GUEST WRITER KATIE PRESCOTT RECOMMENDS BORDERS BY THOMAS KING AND NATASHA DONOVAN
Borders, a graphic novel illustrated by Natasha Donovan and written by Thomas King, tells the story of a mother’s pride in her identity and will to not back down when it is threatened to be taken from her.
Laetitia leaves the home she shared with her mother and younger brother to cross the border to America. Leaving without her mother’s blessing, Laetitia craves independence and adventure while her mom is nervous to let her daughter go. After many postcards and requests from Letitia, her mom finally decides to accept the invitation.
Nearing the border, the young boy notices a shift in his mother’s excitement. She begins to drive slowly, and he can feel her hesitation and alertness. Arriving at the border, they are asked the typical border questions, and when she is asked what her citizenship is, she responds, “Blackfoot” (p. 43). Even amidst pressure and manipulation, she is unwilling to respond differently: she is Blackfoot. This mode of identification leads them into four days of being stuck between the Canadian and American border, between Coutts and Sweetgrass, denied entry to both countries. On the fourth day, only after reporters and television crews arrive to film the scene and conduct interviews, are the mother and son permitted to enter America to visit Laetitia.
The unwavering love and sheer force of will this mother holds is powerful and inspiring. She lives unapologetically proud of her identity and the value and worth of being Blackfoot, despite what the systems attempting to control her declare as true and necessary. This story is a strong opening to conversations about Indigenous rights to belonging and identity.
I cannot end this review without highlighting the words Thomas King and Natasha Donovan write in the opening of the book. King challenges the oppressive systems in his dedication by writing, “For the Blackfoot, who understand that the border is the figment of someone else’s imagination.” Donovan dedicates her work to three generations of mothers who provided her “with strength of every journey.” Their talents shine through their work, and I am so thankful for their passion in writing and telling this story.
This graphic novel is a gem in my classroom library, already having been signed out by all my avid graphic novel readers, and others who wanted to read it too. The worker at the duty-free shop between the borders, Mel, is right: justice is a damn hard thing to get, but we shouldn’t give up. Our students need to know this truth, and see what this struggle looks like in the books they read, to better prepare them to face injustices head-on in their own lives.
Katie Prescott is a grade nine teacher at FHS who loves reading and learning about the world with her students. When not at school, she can often be found snuggled up by the fire with a cozy blanket reading to many of her own children at home.