What a brilliant way to start the new year! Each of these books targets a different aspect of life in the new era, from racism, to sexism, to gun violence, to the horrors of residential schools.
Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest.
I first read Tempest last year, with her amazing collection Hold Your Own, which dealt with sexuality and gender, and I quickly followed it by reading her less brilliant, Brand New Ancients, a single poem about generations. This one follows the same principle, a long story of the people of today, tired, hopeless, living the best way they can. We follow the struggles of seven people who live in the same building, but don’t know each other, until a storm wedges them together, and their last hopes of being understood are presented.
“…The people are dead in their lifetimes
Dazed in the shine of the streets
But look how the traffic’s still moving
System’s too slick to stop working…”
The truest part of Tempest’s writing comes from her short analysis of the individuals’ own voice. That is where she excels when it comes to her poetry/rap, digging into the mind of the people she presents as characters. Oftentimes I read poetry for the beautiful descriptions of everyday life and issues, but when I read Kate Tempest’s works, as well as other slam poetry, I read them to see how simple everyday people can be brought forth as great examples of the human condition.
But I would be lying if I did not say I was disappointed when I read this, it was sub-par when compared to her other poetry collections. I had read many reviews highlighting how fantastic this was, and everyone was saying it was her best work yet, instead, it simply was an okay narrative. I suggest you read her Hold Your Own first, which is miles ahead of this, and then if enjoyed, go on and read her other works.
“The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen. White, black and Latino, they fell in suburbs, hamlets and ghettos. None made the national news. There was no outrage about their passing. Saturday, 23 November 2013 was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily. “- From Goodreads
Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives by Gary Younge.
The first thing I heard when researching this book was that it was a gun legislation book, it is not that at all. This is a work about a country with almost non-existent gun control, and ten of the victims and their families’ stories, in the events of one single day. We follow kids who were shot by their mother’s ex-boyfriends, by people who mistook their identity, by other gang members, and through the small snippets of the event, we discover how society simply moves on.
Day by day, people are murdered by gun violence, and in America, nothing changes. Australia had one mass shooting, it shook the country for the last time, immediately after that, the conservative government decided there is no price on human lives, and conducted sweeping gun legislation. Within months, the laws were implemented, and the homicide and suicide rates went down. The same fears Americans have were shared by Australians at the time, fear of government oppression, of immigrants and refugees, of minorities, but those needed to be put aside over the well-being of the community. Turns out they had nothing to fear, people just moved on with their lives. How much is a life worth? How much do we truly care about the lives of the people that love here, that we cannot put forth any logical gun regulation?
“Like a flash of lightning. You see it and you’ll be like, was that lightning? That’s how it is when a black child gets murdered or gets killed. No big news… in the end result you are still living in a white world. And we’re still thought of as less than. And basically, they’re saying we don’t matter. But if it was their child, they want the world to come to a halt.”
The other focal point is the disparity between the ethnicity of the victims, and the reaction of the community around it. Black and Latino were the majority of those murdered by gun violence, but their deaths did not cause as much friction as those of white counterparts. This is not a new thing, the discrepancy has always been there, yet it should not be the norm. Then, this leads to people assuming that it is the victim’s fault, that it is in their culture, their blood, when in reality, it comes more to where the person lives, the systematic oppression around it, the help people are able to get in the place they live, the education system, and many, many more factors, often forgotten for the racist reason.
I would not say this book is for everyone, even though it is, but it is a story that should mostly be read by people that are not aware of the standardized inequality plaguing the streets of America, the people that forget that there is more to gun violence than guns. Please, read this book.
Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire.
All that Chanie Wenjack wanted, alongside the other thousands of kids taken to Canadian residential schools, was to return to his home, which so happen to be over 400 miles away. At twelve years old, he died on his journey, not knowing how truly far he was from all he has known. His story is no the only one like it, but it needs to be told, the world has kept silent for far too long, his story swept under history.
The view on Canada today is that it is an utopia, a perfect place for everyone, where refugees are welcome, women’s rights are not obstructed, and healthcare is readily available. So it is astounding to hear and read that this was not always the case. Canada has a dark past, particularly when it comes to the abuse of the first nations. Children were taken from their homes, and forced into schools, in order to assimilate them into “Euro-Canadian” culture. These Christian/missionary schools were seen as the path to civilizing the aboriginal children, as keeping them far away from their families would help speed the process along. Society in Canada has since moved on from such a racist and discriminatory system, and has tried to repair the relationship between both sides of the Canadian community, but the damage was already done, as more than 6000 children died while in attendance, were abused (physically and sexually), forced to speak English or French, forced to forget their traditions. In 2008, the government finally, publicly apologized for the harm caused, and a commission was made to investigate the events by asking for stories from the survivors, although not soon enough.
Lemire was the perfect fit for the art in the tale. His art is always darker, slightly out of shape, more suited for the stories that will leave you questioning everything, and as a plus, he is also Canadian.
Be assured, this album/comic will make you feel disgusted with “civilization” in general. Tears might fall from your eyes as we are introduced to such a hopeful child slowly have his aspirations demolished by the harsh winter and the memories of what happened to him.