This week I'm reading a memoir, a short story collection that's ninety-six years old, a novel that I've had on my shelves for six years and a novel that I bought two weeks ago.
The memoir is 'The Education Of Augie Merasty' a first-hand account, written in his eighties by a survivor of Canada's Residential School system.
The short story collection is Agatha Christie's 'Poirot Investigates'.
David Mitchell's 'The Bone Clocks' has been lurking on my shelves since 2014,
'American Spy', a cold war thriller, by Lauren Wilkinson, slipped on to my shelves this month after I saw that it had been on Barak Obama's 2019 summer reading list.
'The Education Of Augie Merasty: a residential school memoir' by Joseph Auguste Merasty (2015)
I don't expect museum visits to be emotionally charged events but back at the beginning of this century I visited the Heard Museum in Phoenix and found myself skewered by an exhibit called 'Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience.' about First Nation children being forcibly removed from their homes and sent Federally funded, church-run boarding schools to be 'Americanized'. The exhibit was a set of photographs and first-person accounts from four generations of children pushed through schools that taught them to hate their own culture and did their best to destroy it. This was all new to me. It filled me with sadness and anger and left me amazed that no one had ever taught me about it.
Later, when I read 'Nobody Cries At Bingo' by Dawn Dumont, I learnt that a similar program was rolled out in Canada. Canadian Indian residential schools operated from 1876 to 1996 with a brief to remove 'Indigenous children from the influence of their own culture and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture, "to kill the Indian in the child." Over the course of the system's more than hundred-year existence, about 30 percent of Indigenous children (around 150,000) were placed in residential schools nationally'
Augie Merasty was one of those children. In this short memoir, written by him in his eighties, with help from David Carpenter, Augie shares his memories of what was done to him and his classmates and what the people 'educating' him were like.
'American Spy' by Lauren Wilkinson (2019)
Lauren Wilkinson is an American writer whose debut novel 'American Spy' has been very well received. I'm still adjusting to the idea of a writer getting an MFA in 'Fiction and Literary Translation' before producing her first novel instead of just writing a couple of novels that no one will ever see and then managing to produce something worth publishing. Still, the MFA route seems to have worked for Lauren Wilkinson.
What intrigues me about her book is that it's built around real Cold War events when America worked to undermine Thomas Sankara, a charismatic Marxist-Leninist Pan-Africanist who become the first President of Burkina Faso in 1983.
Lauren Wilkinson has inserted Marie Mitchell, an intelligence officer with the FBI who, being female and black, has seen her career stall and who is then offered the opportunity to work to get close to Sankara so she can help bring him down.
'The Bone Clocks' by David Mitchell (2014)
I was reminded that I still have David Mitchell's 'Bone Clocks' on my shelf, six years after buying it. when I saw his latest book, 'Utopia Avenue', come out earlier this month. I decided that I had to read 'Bone Clocks' before I would let myself buy another of his books.
I've picked up 'The Bone Clocks' a couple of times over the years and then put it down again unread. This is partly explained by the fact that I'm both attracted to and put off by the way this book is described. Here's the blurb from Vogue: "A cautionary metaphysical thriller that grounds its ambition in its heroine's human charm.".
So this week, I'll find out if I've been missing out or dodging a bullet
'Poirot Investigates' by Agatha Christie (1924)
I've just joined the newly-founded 'Agatha Christie Centenary Celebration' group on GoodReads, so I have a lot of Agatha Christie in my future.
'Poirot investigates' is our first group read, a sort of warm-up with short stories before we hit our first novel. This is an early collection of Poirot stories before Christie fell out of love with the little Belgian and I'm keen to see what the early Poirot was like.
There are thirteen stories in the collection, four of which have titles that start, 'The Adventure Of...' so I'm hoping for quick puzzles and exotic characters.