Celia’s Song is a beautifully written story of a resilient indigenous family recovering the tradition and culture which was lost with assimilation and residential schools. The story is mixed with legend and told by a mink, a shapeshifter ,witnessing the lives of this family and knowing that the bones of ancestors in a forgotten long house were anxious with the loss of ceremony. The long house which protected the bones had collapsed unleashing a two-headed serpent who unleashed the harm of abuse, death and suicide on this family.
Celia grieved the loss of her son and was a seer who was thought to be a little “odd”. In nursing a little girl back to health after terrible abuse, the strong women come together to heal both the little girls and themselves. The men follow the lead of the women and when Celia’s nephew, Jacob, “visits” the mountain, “talking” with his departed grandmother’s grandmother he devises a plan to build a long house and put things right.
Slowly, old songs, dances and drumming returns to their ceremonies. Healing occurs as the long house is built and the resilience strengthens the community through the resumption of ceremony and culture.
The author, Lee Maracle, was honoured at the Toronto Reference Library a few weeks ago. Although this book told the very serious story of the plight of indigenous people she was a vibrant woman who told parts of her own story being picked on at school and having a family who had not learned to read in residential schools. Despite the serious topic of her book, Maracle’s humour and laughter filled the room as she was feted.
The book is beautifully written, with prose that had a lyrical quality at times. It is a challenging read and the reader is immersed in a history that has not been taught in many schools. It is an important book that should be shared and discussed and I am happy to have met the author and had my copy signed.