Kiss Of The Fur Queen

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Kiss Of The Fur Queen

by Tomson Highway

Doubleday Canada | September 15, 1999 | Trade Paperback

Kiss Of The Fur Queen is rated 4 out of 5 by 2.
Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen--a wily, shape-shifting trickster--watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8 × 5.19 × 0.84 in

Published: September 15, 1999

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385258801

ISBN - 13: 9780385258807

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful Read Champion (Jeremiah) and Dancer (Gabriel) are the youngest sons of Abraham and Mariesis Okimais, Cree, who live in the Northern reaches of Manitoba. At the young age of 7, both boys are sent south to be educated by the Catholic priests. The priests' 'education' tries to remove all the 'Cree' from the boys and replace it with 'white'. Their language, their beliefs, clothing, food etc are taken away from them. They also suffer sexual and other abuse at the hands of the priests. The impact of the Church and its 'education' follows the boys for the rest of their lives. The Church has tried to turn them into 'white men' but the colour of their skins won't allow for that to happen. Society continues to view them as 'only indians'. While each boy reaches the pinnacle of their chosen career they are viewed as 'the indian pianist' and 'the indian dancer' and not as 'the Pianist' and 'the Dancer'. Each of them struggles with what they know in their hearts, with what the Church has tried to force them to be and with how their families are twisted with 'white mans' ways. This is a wonderful book. It brings the issue of Residential schools to life. Mr. Highway attended a residential school in the 1950's along with his brother Rene. He is a playwright and also has authored three children's stories (which I will review later this week). Residential schools were a fixture in Canada for many decades with the last one in Saskatchewan closing in 1996. It was in the 1980's that students began speaking out about the abuses they had suffered. The Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Government are still working toward a resolution to this serious issue.
Date published: 2008-11-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Challenging Read... Kiss of the Fur Queen tells the story of the journeys of two Cree brothers from childhood to adulthood, through the northern landscapes of Manitoba to a Catholic residential school and then into the city. Although they share a common secret, their lives take seemingly different directions. As each brother tries to come to terms with the past, they must draw upon their creativity for the strength to survive. Highway writes in pure poetry, which is stunning; however, it left me confused about the details of the story. It was one of the few stories which I felt left me alone, for I wanted to ask questions about what I was reading, my own understanding was not enough. This book begs for discussion, for a variety of interpretations to be shared, so that a common understanding might emerge. Without a rudimentary understanding of traditional Cree beliefs, I became lost in some of the entwined stories. The mythical asides left me feeling that I could only superficially understand this novel, and that its tremendous depth was perhaps wasted with me. Although, there was a glossary of Cree terms at the end of the book, I wished for something more to help me put it all into context. But alas, maybe I have been too well-trained in the European plot line, and I am wishing for something more simplistic and contrived. That which is simply not possible in this context, and would likely only deter from its mystical dreamlike quality.
Date published: 2008-10-17

– More About This Product –

Kiss Of The Fur Queen

Kiss Of The Fur Queen

by Tomson Highway

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8 × 5.19 × 0.84 in

Published: September 15, 1999

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385258801

ISBN - 13: 9780385258807

From the Publisher

Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen--a wily, shape-shifting trickster--watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar.

About the Author

Tomson Highway is a Cree from Brochet, in northern Manitoba. He is the celebrated author of the plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, both of which won Dora Mavor Moore Awards and Floyd S. Chalmers Awards. He holds three honorary degrees and is a member of the Order of Canada.

From Our Editors

Tomson Highway is one of Canada's most talented and distinguished playwrights, and a two-time winner of both the Dora Mavor Moore Award and the Floyd S. Chalmers Award for The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. Kiss of the Fur Queen is his highly anticipated first novel, and it is the story of two boys born on a snowy Cree reservation in northern Manitoba, and thrown into the vastly different world of a Catholic boarding school. Both boys are teased, renamed, assaulted and alienated, but all the while, the trickster Fur Queen is there to keep a watchful eye on them. Deeply moving, this is a story that you won't soon forget. Reader's Guide Kiss of the Fur Queen for me is a celebration of the Cree lifestyle, culture and language. The Cree culture and way of life is a unique and important part of Canadian culture, which needs to be celebrated and preserved. I wanted to share this with a broader audience, and encourage other Native writers to find their voice. At the same time as celebrating this culture, Kiss of the Fur Queen is also a cry for its preservation. As Jeremiah and Gabriel experience, an idyllic lifestyle can often be interrupted at a young age by very destructive social forces. These forces have serious repercussions on artistic communities, and I felt that this story needed to be told to bring this to light and to try to put an end to that loss. Writing this book was a personal catharsis for me of that loss and, I hope, for the Native people
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Editorial Reviews

"Tomson Highway's prose is beautiful, lyrical... Emotionally complex, witty, symphonic and sad, Kiss of the Fur Queen is a remarkable novel, filled with blood and guts, life and love." —The Vancouver Sun

"Kiss of the Fur Queen is a novel of affirmation ... a novel that dances with life." —The Globe and Mail

Bookclub Guide

CA

1. The mythological figure of the Fur Queen is very prominent in the story and continues to appear in various guises throughout. What does this figure represent for the two boys?

2. Gabriel and Jeremiah react very differently to the sexual abuse they endure. Discuss these reactions and what they suggest about the boys' characters.

3. Cree is often described as a humorous, musical language, the language of a culture that tries to find the joy in everything. Highway mixes Cree with English throughout the text. Discuss the ways in which the varying sounds, structures and vocabularies of these two languages symbolize the gulf between cultures in the novel.

4. Jeremiah and Gabriel find it difficult to adjust to city life when they move to Winnipeg as teenagers. They are ostracized, made to feel like outsiders in the only country they have ever known. Discuss the similarities and differences between the experiences of the Okimasis brothers and those of immigrants you have known coming to Canada for the first time.

5. The Okimasis brothers are firmly connected to their roots in Cree culture, and yet they leave their home on the reserve to join 'city life,' rarely to return. Discuss the difficulty of being true to one's background, while living one's own modern life.

6. Jeremiah is keenly aware of the stereotypes assigned to Natives and knows that some of those prejudices reflect aspects of Native life. Jeremiah resists becoming the type of man a hostile society expects him to be. Can stereotypes be self-fulfilling prophecies?

7. There are many different mythologies—Christian, Cree, Greek—that weave through this story. Discuss the role these mythologies play in the lives of the Okimasis brothers. Discuss the impact different mythologies have on modern day literature and culture generally.

8. A fundamental difference between Cree and English and the worlds these two languages represent is that in Cree there is no gender, no rigid male-female categories. Does Kiss of the Fur Queen suggest what the imposition of a strict gender hierarchy would mean for Native culture? Is it possible to read Gabriel's fate as symbolic of this cultural destruction? What other novelists have used disease as a metaphor for social disintegration?