Friday, October 29, 2021

Highly Recommended! A Girl Called Echo, Volume 4: Road Allowance Era


A Girl Called Echo, Vol.4: Road Allowance Era
Written by Katherena Vermette (Red River Metis)
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson; Colors by Donovan Yaciuk
Published in 2021
Publisher: Highwater Press
Reviewer: Jean Mendoza
Review Status: Highly Recommended

This will be a "Short and Sweet"* recommendation of the fourth book in the "A Girl Called Echo" graphic novel series. Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk have teamed up again for another chapter in the story of Echo, a time-traveling contemporary Metis teen. 

Here are four of the many reasons to recommend it:

First: Katherena Vermette is Red River Metis, and her story is about Red River Metis people -- historical and contemporary -- in what is currently called Canada. Pivotal, and often traumatic, moments (such as the execution of Louis Riel, and government-sanctioned destruction of Metis communities) are given an Indigenous focus they don't receive in typical history classrooms. As with the previous Echo books, Vermette includes a timeline and other Metis-specific resources to deepen the reader's understanding of Echo's experiences when she travels to the past, and to help create a through-line to her current distresses. 

Second: Meeting one's forebears while time-traveling is a prospect that intrigues writers and consumers of speculative fiction. It may be presented as comedy (e.g., the Back to the Future films), or as drama (as in Octavia Butler's devastating Kindred). Road Allowance is primarily dramatic, though it has some very sweet, tender moments. I appreciate that Vermette keeps Echo from interacting directly with the major historical figures. That would have been a mess. Instead, what's foregrounded is the Metis: how they lived, what they hoped for, what they endured, and how the past may be present in a Metis child and her family, today. 

Third: One of my favorite things about this fourth volume is that it shows Echo and her contemporary family healing from whatever trauma led to Echo's mother being in an institution. Mother hugs daughter. Echo smiles big.  An ancestor tells her she is beautiful. A school friend listens to her expressions of anger and pain, and offers a helpful perspective. And Echo finds that she can decide when she will go to the past, and when she will go home.

Fourth: The story is thought-provoking even though Echo's far from the only fictional character ever to be what Vonnegut called "unstuck in time." For me, an especially lovely bit for thought lies in ways to think about the protagonist's name. Intergenerational trauma reverberates in Echo, at school and at home. She embodies the idea of "echoes of the past." But, when she interacts with her ancestors during their times, she also embodies what I think of as echoes of support or hope from future generations to the forebears who needed reasons to carry on in the face of racism, dispossession, betrayal, and genocide. 

We hope you'll share the whole series, including Volume 4: The Road Allowance Era, with middle schoolers and teens you know. Though it's set in what's currently called Canada, the Indigenous people didn't make the border, and the experiences on either side of it run parallel, when they don't directly intersect.

*A Short and Sweet Rec is not an in-depth analysis. It is our strategy to tell you that we recommend a book we have read. We will definitely refer to it in book chapters and articles we write, and in presentations we do. Our Short and Sweet Recs include four reasons why we recommend the book.

1 comment:

Val Olafson said...

I was a little sad to see that this was going to be the last book, it's such a good series.