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Kiss of the Fur Queen Paperback – Sep 14 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada; 1 edition (Sept. 14 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385258801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385258807
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #40,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Following the phenomenal success and critical acclaim of Tomson Highway's two plays, The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, his first novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen, similarly infuses stark realism with the "magic" of Cree culture and blends tragedy with raucous comedy.

The novel opens in 1951 with Abraham Okimasis's victory in "The World Championship Dog Derby," a major dog-sled race. Part of his prize is a kiss from the winner of a local beauty pageant, a young white woman with the title of Fur Queen. This touch of white culture indelibly marks the lives of Abraham's sons, Jeremiah and Gabriel, who grow into acclaimed artists attempting to work within white, European traditions while retaining the influence of Native culture. The novel follows the boys from the idyllic innocence of their Cree childhood through a forced relocation to an abusive residential school to their lives as young artists attempting to discover how far their natural talents can take them. Highway frankly depicts the abuse of Native students at the hands of the Catholic priests who run the residential schools, but falls short of overt condemnation. This startling material is tempered, in a remarkably skilful manipulation of prose, by an almost complete lack of editorial intrusion by the sympathetic narrator.

Kiss of the Fur Queen ultimately deserves to be a few hundred pages longer. Highway's discussions of racism, homosexuality, and cultural awkwardness toward the end of the novel would seem less like sociological set-pieces if he took more room to fully explore the complexities of these issues, which, in turn, would add even more life to two already compelling characters. Kiss may fall short of the near perfection of Highway's acclaimed plays, but it is a remarkably good first novel. --Jonathan Dewar


"Tomson Highway's prose is beautiful, lyrical... Emotionally complex, witty, symphonic and sad, Kiss of the Fur Queen is a remarkable novel, filled with blood and guts, life and love." —The Vancouver Sun

"Kiss of the Fur Queen is a novel of affirmation ... a novel that dances with life." —The Globe and Mail

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Format: Paperback
When does a novel of fiction become 'too' autobiographical? Is there a line in the sand that cannot be crossed, a line that seperates the purely imagined from stark reality? If there is such a line, celebrated Canadian author Tomson Highway dances on its edge many times over, in his alternately humourous and harrowing novel KISS OF THE FUR QUEEN.
FUR QUEEN tells the truly sad tale of Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis, Cree brothers growing up in Northern Manitoba. At an all-too-early age, Champion and Ooneemeetoo are torn from their magical life, thrust headlong into Canada's then-enforced policy of subjecting native children to Catholic residential schools. They are renamed Jeremiah and Gabriel, force-fed a life of Christian beliefs, subjected to monstrous acts by the priests, and removed from any conception of their people's history, language, and traditions. Slowly maturing into young men, Champion (Jeremiah) begins a career as a concert pianist, while Gabriel pursues a life in dance. As they struggle to cope in a world that increasingly alienates them from their past, their heritage re-enters their lives in unexpected and sometimes tragic ways.
Highway is a gifted writer, as evident from the multitude of awards he recieved for his plays THE REZ SISTERS and DRY LIPS OUGHT TO MOVE TO KASPUSKASING (both incredible plays, by the way). His presentation of the realities of Native-Canadian life has been lauded for its sense of humanity in the face of horror, as well as for showing a world that many people would rather ignore, or refuse to believe exists. So it is with FUR QUEEN. Highway's slow evolution of the narrative is masterful, travelling from the nostalgic remembrances of a child's idyllic life to the brutalities that face Native-Canadians in the 'evolved' city of Winnipeg.
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Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book highly. It successfully descibes the idyllic childhood of two brothers, and how this childhood, and a Canadian aboriginal culture's attempt to adapt on its own terms to Euiropean-based culture are heartlessly ended by forced assimilation, land expropriation, and horrifying abuse. The story follows the two brothers from conception in the 1950s into their 30s in the 1980s. Once they leave home to go to a religious residential school, the tone of the story is of an ever-returning, inescapable sadness, which nothing--not flamboyance, not artistic creation, not sex, not consciousness-altering substances, not numbness, not attempting to reintegrate into aboriginal culture, not helping children of the next generation--can allay. The book had a powerful effect on me. I'm not sure whether or not it is a masterpiece, and thus deserving of 5 stars. Much of what it was telling me was so surprising, so shocking, or so emotional, that on first reading, I am unable to look at the book with enough detachment to make that call. Read it and see what you think.
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Format: Hardcover
Kiss of the Fur Queen is a marvelous first novel by a poet and playwrite of lyrical talent. As an admirer of the native arts I had my first introduction to Tomson Highway at the Stein Valley festival in BC. He performed a recitation of a play that rung a true chord. Having lived in Northern Canada for ten years and "down south" for three, his reading brought the north back to me. His novel has now done that ten fold. Simply by using the mood language of his culture I was transported back to the north and to the feelings of acceptance I always experienced there. Tomson Highway has the ability to translate into words, the feeling of living in the north, even though only a portion of the novel is set there. A truly enjoyable read that all ex northerners should enjoy. Like a warm bath comforts tired muscles, this book brings comfort to all those who miss the remarkable ambiance of the north. Hopefully those who have never traveled to this most sane part of Canada, will discover a little touch of that magic
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although a difficult novel to read at times, I found it quite provocative and thought provoking - helpful to increasing my understanding of the first nations' issues and the impact of the legacy of abuse the people have suffered in the name of settlement and re-location. Loved the imagery and use of first nations symbols and myth.
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Format: Paperback
Wow, a Can Lit novel that doesn't take itself too seriously? I thought that wasn't even possible! Despite the seriousness of the subject matter such as native children being forced to attend residential schools and the sexual abuse of children by priests, this book is full of warmth, humour and spirituality combined with great storytelling.

The writing and descriptions are over-the-top at times, which gives the book almost a meta-fiction feel. It reminded me think of Kundera's _Unbearable Lightness of Being_ for example (although in ULB the author actually states outright that his characters aren't real people). Still, the two books share a style I can only think of as "gentle" - a kind of unassuming spirituality that radiates compassion. Both stories feel like they are told by a master, who uses a light tone to address the darkest issues of the human heart, and whose characters emerge transcendent.

Just read it. You won't regret it.
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