I’ll be reviewing podcasts from time to time. This one, from APTN (Aboriginal People’s Television Network) is brilliant. In 5 episodes, a young woman Natasha Reimer describes her life in care of Manitoba child services. She was part of the Millennial Scoop—which took place 30 years after the notorious Sixties Scoop. You must listen to this outstanding podcast. Natasha, born Natasha Lynn Starr, was taken from her birth mother in Winnipeg before she was two years old She was in several foster homes and finally adopted at age 5 or 6. Her adoptive parents were a white Mennonite couple who lived in Winkler, Manitoba; they pressured her to go to church, Bible camp and fully accept their faith. She suffered racist attacks, both physical and psychological, at public school, yet her parents rarely complained to the school authorities about it. When Natasha was 14, the adoption broke down irrevocably —a frequent problem with all adoptions, racialised or not. Her story, told by her in a strong and insistent voice, reminds whites that Natasha lived through a lot of horrors and loneliness in her still-young life. If anyone doesn’t understand life in social care, with social workers, school principals, teachers and ministers all taking turns as gatekeepers and rules-enforcers — you need to listen to this brilliant podcast. Here is a short interview with her by APTN News. Listen to the podcast here.
Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town (2013) is an excellent read. First, it’s well-written and fascinating. Author journalist Mirta Ojito, is herself a Cuban immigrant to the US. In the book, she paints a picture of a small “safe” town barely 70 miles from New York City that has attracted thousands of Ecuadorians over the last 40 plus years. Single Ecuadorian men came to the US from a country whose the main industry used to be making and exporting “Panama” straw hats. Today hats are long gone as a mainstay of the economy, so émigrés decided to make the long and dangerous trip north to Patchogue, NY. Many work in fast food restaurants, in cleaning jobs or at dry cleaners. As an identifiable group of brown immigrants, with broken English and few places that welcome them, they try to evade of the white burgers. In 2008, seven young men still in high school killed 37-year-old dry-cleaning employee Marcelo Lucero. They killed him, on an empty street near the commuter railway station after 11 pm. The youth admitted that they were “hopping beaners” that night – attacking whom they believed were Mexican “illegals”– something the youth did several times a week for something to do. Hunting Season is a fascinating exposé about the social structure of Patchogue, the ignorant white middle class, the police and the political makeup of the town. The mayor, who is second generation Italian American, understands little – and compares today to the “good old days” when immigrants worked hard and knew their place. When, several years after Lucero’s murder, a play critical of the town and its racism opened, the mayor refused to attend. The CEO of the town and the police also tried to dissociate themselves from any blame. They believed the Ecuadorians started the problem. Before the murder, two women librarians, who spoke Spanish, were informed about the frequent attacks on Ecuadorians; they attempted to start discussions and steer the townfolk away from racism—to little avail. The town’s leading clergyman simply wanted everything to be “peaceful”. The book is a chilling masterpiece.
Worry is a new Canadian novel by Toronto writer Jessica Westhead. At first I thought it was a bit cloying and uninspired. But then it hit me what the book was all about. It takes place over 5 days in high summer, in a ritzy cottage or summer home near Ontario’s Lake Muskoka. Ruth, an emotionally overwrought mother and her three year old daughter are visiting Ruth’s best friend, Ava, who has seven year old twin girls. I don’t want to say too much except that nothing is what it seems, and Ruth’s panic will be yours– as you read it.