I don’t normally read memoirs, but I was interested in Ma-Nee Chacaby’s A Two Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder after Chacaby was at Waverley for the Northern Ontario Writers Workshop’s first Ask an Author event back in February. Chacaby’s memoir takes us from her early happy memories of living with her kokum on their reserve north of Nipigon, through all of her struggles against abuse and addiction. But she has also triumphed, leaving her abusive husband and kicking her addiction with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. Afterwards, Chacaby has spent a large part of her life helping women and youth deal with their own addictions. Through all of her hardships, Chacaby’s narrative remains upbeat – this is a woman who has triumphed against many odds, who has made a positive impact on people, and who has been blessed with love along the way.
While I was really drawn to Chacaby’s narrative through most of the book, I felt that it lost a little something during the concluding chapter. The conclusion was summary from a present perspective, rather than the thoughtful and reflective tone that I loved through the rest of the book. Other than this minor quibble, Chacaby’s book is a powerful look at the difficulties of growing up for an Indigenous two-spirited woman during a time when two-spirited people were completely misunderstood within their communities. A Two-Spirit Journey is also a powerful look at one woman’s place during major upheavals in the larger Canadian culture. And finally, A Two-Spirit Journey is an excellent look at the trials that many Indigenous Canadians face, particularly here in Northern Ontario. This is an important book that those of us living in Thunder Bay, where much of the book takes place, should read.