Surviving the City
by Tasha Spillett (Author), Natasha Donovan (Illustrator)
Surviving the City is an interesting graphic novel that comes with a message. The story focuses around two friends, Dez and Miikwan, who are First Nations girls. They are in school together and the best of friends. Dez lives with her grandmother.
The two girls are inseparable. So, when Dez fails to show up for school, Miikwan is worried. Dez had been given some bad news – that her grandmother was getting sicker and that Dez might have to go live in a group home. Miikwan worries because she thinks that Dez could have disappeared, as have other indigenous women and girls, including her own mother. Many of them turn up murdered.
This is a book that addresses a real-life issue that indigenous women and girls face daily. There is an epidemic of missing women and girls and you see some indications of that in the book. Everywhere the girls go, there are people who have shadowy ghost figures following them, the evil spirits. People watch them, and you know that not everyone has good intentions toward them. The girls are not really safe anywhere, as is graphically portrayed with very well-done artwork. There are threats everywhere, even from people who they should be able to trust. This is the reality that they face daily. This novel brings home that message so well. It brings attention to a very real issue while presenting characters in a situation that anyone of their age might find themselves in.
The novel also shows bright spots. The center where the girls can go to connect with others of their culture. The people that join together to march in protest of all the missing women who have not been found. There are places the girls can go to feel safe and to be with like-minded people. That is a message that many young people should hear.
This novel would make a great addition to a classroom reading or social studies program. There are many opportunities for lessons and class discussions that center around the story in the book and the larger issues it represents. This could be an important book to show students this reality. The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is, sadly, not going away. We need to work on finding the missing ones. This book is great for raising awareness of this issue. There are other lessons here as well. The fact that Dez might be removed from her home, living with a blood relative, and placed in a group home, shows that government interference in the lives of indigenous people is still an ongoing issue. These are things that are not at the forefront of the knowledge or experience of the general public. If people learned of these things going on, maybe they could be changed. For those reasons, I think this, and books like it, are so important to get out there.
It is written in an easy-to-read graphic format. The illustrations are top-notch. The graphics contribute much to the storyline. I find graphic novels are an interesting art form. The words and illustrations work together to bring a story to life in ways that plain text cannot. This one was very well done and I recommend it highly, not only for its message, but for the excellent artwork as well.