Raised on a reserve in northern Ontario, seventeen-year-old Joe Littlechief tries to be like the other guys. But Joe knows he's different -- he's more interested in guys than in any of the girls he knows. One night Joe makes a drunken pass at his best friend Benjy and, by the next morning, everyone on the rez is talking about Joe. His mother, a devout Christian, is horrified, and the kids who are supposed to be his friends make it clear there's no place for him in their circle, or even on the rez. Joe thinks about killing himself, but instead runs away to the city.
Alone and penniless on the streets of Toronto, Joe comes to identify with the Aboriginal idea of having two spirits, or combining both feminine and masculine identities in one person. He also begins to understand more about how his parents have been affected by their own experiences as children in residential schools -- something never discussed on the rez. And he realizes he has to come to terms with his two-spiritedness and find people who accept him for who he is.
This is a novel that reflects the complex realities faced by young LGBTQ and aboriginal youth today.
MELANIE FLORENCE is a full-time writer based in Toronto. She is the author of the teen novels The Missing about missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and One Night, as well as two nonfiction books Righting Canada's Wrongs: Residential Schools and Jordin Tootoo: The Highs and Lows in the Journey of the First Inuk to Play in the NHL, which was chosen as an Honor Book by The American Indian Library Association. Melanie is of Plains Cree and Scottish descent.
"This is a brutally honest look at what can happen to homeless youth, especially if they are struggling with gender identity. No punches are pulled... The reality of living on the street is brought to life...
Dialogue is fresh and natural although without the swearing that would be more realistic. Florence has really captured the lilt and tone of talk on the reserve. Chapters are short and the reading level is 3.9 so although the issues in this book will appeal to all high school students it will also be accessible to those high school students who are struggling to read well."
"Rez Runaway was the same as an being in an emotional roller coaster...I'm defenitely reading something else from Melanie Florence if I have the chance."
"Lots of stuff going on in such a short book. I like the upbeat and optimistic tone."
"Overall, Rez Runaway is an interesting book that not only tells an interesting tale but does well in increasing awareness in regards to discrimination, stereotypes, marginalized groups and most importantly of all support in unexpected places in Canadian society."
"This story was an emotional rollercoaster."
"A compelling read that deals with plenty of complex and current issues. Melanie Florence has a real gift for immersing readers in the story...While there are many novels dealing with a teen's struggle to accept his or her own sexual identity, this is one of the first I've come across, dealing with a transgender character and two-spiritedness. Highly Recommended"
"Even with the heavy load from all the important topics, it's a breeze to get through. It's short and simply written for even the most reluctant readers."
"Covering tough topics such as gay bashing, gender identity, and underage prostitution, Florence unflinchingly depicts the risks encountered by LGBTQ teens. A gritty fairy tale for modern times, Rez Runaway communicates hope and compassion to an increasingly vulnerable teen demographic with an optimistic endnote that all teens need to hear: 'It really does get better.'"