Michelle Good’s debut book, Five Little Indians, tells the stories of five residential school survivors living their lives and enduring the hardships brought on by trauma. (UBC photo)

Michelle Good’s debut book, Five Little Indians, tells the stories of five residential school survivors living their lives and enduring the hardships brought on by trauma. (UBC photo)

Chase author’s debut novel up for prestigious writing prizes

Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians long-listed Giller Prize, Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize finalist

Sean Brady

Kamloops This Week

A Chase author long-listed for the Giller Prize is now a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Michelle Good’s debut novel is Five Little Indians, the stories of five residential school survivors living their lives and enduring the hardships brought on by trauma.

The realities of her characters are close to Good, who not only has a personal connection to them — basing some of their stories on parts of her own — but has also spent decades working as an advocate for residential school survivors.

“The biggest part of it is that I am an intergenerational survivor. My mother went to residential school, my grandmother went to residential school, my aunties, uncles, cousins, friends,” she said.

“In fact, if my mother hadn’t lost her status by marriage, I would have been in residential school.”

Good said she is a born writer and has been writing about the damage done by residential schools since the 1980s.

While this novel is her first, she is an accomplished poet, with recent works included in prestigious collections, such as her poem Defying Gravity in Best Canadian Poetry 2016.

In fact, Five Little Indians was published because of its winning status.

In 2018, Good’s manuscript for the book won the Harper Collins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize while she was completing her master of fine arts degree at the University of British Columbia.

“I’m kind of gobsmacked, I have to say,” she told KTW from her home in Chase.

Good spent nine years writing Five Little Indians and felt obligated to do so.

“I wrote this book because I am so sick and tired of hearing that refrain in online comments and general Canadian society of, “Why can’t they just get over it?” she said, referring to the ongoing dialogue of those who suffered at the hands of an establishment that took children from their homes.

Good said much has been written about the time children spent within residential schools and the abuse suffered there, but less has been about what it’s like trying to survive after school.

Read more: B.C. author speaks about discrimination against Indigenous peoples

Read more: ‘Magic Wheelchair’ book tells story of thrilled author’s B.C. granddaughters

The book is set in the late 1960s, 1970s and onward in Vancouver, which is where Good lived in foster care during those years, eventually aging out of the system and being put out on her own.

“You hear a fair bit about that these days, about trying to find supports for kids aging out of foster care,” she said. “But it wasn’t given a second thought in those days. You hit 18, you were on your own. If you didn’t have a nickel in your pocket, too bad.”

The paths of the titular Five Little Indians cross over decades in the novel as their past trauma haunts them.

But while the book is full of hard stories, Good said it is also full of love and “the ultimate hope, the resilience and the amazing ability to survive in spite of everything.”

One story the book doesn’t tell, however, is that of the abusers.

Good said an early draft of the book contained more detailed descriptions of abuse, physical and sexual, levelled against the subjects of her book. Later drafts removed those details.

“The reason I took it out was not for fear of horrifying my gentle readers, it was that I didn’t want to give any room to those abusers. I didn’t want to give them any place in this work. It’s not their story,” she said.

Good will learn the outcome of her Writer’s Trust prize nomination on Nov. 18. But she isn’t waiting for more accolades.

She is already several chapters into her next book and hasn’t let any of her success go to her head, staying mindful of the technique that got her to where she is now.

“A lot of it involves living quietly and observing carefully — and remembering,” Good said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

author

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Shuswap couple reported having fallen victim to a family emergency telephone scam. (File image)
Shuswap couple fall victim to family emergency scam

Person claiming to be couple’s son said he was injured and in jail

Coordinator of the Secwepemc Landmark and Trail Sign Project, Libby Jay Chisholm, holds the draft designs of Eric Kutschker, Rod Tomma and Tilkotmes Tomma. (Jacob Sutra Brett photo)
Grant sought for Secwepemc Landmark Project

Project involves creation of landmarks pointing out locations of historical importance

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Report of gunfire leads RCMP to men barricaded in North Shuswap home

Chase RCMP said investigation related to firearms offences is ongoing

Onlookers watch the CP Rail Holiday Train pull into Sicamous in 2019. (File Photo)
Shuswap food banks will benefit from online Holiday Train show

Concert will play live on CP Rail’s Facebook page on Dec. 12

Interior Health and School District 83 are responding to a confirmed COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus. (File photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus

School District 83 says member of school community self-isolating at home

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

The Vernon Aquatic Centre will be closed for its annual three-week maintenance period from Aug. 26 to Sept. 16. (City of Vernon - photo)
Chlorine leak closes North Okanagan pool

18 swimmers evacuated, pool opens shortly after

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is looking to the community to support its programming, which VantageOne Credit Union is matching for Giving Tuesday. (VPAG image)
Vernon art gallery gets a boost for Giving Tuesday

VantageOne Credit Union matching donations

Most Read