Black Apple is a Canadian novel describing the paternalistic treatment of indigenous individuals by the Catholic Church within residential schools. The story begins when a young girl is wrenched from her family home and taken away to spend many years institutionalized. The nuns strove to assimilate indigenous children and suppress their heritage and culture and this story exemplified the abuse and mistreatment of children in these schools. Her braids were hacked off by the nuns and she was renamed, starting her life over as Rose Marie.
The little girl was bright but becomes anxious, naming this feeling as “fire worms”. She is stoic and draws the ire of a particular nun when she does not respond to her punishment resulting in a severe beating. Mother Grace, administrator of the residential school, saw a shining light in this little girl and takes her into her care, providing special classes and began to guide her towards a calling in the church. She used her influence to keep Rosemarie at the school each summer under the guise of giving her a proper living arrangement. As Rosemarie’s knowledge of the Catholic faith grew, her relationship with her family and understanding of her own heritage suffered.
The story depicts the terrible experiences in residential schools where children were abused, neglected, beaten and pushed away from their own culture. Black Apple was written by an indigenous woman who grew up in the Northwest territories. Crate highlights a deplorable part of Canadian history and one that needs to be shared. These schools were build across Canada and included the Mohawk Institute or coloquially known as “the Mush Hole” here in Brantford. This building which is now the Woodland Cultural Centre operated as residential school from 1831 to 1970.
This is definitely not a “happy” book but it does tell a story that needs to be told. This history should be shared with all students so that they gain an understanding of the lasting impacts of residential schools.
A book you might want to check out is the graphic novel “The Outside Circle” by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, for it is also about the mistreatment of First Nations culture and is set in Canada.
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Thanks Nancy – you are the second person to recommend this one and I have been enjoying a lot of indigenous authors this summer in my quest to read more Canadian stories!
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