Glass Beads is an anthology of twenty-three interconnecting short stories dealing with the lives of four Saskatchewan First Nations friends over a couple of decades. As her characters age, Dumont paints their lives as buffeted by tragedy and complicated by being aboriginal, which effects how they are treated and how they perceive the world around them. Reading the vignettes about Nellie, Julie, Everett and Taz’s lives acts like a reminder of the isolation and casual racism that marginalized groups are frequently subjected to. The stories are both universal, worries about work, relationships, one’s weight and yet also specific to the culture the characters grew up in.
The male and female characters are like different sides of the same coin, with heavy-set Nellie being focused and looking to her education as a ticket to a better life and Julie, a stunning beautiful woman who drifts through life never recovering from the deaths of her mother and child. Taz has large ambitions but is hampered by his origins, while Everett who has spent his life divorced from his background goes through a spiritual and cultural awakening. Despite the overall darker tone of the book and the sadness of much of the subject matter, the book has moments of humour which makes it easier to relate to the mistakes and choices that each of the characters make.
“Glass Beads” is a departure novel for Dawn Dumont, who is a comedy writer and whose previous novels “Nobody Cries at Bingo” and “Rose’s Run” are semi-autobiographical books that emphasize the humour that can be found in family life.
As part of the One eRead Canada 2019 Literary Choice, “Glass Beads” is available online as an ebook or audiobook as well as physically throughout the country. To encourage discussion both of the book and the issues it deals with’ the Brodie Library with be hosting a wrap-up event on Wednesday, June 26 at 7pm.