From Publishers Weekly
In this riveting tale of Canadian bureaucracy and cultural arrogance, British journalist McGrath (Motel Nirvana
) tells how in 1953 a handful of Inuit families were coerced from Hudson Bay's eastern shore and relocated 1,500 miles north to bitterly rocky and icy Ellesmere Island—the world's ninth-largest island. Sold as a humane attempt to provide a livelihood for the Inuit when fox pelt prices plummeted, the scheme was, in fact, callously political. Canada wanted to plant the flag—and some people—on the uninhabited and largely impenetrable island, over which Greenland, Denmark and the United States had territorial aspirations, particularly as the Cold War intensified. A compact history of northern life adds context to the story of horrific exile, which McGrath humanizes by focusing on Josephie Flaherty, the mixed-race son of an Inuit mother and of American director Robert Flaherty, who created the cinematic sensation Nanook of the North
in the 1920s. McGrath's account of inhumane deprivation is based on contemporary documents and astonishing interviews with survivors, who after decades of pleading to be repatriated to their homeland finally forced public hearings in 1993 that shocked Canadians and culminated in the 1999 creation of Nunavut, the world's only self-governing territory for indigenous people. (Apr. 5)
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*Starred Review* McGrath has accomplished significant and riveting work in her investigation into the Canadian relocation of several Inuit families to Ellesmere Island in the 1950s. By focusing primarily on one family, she humanizes what has been called one of the worst human rights violations in Canadian history. Through meticulous research and interviews, McGrath embraces actual events and the greater question of white reliance on misconceptions concerning indigenous peoples. She opens with the 1920s filming of Nanook
of the North, then pursues connections the filmmaker had to one Inuit family. By contrasting how the Inuit are perceived by movie audiences versus the treatment they received from government employees, she sets the reader up for the devastating conclusions revealed in the survivors' 1993 testimony before the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Because the events and people McGrath portrays had a direct effect on the development of the Nunavut Territory, her book is an excellent example of living history. Highly readable and utterly fascinating, this startling examination of the meaning of the term civilized world
is nonfiction literature at its best. Colleen MondorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved