Tasha Spillett’s graphic novel debut, Surviving the City, is a story about womanhood, friendship, colonialism, and the anguish of a missing loved one. Miikwan and Dez are best friends. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up in an urban landscape – they’re so close, they even completed their Berry Fast together. However, when Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick, Dez is told she can’t stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t?
Tasha Spillett draws her strength from both her Nehiyaw and Trinidadian bloodlines. She is a celebrated educator, poet, and emerging scholar. Tasha is most heart-tied to contributing to community-led work that centres on land and water defence, and the protection of Indigenous women and girls. Tasha is currently working on her PhD in Education through the University of Saskatchewan, where she holds a Vanier Canada Award.
This is the most impactful, moving graphic novel I have ever read. The illustrations were breathtaking and haunting, and absolutely LAYERED. So, so much depth and complexity and heart to this story.
This story matters.
It was beautiful to see Anishinaabe and Inninew rep (and language rep!) on page. I teared up the first time I saw "kokum" on page. Just. I don't even know where to begin. This book dives deep into inter-generational trauma and the way our past and our families and their wounds haunt us. I could go on about both of those books for days, but I just want to say this: this will be a re-read, re-read, re-read. Native kids deserve to see themselves represented in a story like this. I'm so very grateful.
Surviving the City is an interesting graphic novel that comes with a message. The story focuses around two friends, Dez and Miikwan, who are First Nations girls. They are in school together and the best of friends. Dez lives with her grandmother.
The two girls are inseparable. So, when Dez fails to show up for school, Miikwan is worried. Dez had been given some bad news – that her grandmother was getting sicker and that Dez might have to go live in a group home. Miikwan worries because she thinks that Dez could have disappeared, as have other indigenous women and girls, including her own mother. Many of them turn up murdered.
This is a book that addresses a real-life issue that indigenous women and girls face daily. There is an epidemic of missing women and girls and you see some indications of that in the book. Everywhere the girls go, there are people who have shadowy ghost figures following them, the evil spirits. People watch them, and you know that not everyone has good intentions toward them. The girls are not really safe anywhere, as is graphically portrayed with very well-done artwork. There are threats everywhere, even from people who they should be able to trust. This is the reality that they face daily. This novel brings home that message so well. It brings attention to a very real issue while presenting characters in a situation that anyone of their age might find themselves in.
The novel also shows bright spots. The center where the girls can go to connect with others of their culture. The people that join together to march in protest of all the missing women who have not been found. There are places the girls can go to feel safe and to be with like-minded people. That is a message that many young people should hear.
This novel would make a great addition to a classroom reading or social studies program. There are many opportunities for lessons and class discussions that center around the story in the book and the larger issues it represents. This could be an important book to show students this reality. The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is, sadly, not going away. We need to work on finding the missing ones. This book is great for raising awareness of this issue. There are other lessons here as well. The fact that Dez might be removed from her home, living with a blood relative, and placed in a group home, shows that government interference in the lives of indigenous people is still an ongoing issue. These are things that are not at the forefront of the knowledge or experience of the general public. If people learned of these things going on, maybe they could be changed. For those reasons, I think this, and books like it, are so important to get out there.
It is written in an easy-to-read graphic format. The illustrations are top-notch. The graphics contribute much to the storyline. I find graphic novels are an interesting art form. The words and illustrations work together to bring a story to life in ways that plain text cannot. This one was very well done and I recommend it highly, not only for its message, but for the excellent artwork as well.
"Surviving the City, the story of Miikwan and her best friend Dez, highlights the dangers Indigenous teens face in Canada. Miikwan is Anishinaabe and Dez is Inninew; they are very close and even shared their berry fast – a rite of passage for young women. But when Dez’s grandmother becomes ill, Dez fears the prospect of living in a group home and runs away. Miikwan, whose mother was murdered, is frantic to find her. Tasha Spillett, who is Nehiyaw and Trinidadian, tells the story through the girls’ dialogue and text messages – featuring Indigenous words and references to traditional practices – allowing readers to be continually immersed in their world.
Métis artist Natasha Donovan’s full-colour illustrations stand out in this field of graphic novels, with pale-blue ghostly figures representing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as darker, hollow-eyed male figures who symbolize the constant threats to women. In these haunting images, the girls’ personal drama plays out within the larger struggle of Canada’s Indigenous women.
Each of these graphic novels invites young readers to engage with contemporary social justice issues and to empathize with the teens who face such challenges."
Included on CBC Books' "The Best Canadian comics of 2018" list: https://www.cbc.ca/books/the-best-canadian-comics-of-2018-1.4944651
I pre-ordered as soon as I read it. It was haunting and gorgeous and I already want to read it again. I can't wait to put this in my kid's hands.
According to the RCMP, ten percent of women in Canada who have been missing for at least 30 days are Indigenous. Indigenous women are five times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. So, this graphic novel, about two Indigenous girls, who live in the city, is very sad, and very true. Surviving in the city is hard when you are a target. I love how the spirits of the dead hang around the Indigenous peoples, but the white people have an alien spirit that hangs around them. Very to the point. This is not an easy story to read. But it is also true that this is still happening, right now, and far too many girls and women have been lost to not make a point that we have to care for each other.
And the resource center, mentioned in the book Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. is real (http://www.kanikanichihk.ca/), so this is also a good source for girls and women reading this to know there is a safe space for them. There is so much going on, that is background for this story, but anyone can read this, and know what is happening, and be aware. Highly recommended for school, libraries and personal libraries. Thanks to Netgalley and Highwater Press for making this book available for an honest review.
I started this graphic novel with no idea of what was to come. What I got was a touching, diverse read. Characters struggling in their world and trying to hold on to the life they have. Friendship that makes a family. In this story we have teen girls, both from native tribes, learning their way in “regular” school. This world is different from what their culture finds “normal”. The only difficulty I had was trying to understand some of the illustrations that would blend current themes with native ones. #SurvivingtheCity #NetGalley
Graphic novels that are memoirs or lean toward nonfiction are some of my favorites. I think it’s a really powerful way to tell a very personal story, and this is a great example.
Surviving the City illustrates the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada by following two girls facing numerous barriers in their school and social service support system. It challenges the idea that the systems we have benefit all people fairly and speaks to the generational trauma that indigenous people carry.
The artwork was a little too clean for me (I usually like the hand sketched look best), but the colors and flow of the story were really wonderful. Within the story itself, there are several moments in which I wondered what something was (such as the berry fast), and I love that the graphic novel doesn’t do your work for you - it gives you enough that you can follow up and learn more.
Thanks to netgalley for letting me sneak a look at this graphic novel early and for promoting a story by native authors and with native protagonists!
This is an important book that should be read by everyone. Missing indigenous women and girls is a huge problem within both Canada and the United States. And it doesn't get the attention it deserves. Everyone should be concerned about this and helping to make this come to an end. No more!
A startling, timely, and beautifully illustrated account of the plight of indigenous girls, women, and two-children in Canada. Not to be missed.
Whoa! Talk about raising awareness! This reminds me of why I truly love to read, why I became a Librarian, books like this. Not just to be entertained, but to learn, then to put this book in the hands of others! God, I cannot wait until this is published, this is the kind of book you go hunting for when it’s a day late! Is March 15th a hard date or can we get this out there sooner?!?!?! Excellent work, we need more from Spillett!
"Centering the strong hearts of Indigenous women and girls and shattering racist assumptions, Surviving the City is a beautiful, uncompromising honour song to those of us that not only survive the urban, but navigate through it with the courage of our Ancestors." - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost
This graphic novel explores the plight of indigenous women and girls in Canada. The art and story was beautiful. Everyone should read this.
I'm smarter than I was 1/2 hour ago. Before I read this ARC of Surviving the City, I had no idea about the plight of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. This will be going in our middle school library upon release. In addition to a beautiful, important story, the illustrations of ancestors, spirits, and even evil highlight the importance of the culture and how in tune this population remains. There are many lessons to gain reading these 58 pages. I can't wait for students to learn them.
A short but powerful graphic novel about the experience of two Indigenous Canadian girls that I'm really happy I got the chance to read.
Tasha Spillett writes with the kind of raw voice that Indigenous girls deserve to hear. Surviving the City takes the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit, and she brings that to life in a story that doesn't just focus on MMIWG2S.
I think what I really admire about Surviving the City is that Spillett is able to tell the story of two girls, Miikwan (Anishinaabe) and Dez (Inninew), just being girls while living in a world that just can't handle Indigenous girls getting to enjoy their lives and their culture. Miikwan and Dez are living their lives, while also dealing with a sick grandmother, a missing mother, and the looming fear of not being allowed to live at home due to government interference. Miikwan and Dez are trying to do the things they love, while also having to deal with the racist misogyny that all Indigenous women have to face.
Surviving the City is a painful read, but it's also incredibly uplifting and touching at times. I think this is why it struck me the way it did. I never felt like Miikwan and Dez were the vehicles for a story they were barely a part of. They were incredible characters who felt like the real people who deal with these issues, largely in part because the story isn't just about their issues. It is also about their love for each other and their families and their cultures.
The art here is absolutely lovely, and it did a lot to make this story feel more real to me. The background scenery is lovely, but I especially love the design of Miikwan and Dez.
I definitely recommend this one. The story highlights real issues that everyone should know about, without entirely being about those issues. This is evocative and touching. The extra information included at the end is vital for anyone looking for the stats that lead to the creation of stories like this one. I'll be watching out for more work from both Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan in the future.