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Fiction Cultural Heritage


by (author) Gabrielle Roy

afterword by Phyllis Webb

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Jan 2008
Cultural Heritage, Classics, Native American & Aboriginal
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2008
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Set against the austere landscape of northern Labrador, Windflower is the poignant story of Elsa Kumachuk, a young Inuit woman torn between two worlds by the birth of her blond-haired, blue-eyed son. Unacknowledged by his father, an American GI, the child is welcomed into the Inuit community with astonishment and delight. Elsa, however, must come to terms with the conflicting values implied by her son’s dual heritage.

Gabrielle Roy’s last novel, Windflower is both a moving account of one woman’s tragic dilemma and a sensitive portrait of a society in transition.

About the authors

Gabrielle Roy was an award-winning French Canadian author.

Gabrielle Roy's profile page

Phyllis Webb was born on April 8, 1927 in Victoria, BC. She was educated at the University of British Columbia and McGill University. The first major publication of her poetry was in Trio, which also included poetry by Eli Mandel and Gael Turnbull. For many years she worked as a writer and broadcaster for the CBC, where she created the radio program Ideas in 1965 and was its executive producer from 1967 to 1969. Webb served as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta from 1980 to 1981 and taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the Banff Centre. She died on Salt Spring Island in November, 2021.Her 1980 work Wilson’s Bowl was hailed by Northrop Frye as “a landmark in Canadian poetry.” When the book was passed over for a Governor General’s Award nomination, a group of fellow poets—led by Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, bpNichol, and P.K. Page—collected $2,300 and sent it to Webb, stating that “this gesture is a response to your whole body of work as well as to your presence as a touchstone of true good writing in Canada, which we all know is beyond awards and prizes” (John F. Hulcoop).As Stephen Scobie once wrote, the work of Phyllis Webb “has always been distinguished by the profundity of her insights, the depth of her emotional feeling, the delicacy and accuracy of her rhythms, the beauty and mysterious resonance of her images – and by her luminous intelligence.”Phyllis Webb received the BC Gas Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, the Order of Canada in 1992, and the 1982 Governor General’s Award for Selected Poems: The Vision Tree.

Phyllis Webb's profile page

Excerpt: Windflower (by (author) Gabrielle Roy; afterword by Phyllis Webb)

The rugged land, so naked under its persistent sky, had no shelter anywhere to offer love. Even the summer night, which scarcely darkens here, was not a refuge.

Over towards the white men’s village, it was true, there was the old hangar abandoned by the air charter company, with its tumbledown roof, but two fierce dogs had just been posted there.

The Eskimo parents themselves, with their indulgent natures, might not have offered much opposition to meetings between their daughters and the young Americans stationed in the region. But where could they be together? The cabins almost never contained a bedroom or even a real bed. Lovemaking must be conducted, most of the time, in haste, under the derisive eye of some witness. Deprived of mystery, it was thus, here even more than elsewhere, reduced to what is said to be its essential. Human beings coupled at times like the animals, as they chanced to meet, on the harsh moss of the tundra, exposed to the pitiless sky.

Some of the bolder gi’s had tried, with the connivance of the sentries, to bring girls into their barracks. This had gone so badly for them that even the Eskimo parents had been startled. Such a punishment for something that was after all only natural!

So the pure terrible country, which lies open from one end to the other had, you might say, neither time nor place favourable to love. Except, in a pinch, the faint dip in the ground midway between the army barracks and the Eskimo village that stretched at some length along the shore of the Koksoak River. In this partly sheltered hollow a little earth, come from no one knew where, had gathered through the years. Not very much, just a fine scanty layer, but grasses had eventually managed to take root there and, later, trees. Trees? Well, poor midget trees, small sickly creatures, at once childish-looking and very old, wrinkled all over. On the other hand, they grew stiflingly close, they too driven by that inexorable law of nature: the more hostile the conditions, the fiercer the struggle to multiply.

There was little advantage, however, in going right into this thicket, for, once within it, though finally shielded from the staring of the sky, you were at the mercy of the most cunning scourge of that inhuman country: at the heart of these damp rotting bushes was the domain of incessantly breeding insects.

Even so, when a year or two had passed since a detachment of the American army had come to this little lost post of Fort Chimo, a fairly large number of children of mixed blood was born in the Eskimo village.

Among these births there was one as dazzling to the people of the region as the appearance in their sky of a new star.

In testimony then, here is the story, just as it is told in those parts, of Elsa, daughter of Archibald and Winnie Kumachuk. . . .

Other titles by Gabrielle Roy

Other titles by Phyllis Webb

A Dream in the Eye

The Complete Paintings and Collages of Phyllis Webb

edited by Stephen Collis
illustrated by Phyllis Webb
contributions by Diana Hayes, Betsy Warland & Laurie White

Peacock Blue

The Collected Poems

by (author) Phyllis Webb
edited by John F. Hulcoop

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets

contributions by Ian Adam, Robert Stamp, Tammy Armstrong, Margaret Avison, Douglas Barbour, John O. Barton, Doug Beardsley, Bonnie Bishop, E.D. Blodgett, Robert Boates, George Bowering, Tim Bowling, Jan Boydol, Gordon Burles, Murdoch Burnett, Anne Campbell, Weyman Chan, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooley, Joan Crate, Michael Cullen, Cyril Dabydeen, Lorne Daniel, Alexa DeWiel, Jason Dewinetz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cecelia Frey, Gary Geddes, Gail Ghai, Deborah Godin, Jim Green, Leslie Greentree, Vivian Hansen, Tom Henihan, Michael Henry, Walter Hildebrandt, Gerald Hill, Robert Hilles, Nancy Holmes, Richard Hornsey, Tom Howe, Aislinn Hunter, Bruce Hunter, Laurence Hutchman, Sally Ito, Pauline Johnson, Aleksei Kazuk, Robert Kroetsch, Fiona Lam, William Latta, Tim Lilburn, Alice Major, Kim Maltman, Miriam Mandel, Sid Marty, David McFadden, Barry McKinnon, Erin Michie, Deborah Miller, Anna Mioduchowska, James M. Moir, Colin Morton, Erin Moure, Charles Noble, P.K. Page, Rajinderpal Pal, Ruth Roach Pierson, Joseph Pivato, Roberta Rees, D.C. Reid, Monty Reid, R. rickey, Ken Rivard, Stephen Scobie, Allan Serafino, Joan Shillington, Greg Simison, Carol Ann Sokoloff, Karen Solie, Stephan Stephansson, Peter Stevens, Ivan Sundal, Anne Swannell, Vanna Tessier, Colleen Thibadeau, John O. Thompson, James M. Thurgood, Eva Tihanyi, Yvonne Trainer, Aritha van Herk, Rosalee van Stelten, Miriam Waddington, James Wreford Watson, Wilfred Watson, Tom Wayman, Phyllis Webb, Jon Whyte, Christine Wiesenthal, Sheri-D Wilson, Christopher Wiseman, Stacie Wolfer, Rita Wong, Richard Woollatt & Jan Zwicky

The Griffin Poetry Prize 2004 Anthology

A Selection of the 2004 Shortlist

edited by Phyllis Webb

Nothing But Brush Strokes

Selected Prose

by (author) Phyllis Webb

Hanging Fire

by (author) Phyllis Webb

Selected Poems

The Vision Tree

by (author) Phyllis Webb