An extraordinary literary fiction debut from an award-winning writer and activist, set in the remote Labrador Innu community of Utshimassits, exploring grief, trauma, unlearning, and healing.
One cold February morning in 1992, Anna receives a phone call, a request to work with the Utshimassiu Innu in Labrador to organize a people's inquiry, a self-examination into a house fire that killed six children. Eager to escape a complicated relationship and afraid to face the grief of losing her father, Anna accepts the invitation. She catches a plane, painfully aware that she doesn't have a clue what a people's inquiry might look like, and heads for Nitassinan.
This world, with its own language and spirits, is where she's told children die because people do not care for the caribou bones. It is a world where an inquiry becomes a gathering of voices. As the community tells its story — elders, men, women, and children — Anna learns to listen deeply to their words, to the land, to the past and the present. Memories knit together to find meaning in a pain that cannot be named. She immerses herself and leans into her own grief. As she bears witness to the fiercely close community and the unexpected, tender, and courageous way they look after each other and carry on, she learns something about our collective need to imagine a future together, no matter how fragile and imperfect.
Inspired by true events, and the Gathering Voices report, of which Fouillard served as editor, Precious Little is a unique enmeshing of the imagination with memories and experiences spanning decades of working and living with the Innu. At its core, it is a journey toward unlearning and unknowing. By turns harrowing and empowering, provocative and enlightening, this novel is a powerful act of reconciliation and resistance in the face of trauma, infused with love, humility, humour and joy.
About the author
Camille Fouillard grew up in St. Lazare, Manitoba, on Treaty 2 lands. She has worked and collaborated with the Labrador Innu for forty years on storytelling and books, protests and activism, facilitation, land rights, social health and education. She served as editor for Gathering Voices-Mamunitau Staianimuanu: The Davis Inlet People's Inquiry (Douglas and McIntyre) and co-edited It's Like the Legend: Innu Women's Voices (Gynergy). She is a winner of the Larry Jackson Writers' Award, as well Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters and Writers' Union of Canada competitions. She lives in St. John's, Newfoundland. This is her first novel.
"No novel I have read is as raw and fierce, nuanced and indelible as Precious Little. Fouillard's exquisite prose plumbs the impact of a devastating loss on the members of a community, and in doing so, uncovers rarely-explored emotional and cultural relationships with candour and insight.
Precious Little is a lively and impassioned story about bearing witness, about language and listening, about hope. This book is vital, essential."
— Lorri Neilsen Glenn, author of Following the River: Traces of Red River Women