My students, in ELA A30, finished reading Halfbreed last week. Their feelings about said memoir were mixed. A few felt it was "boring" and lacked "action". These students believed that Campbell's history was uneventful, and not too different from what these students have experienced in their own lives. Yet, other students found it to be depressing and hauntingly moving. These were my kids that felt Campbell's grief at the passing of her mother, and whose hearts' bled when Campbell left Smoky behind. And, finally, some others were forced to realize the price that Aboriginal and Metis communities have paid in the name of colonization. These students were stunned and horrified to discover that Metis peoples hadn't always ha status, and that their lives had been just as full of discrimination and hardship as any other Aboriginal group. Luckily, none of them, though, regretted having read Maria Campbell's autobiography, and I honestly believe that all of them took something away from this book.
In other words, this book is a classroom hit!
As an educator, a woman, and a Canadian, I highly recommend this book. It should be taught in schools, as it helps to put into perspective the hardships that marginalized populations faced. It also provides students with invaluable history about the Metis peoples, and, furthermore, a way of life that has since vanished. As a female, one can identify with the womanly issues that Campbell faces, such as maturation, pregnancy, and domestic violence. This book is a feminist call-to-arms, and demands that women abandon their blankets of shame just as all minorities should abandon their blankets of shame too. As a Canadian, I felt that this book was a wake-up call to me, and forced me to realize that Canada is not quite the just country that Canadians like to believe it is. Read this book!
University of Nebraska Press (1982), Paperback, 157 pages