When I decided to do this Canadian tour through short stories, I was stuck for a few provinces / territories, but John at The Book Mine Set came to the rescue. For the Northwest Territories, he suggested “Show my Yours” by native writer Richard Van Camp, which you can actually find online (you can also read John’s review here).
At the heart of this story is a call for peace amongst people despite their differences. The narrator explains how by wearing a leather necklace with a picture of himself as a baby he escaped bullying. Following the incident, his aggressors began wearing a similar necklace with their own baby picture and shook hand with him. Everybody then started following this trend. The baby pictures become peace symbols reminding us of our innocence when we were born.
“Whites, Natives, Inuit — oh we all laughed together when we saw each other and there are just so many beautiful babies inside us all.”
The story is framed by an episode in which the narrator and Shawna look at the Northern Lights. Shawna mentions that customs regarding Northern Lights are different in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, thus again emphasising that we are all the same even though we have different beliefs. We are still all humans in front of this mystery that is nature, no matter how we interpret it.
There is also an elusive love story between the narrator and Shawna packed in this very short story. They seem to have been in love for a long time, but have always been separated either by other relationships or by location; however, their relationship seems to be strong and lasting and transcends their separation. It reinforces this feeling of love amongst people.
The story is thus at once universal in its emphasis on our common humanity and equality in the face of nature, while at the same time retaining some strong native characteristics. The prose is quite poetic and I liked the evocation of the northern lights. It is a peaceful story which screams for happiness. However, a shadow still hangs in the possibility that Shawna might leave again. Yet, I believe that this possibility highlights the strong bond between the two characters even in the face of spatial separation, thus stressing once more the fact that no matter where we are on earth we are all part of the same human community.
Canada Day being next friday, I have decided to post more Canadian short story reviews during the week in order to celebrate and to finish my tour.
Short Story Monday is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.