Monday, June 07, 2021

36. Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

I went to the library to pick up comic books for my daughter (she is churning through comics and just completed the gorgeous 7 volume Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge omnibus put out in France, in french; I am a proud nerd father) and happened to see Son of a Trickster on the shelf.  I had been intrigued by the show on CBC and had this book on my radar.  While it's a bummer that the show got cancelled (my opinion on that below), now that I have read the book, I will most likely actually watch it since it is only 8 episodes.

The book has so many elements that I am into these days.  I love the latent magic storyline in any context, and the west coast First Nations mythologies are so cool that this seemed like a great combo.  As a proponent of "decolonizing" and a fan of genre literature, I am also always excited about non-white perspecitves in sci-fi, fantasy and crime.  Finally, Canadian.  What was also cool about this book that I hadn't expected is that it brought me back to my own adolescence.  It really captures small town shit hole B.C. life.  I did not lead anywhere near the childhood that the characters do here, but it was around me on the fringes of my upbringing outside of Nanaimo. The decor, the language, the getting fucked up in weird people's houses all felt very real.  There is something about small town Canada in all its dreariness and oppression that drives you to force out some joy and creativity.  I felt that was really well captured in this book.

The protagonist is a grade 10 First Nations boy named Jared who lives with his hot, aggressive mom and her drug-dealing boyfriend Richie. We actually get a complicated family history right from the get-go, learning of Jared's grandmothers, his dad, his mom's various boyfriends.  You sense there is a lot that he hasn't been told.  The storyline for much of the book is Jared trying to negotiate high school relationships and the chaos of his own damaged family.  There are very, very subtle hints that something else is going on in Jared but these really only explode at the end of the book.  

The subtlety of the supernatural in this book is just great.  I don't know why I love it so much when the weird is woven delicately like this.  Maybe it makes it seem more possible?  The nature of the weird as well is really cool, hinting of systems of magic interspersed with science at a cosmic scale with a crazy potential for epic backstories and weird-ass creatures.  This book only hints at what might be out there.  I want to learn more but I hope it continues to be subtle.

My only critique is that I found Jared himself to be kind of annoyingly resistant at the end when he starts to learn about himself.  He kind of takes on the attitude of the annoying characters in older movies who refuse to believe.  I guess he is supposed to be a troubled grade 10er but he seems so level-headed and given the shit that happened to him, it felt a bit forced and out of character, an attempt to create artificial tension where it may not be needed.  

The mom character is really interesting. She seems just really mean at times, borderline abusive.  Not super likable, but some of her behaviour becomes more justified as you read on and it is cool that the female character gets to be just be a straight up super aggro badass.  

For those of you who didn't follow it, Trickster the TV series was quite well received and on its way to getting a second season when it came out that the showrunner, Michele Latimer, had lied about her indigenous lineage. She did that super weird fucking thing that a lot of Quebecers to do where they claim to be Indian and maybe even actually do have some actual indigenous blood in their family, but grew up totally white.  Now I don't know if she grew up in a white household. She is from Thunder Bay so maybe she lived near and hung out with the First Nations communities there.  Much of her production work was with and about indigenous people and Trickster had mostly First Nations people as the cast and crew.  It just still seems so fucking weird.  I get it that there are a lot of white people who are totally into other cultures.  Could she not have been super white First Nations fan girl, help push for more indigenous productions and not pretend that she herself was one?  And when she got busted, instead of just admitting it and being super embarrassed and recognizing why it is a problem, she doubled down with vague bullshit about "her truth" or some nonsense like that (in the Globe & Mail no less).  Is it simply that she was able to create a professional niche for herself with this lie?  If so, that is really inexcusable.   

I do feel bad for everybody working on the show and I hope they can get it rolling again. Was she really so crucial to it that they can't get the second season going without her?  That also seems weird.  Are there not some kickass First Nations show runner who can continue the work?  The books are already written. It's darkly hilarious how fucking racist this country is that the big successful First Nations TV exec turns out to be an imposter, because of course the CBC is most comfortable working with people who speak like them and can play their game.  You can hear them now "Well yes she is indigenous but she's so well-spoken!"

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