Blue Bear Woman or Ourse bleue is the first novel in Quebec written by an Indigenous woman. The story of a young Cree woman’s search for her roots and identity, this is also the author’s debut novel, originally published in 2007, and it will be her second book to be published in English. The novel has been described as a “texte de resistance”, showing contemporary Indigenous life and the impact on the Cree of the building of the Eastmain dam in northern Quebec, posited as “virgin” territory, yet which has actually been part of the Cree traditional territory since time immemorial. In search of her roots, Victoria takes a trip to the country of her Cree ancestors with her companion, Daniel. It is a long journey to the north along the shores of James Bay. Colours, smells, and majestic landscapes arouse memories that soon devolve into strange and hauntings dreams at night. In bits and pieces, uncles, aunties, and cousins arrive to tell the story of Victoria’s family and bring with them images of her childhood that are tinged both with joy and sadness. Guided by her totem, the Blue Bear, she returns home to make peace with her soul, as well as release the soul of her great-uncle, a hunter who has been missing in the forest for over twenty years.
About the authors
Susan Ouriou is an award-winning literary translator who has translated the fiction of Quebec, Latin-American, French and Spanish authors. She won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation in 2009 for Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, after first being shortlisted for The Road to Chlifa by Michèle Marineau and then for Necessary Betrayals by Guillaume Vigneault. The Road to Chlifa was also awarded an honour list placing by IBBY (International Board of Books for Youth) as were Naomi and Mrs. Lumbago by Gilles Tibo, This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hébert and Pieces of Me. Necessary Betrayals was also voted one of the 100 best books of 2002 by the Globe and Mail. Another translation, The Thirteenth Summer by José Luis Olaizola, was runner-up for the John Glassco Translation Prize. She has worked as the director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and as faculty for the Banff Centre's Aboriginal Emerging Writers residency. She is the editor of the 2010 anthology Beyond Words – Translating the World.
Christelle Morelli is a French-English literary translator and teacher in the Francophone school system. She has translated the anthology Languages of Our Land: Indigenous Poems and Stories from Quebec and the children’s book Blanche Hates the Night. She has also co-translated 15 fiction, non-fiction and children’s books with Susan Ouriou. Her French to English co-translations other than Winter Child are: Against God, Sand Bar, Jane, the Fox and Me, Millions for a Song, Once Upon a Rainy Day, Stolen Sisters, Louis Undercover and Hunting Houses. Her English to French co-translation titles are: La toute dernière première fois, Chin Chiang et la danse du dragon, Lune jaune, à bientôt, Le chandail d’Amos, Une musique du ciel, Leçons de la Mère-Terre and Un saumon pour Simon. Her co-translation with Susan Ouriou, Stolen Sisters, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Translation in 2015.
“Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau creates a world where tragedy and triumph travel side by side. Alternating between the realities of darkness and light, between past and present, the author’s main character ultimately celebrates strength in spirit.” — Carol Rose GoldenEagle, author of Bone Black
“This meditative first-person narrative touches on a number of contemporary Indigenous issues, including intergenerational trauma and land rights. But it is, above all, a profoundly intimate account of a woman’s spiritual journey.” — Quill & Quire
“Blue Bear Woman is a worthy read, as it heralds the long-overdue reception of francophone Indigenous voices in English, but also because it is a layered and rewarding exploration of how people shape the land and are shaped by it in turn — in their memories, histories, and relationships.” — Literary Review of Canada
“The seemingly “easy” journey is ultimately challenged by discoveries and events that are entirely unexpected but lead to profound insight. Blue Bear Woman is a gift to its readers.” — Montreal Review of Books