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Surviving the City

Nov 13, 2020

Let’s wake up to this National crisis and honour the missing, and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

No more stolen sisters.

In Surviving the City, two first nation teens Miikwan (Anishinaabe) and Dez (Inninew) navigate the challenges of being Indigenous girls living in the city of Winnipeg. Dez’s grandmother is too ill to care for her and she’s facing being placed in a group home. Miikwan’s mother is one of the many missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

The graphic novel style really works to depict the fear the girls feel as they walk through the city. The spirit of their Native ancestors are always with them to keep them safe when they travel. The creepy spirits of the white predatory men are also present and tips you off to how unsafe the teenagers constantly feel.

We learn about the sacred cultural rituals to celebrate the transition from girl to women when Miikwan and Dez talk about their Berry Fast. We also feel the sadness and loss they both feel in their lives through the realistic images and text.

While the middle school novel is sad, the deep connection and support felt between all the women in the story reminds us how important it is to seek support from each other. The girls show great pride for their cultural heritage and women and girls are honoured.

More importantly this book brings a very real crisis to attention and shows us how pain and prayers can be put into action through protest. At the end of the book author Tasha Spillett provides statistics, resources and further reading about MMIWG2S.

She also affirms that; “Indigenous women and two-spirit people have the right to live on their homelands with respect and dignity, free from violence.”

This is a critical novel to read if you want to learn more about this serious issue and Indigenous culture. I highly recommend it for grades 7 and 8 or older.

The way the community surrounds these young women with love and support gives me great hope.

To learn about Canada’s response read the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.


Helps with: learning about missing, murdered women, girls and two-spirit indigenous people, colonialism, residential schools, racism, gender-based violence, feminism, friendship, grief, loss, community, activism, belonging and hope.

Author: Tasha Spillett
Publisher: HighWater Press, 2019