Friday, December 16, 2016

Richard Van Camp's SPIRIT

If you follow Native news, you know that suicide rates in our communities are high. Here's a table from a 2015 report by the Center for Disease Control:

That is data for the U.S. If you do an internet search, you'll find news stories about youth suicides in Canada.

Richard Van Camp's Spirit is--as he said in a tweet in September of 2016--a suicide prevention comic book.

It opens with a mom, shucking corn. Nearby, a baby is sleeping. That baby's spirit rises from its body, and flies out the window, and over several pages, we see the baby fly over a Native community of kids and elders. She flies to a house where, inside, a young man in tears is reaching for pills. He looks up, surprised to see her, and drops the pills, and holds her to him. On the next page, we see people gathered round a table, praying. The door opens, and in walks the young man. They call out "Surprise!" together. They're having a feast for him, because they know he's having a rough time. His grandfather gives him some snowshoes and talks about going to their cabin. His grandmother tells him a story about his birth.

His Native family and community, in short, have gathered to help him. With its Native content, it is a powerful message about Native community. While it is crucial that teachers and librarians have books like Spirit in their collections, it is also important to remember that--unless you've got training to work with someone who is contemplating suicide--you may not be the right person to help.

Spirit is published by the South Slave Divisional Education Council, which serves several First Nations communities. It is available in several different First Nations languages. I've written to Richard to ask where people can buy it. As soon as I hear back, I'll add that information, here.

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