cover image A Season in Chezgh’un

A Season in Chezgh’un

Darrel J. McLeod. Douglas & McIntyre, $19.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-77162-362-9

Memoirist McLeod (Mamaskatch) makes his fiction debut with a sublime foray into the complexities of Indigenous life in northern Canada. James, a gay Cree man from northern Alberta, has assimilated in Vancouver and works as a schoolteacher. He lives with a loving partner, with whom he has an open relationship, and has found cultured friends. Still, he still feels out of place after his traditional Cree childhood, even though he lived then in poverty and was beaten and sexually abused by his brother-in-law. When he’s offered the job of principal at an underfunded school on a Dakelh reservation in northern British Columbia, he takes up the challenge to reacclimate yet again (thinking of the salmon who run through rivers into the Pacific and back, he reasons, “If they could migrate and transform themselves like that, with such purpose, why couldn’t he?”). On the reservation, he blends Indigenous skills and language with the standard curriculum. James loves his work, and lives in fear that his anonymous sexual encounters in public places will result in him getting arrested, beaten, or fired. The novel is full of unsparing accounts of the generational trauma inflicted on the Dakelh by Canada’s Catholic-run residential schools, which created a legacy of victims becoming abusers. Despite the adversity faced by James and the Dakelh, however, McLeod writes with great love for the natural world and the strength of its Indigenous people. This is transcendent. (Apr.)