Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden recently returned from an exhilarating six-week book tour with Goodbye Buffalo Bay and his three earlier titles, When the Spirits Dance, As Long as the Rivers Flow and The Gathering Tree.
They gave a book launch and school readings in McBride, BC (which features in Goodbye Buffalo Bay)and a visit to the Dunster Fine Arts School in nearby Dunster, BC. The people of the area are wonderful. Noteworthy is the amazing Thelma Molendyk, the “real Thelma” in Goodbye Buffalo Bay. Thanks to the Beanery 2 Cafe and Bistro (in the old CNR station, and a must-stop if you travel to McBride) for hosting the event.
Then we moved on to four library readings in Vancouver (thank you to the many people who came to Central Branch, Britannia, Carnegie and Gathering Place to hear Larry and Constance). Your presence made everything special. We enjoyed meeting Hinda Simkin again with her daughters at VPL Central Branch. Hinda is the daughter of Sam Arbour, the owner of the sawmill in McBride where Lawrence worked in Goodbye Buffalo Bay.
We flew to Ontario for one week (17 talks) with the Durham School Board and the next week (13 talks) with Trillium-Lakeland School Board, plus two talks with the impressive readers at Toronto’s Earl Beatty School.
We met up with Jeff and Linda Burnham and nephewn Josias twice on this tour. They are www.goodminds.com, an important resource and source of Aboriginal books and music. And GREAT people! They are always helpful and knowledgeable and supportive of Aboriginal authors.
Then we flew back to BC, and gave two presentations on Aboriginal Day (May 26 for this school) at Surrey’s Wm. F. Davidson School. Thank you Debra Merrier, Aboriginal education consultant, and students for your enthusiasm for Larry’s book and Aboriginal culture overall. It was an exciting and heartwarming day.
We gratefully acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts for its support in helping to make this wonderful tour a reality — we presented to more than 2,000 people!
The support and interest in Aboriginal culture is stronger every year.
Larry wants to share some other news about Goodbye Buffalo Bay.
If you are curious about what award-winning Cree author Larry Loyie experienced in residential school and how it influenced his early working years, you will want to read Goodbye Buffalo Bay.
This is Larry’s first chapter book. It was published by Theytus (www.theytus.com) last fall and has already become a classic look at the residential school experience. It is unique because it explores what happened when he went home at 13 years of age to find his place in his family, culture and community again. Written with truth, insight and humour, the chapter book is loved by all ages of readers.
In addition to being “Highly Recommended” by CM (Canadian Materials) from the U of Manitoba, and called “a joy to read” by GEIST reviewer Patty Osborne, Larry Loyie is honoured that Goodbye Buffalo Bay is featured as a “Title of Exceptional Calibre” by the Canadian Children’s Books Centre in the 2009 Best Books for Kids & Teens.
The book was also positively reviewed in The Globe & Mail by Susan Perren. Here is what she wrote:
GOODBYE BUFFALO BAY
By Susan Perren, The Globe & Mail
By Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden, Theytus, 142 pages, $14.95, ages 10 to 14
This memoir continues one begun in picture-book form. As Long as the Rivers Flow (Groundwood, 2002), written by Cree author Loyie with Brissenden and illustrated by Heather D. Holmlund, describes in words and pictures Loyie’s idyllic childhood near Slave Lake in northern Alberta in the 1940s. As that book ends, 10-year-old Larry and his sister and younger brothers are taken away from their family and sent to a residential school.
This memoir, a prose narrative, is Loyie’s story of his time at the St. Bernard residential school on Buffalo Bay, and of his re-entry to the world beyond the school when, his education finished but by no means complete, he is sent home, not quite 14. It is an account of institutionalized emotional and physical brutality meted out by priests and nuns. It would be utterly heartbreaking were it not for Larry’s resilience, his ability to survive the system, even overcome it, by learning how to stand up to the tyrannical – if not diabolical – Sister Denise, and how to find the best in the place in the form of the saintly Sister Theresa, whose time with Larry imparts in him a love of learning that will last for the rest of his life.
This memoir owes much of its power to its author’s candour, his openness about his feelings. The residential school’s aim was to beat its students into submission, literally and/or figuratively. It was a highly successful operation, in that sense, and one that left children deeply scarred.
Although Larry emerges seemingly unscathed, he describes incidents in which his ever-present, residual anger about his treatment, and the treatment of other children, threatens to overwhelm him. As this book ends, Larry is still a teenager, but one who has gained a measure of freedom from guilt and anger. We can only hope that there is more to come from this fine writer.