- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Anchor Canada; 1 edition (Sept. 14 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780385258807
- ISBN-13: 978-0385258807
- ASIN: 0385258801
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #92,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Kiss of the Fur Queen Paperback – Sep 14 1999
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
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
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Showing 1-8 of 14 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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. His inter-twining of Cree mythology with modern prose serves to more fully involve the reader in the Okimasis's daily struggle. At times, the writing becomes a bit confusing, slightly hallucinatory, but this disparity aids the reader in understanding the warring factions that exist within the minds of Jeremiah and Gabriel. We are all products of our upbringing, and nowhere is this more evident than in the confusion and self-loathing that threatens to consume the brothers at every turn.
But when does it become too autobiographical to qualify as fiction? Granted, almost all authors could be accused of importing elements of their lives into their work, but Highway pushes the envelope. He, too, grew up in Northern Manitoba, and was forced, along with his brother Rene, to attend Catholic school. There, they were both abused at the hands of their religious teachers, in a ongoing chapter of Canadian history that must surely rank as one of its most shameful. Rene grew up to be a dancer, while Tomson slowly evolved as a writer, much as Jeremiah does. And all the while, both were subjected to the casual and blatant racism that Native-Canadians face daily.
Yet perhaps this is besides the point. Whether one's story is thinly disguised as 'fiction' or not does not alter the powerful nature of the story itself. By attributing a fictional aspect to the narrative, Highway may be better able to import the more fantastical elements that lurk behind the realism, adding the omnipresent Fur Queen as a fairy godmother of sorts, a personal angel that guides the Okimasis family through their tribulations. And whether autobiographical or not, FUR QUEEN constantly guides the reader into unexpected places.
Are there better novels out there? Yes. Highway sometimes loses control of the story, and his experienced hand at dialogue is sometimes thwarted by the more descriptive nature of a novel. Despite this, KISS OF THE FUR QUEEN is an important novel, one that should be told many times over. The story is far too familiar for those in similar circumstances, and far too imcomprehensible for those lucky enough to have had a choice in where their lives would take them. By confronting the issues, as Highway does fearlessly, we can see where we've been, and maybe we can affect change as to where we're headed.
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.
Want to see more reviews on this item?