks a seemingly dead-end narrative. But this Crown prosecutor, author, and former miner and logger, who has prematurely buried too many friends and relatives due to alcohol-related deaths, refuses to back away from the difficult challenge of addressing the root causes of alcoholism in First Nations communities. He convincingly argues that reality and all of its constituent elements—borders, corporations, governments, race—are ultimately defined by stories, and that an intentional effort to change the tales First Nations people tell about themselves would clear a path forward where addiction treatment and law enforcement models have failed. He envisions connectedness to the land and whole communities serving as treatment centers, seeing this solution as preferable to ones that, in foregrounding victimhood, ultimately prove self-defeating and disempowering. Written in the style of a kitchen-table conversation, Johnson’s personal anecdotes and perceptive analysis are a call to return to a traditional culture of sobriety. Two letters from individuals who’ve overcome the cycle of despair powerfully accentuate his well-argued case. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 10/01/2016
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