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Language Arts & Disciplines General

A Tale of Monstrous Extravagance

Imagining Multilingualism

by (author) Tomson Highway

introduction by Christine Sokaymoh Frederick

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2015
General, Essays
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price

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“Speaking one language, I submit, is like living in a house with one window only...”

From his legendary birth in a snow bank in northwestern Manitoba, through his metamorphosis to citizen-artist of the world, playwright, pianist, polyglot, storyteller, and irreverent disciple of the Trickster, Tomson Highway rides roughshod through the languages and communities that have shaped him. Cree, Dene, Latin, French, English, Spanish, and the universal language of music have opened windows and widened horizons in Highway’s life. Readers who can hang on tight—Highway fans, culture mavens, cunning linguists, and fellow tricksters—will experience the profundity of Highway’s humour, for as he says, “In Cree, you will laugh until you weep.”

About the authors

Tomson Highway
Tomson Highway was born near Maria Lake, Manitoba in 1951. Living a nomadic lifestyle with no access to books, television or radio, Highway’s parents would tell their children stories, kindling Highway’s life-long interest in the oral tradition of storytelling.

Tomson Highway is widely recognized for his tremendous contribution to the development of Aboriginal theatre in both Canada and around the world.

In 1994, he was inducted into the Order of Canada, the first Aboriginal writer to be so honoured.

Tomson Highway's profile page

Christine Sokaymoh Frederick's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"...a humourous tour through the languages and communities that have shaped the playwright, novelist, and musician as a person." January/February 2015

Quill & Quire

"An incomparable storyteller with a knack for exaggeration so deft you'll think he's telling the truth, Highway elaborates on how he added Dene, Inuktitut, Latin, English, French and some Spanish to his lexicon.... Learning new languages later in life is difficult, but let the power of language broaden your world, Highway encourages. Appreciate that multilingualism can hold this stunning country together--and give your children this gift, too."

Alberta Views

"Tomson Highway‘s 2014 Kreisel a brief life story with a point to make: learn languages. He himself began life with Dene and Cree, picked up some Inuktituk, went on to learn Latin and French at boarding school, then English at highschool in Winnipeg, then more French and some Spanish while living in France with his partner for 13 years. And music. With words that range from professorial ('entailed') to mundane ('butt-freezing'), he sets a lively tone to make his case." [F]

Debra Martens

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