Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Devil in Deerskins: My Life With Grey Owl by Anahareo

Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl is written by Anahareo, born Gertrude Bernard, and I really can't begin to describe how amazing she is, and how amazing she is at telling her story. Devil in Deerskins is everything you could ever want in a memoir: humour, adventure, romance, death, separation, coming back together, journeys to find oneself...




Devil in Deerskins begins with Anahareo meeting Archie Belaney, "Englishman, trapper, and guide - later known as Grey Owl, author, lecturer and naturalist - Brother of the Beaver People." She then goes back to tell the story of her Mohawk family and their influence on her, her grandmother in particular, who raised her. Eventually, Anahareo, quite green to the ways of the wilderness (which makes for a hilarious tale), goes to stay with Grey Owl on one of his hunting trips and never goes back. The rest of the book follows Anahareo and Grey Owl's many ups and downs, as well as how they end up adopting two beaver kittens and turning from a life of trapping to a life in conservation.

It was so much fun to read about Anahareo and Grey Owl's adventures, as they were such interesting, funny people, both separately and together. Neither of them quite fit into the usual mold of society, so it is fascinating reading about their lifestyle and the kinds of things they got up to. It's especially funny when they do something more normal, like go to a dinner party, and then one of them (Grey Owl) acts silly because it's so out of his comfort zone.


There was so much tension throughout the book; of what they would do next, of what would happen to the beavers, how they would support themselves, how they would relieve their boredom (this crazy adventurous couple got bored easily), or whether they would find each other again when they left on their various hunting or prospecting trips. Anahareo drives the story forward at a great pace to keep you completely enraptured; I was hooked from start to finish. She also has a great voice and perspective on life that is so much fun to read. Wow did she know how to tell a good story.




I had actually heard of Grey Owl before; every year since I was young, my mom's side of the family has made a trip out to Riding Mountain National Park around the September long weekend. Over the years I've spent going to Riding Mountain, I'd heard of a man called Grey Owl, when wandering through the Visitor Centre or the tiny, packed museum in town. All I really knew about him was that he pretended to be an Indigenous man, and he worked for the park at some point. I'm so glad that Devil in Deerskins was my more in-depth introduction to Anahareo and Grey Owl, as they are both so much more than what I've ever heard in passing.


This year my parents, cousins, uncle, brother and I all biked just over 7 kilometres along the Grey Owl trail in Riding Mountain National Park to get to Grey Owl's Cabin, a cabin where Grey Owl stayed for six months trying to start a beaver colony (Anahareo was off doing something else at that point - I think maybe prospecting?). (All the pictures in this post are from that bike ride.) It was really interesting that Anahareo wasn't mentioned in any of the blurbs about Grey Owl on any of the trail signs or the book about Grey Owl in the cabin, even though she was a huge part of the reason why Grey Owl stopped trapping beaver and turned to conservation.



They are both such fascinating people, and Anahareo tells her story so well; it is humorous, fast-paced, and even romantic, and I definitely encourage everyone and anyone to get their hands on a copy of this excellent memoir.

Bonus fav quote: "A kiss when both parties are on snowshoes leaves much to be desired. Try it sometime."

Devil in Deerskins on:
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
U of M Press

Thanks University of Manitoba Press for providing me with a copy!

Friday, September 1, 2017

3 Things I Learned From Women in Translation Month


Happy September! Women in Translation Month is officially over. I loved discovering all the new books I'd never heard of before and reading everyone's blog posts, tweets, interviews and guest posts, and feeling everyone's excitement and the enthusiasm for translated books by women. I managed to get in one last WITmonth read before the end of August, The End by Fernanda Torres, which was... really not my cup of tea. I read the blurb on the back cover and was under the impression it was about a group of young boys who got into big trouble, kind of in the realm of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, but it turned out it was just stories of a group of awful old men at the end of their lives. That premise wasn't that bad, but the characters were both awful people and uninteresting characters, and I feel like whatever point was trying to be made following these men's deaths didn't quite come across. Anyway I did enjoy all the other books I read for WITmonth: Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone, I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar, Sanaaq by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk and my favourite, Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer.

I've really enjoyed participating in Women in Translation Month and have learned a lot! Here are a few things I've learned this month:

1. There are so many good books in the world! I love whenever I find new corners of the internet to find books I haven't heard of, and WITmonth has been great for that! It really is true what Meytal Radzinski, founder of Women in Translation Month, said: "[Women in Translation Month] is because we want the best literature, and you simply aren't going to get it if all you're reading is the same men again and again, and only ever from English." I keep coming back to this quote, because it has given me a new perspective on how I choose the books I read. If all I'm reading are books in my own language, from my own corner of the world, I'm missing out on so many good books.

2. Translators are part of the artistic process. I know it seems obvious that translators are part of translating books, but I didn't quite realize how involved they actually are. For some reason I always thought of translators as these neutral mediators who just take words and flip them to a different language. I kind of forgot that you can't just directly translate language, and definitely not literature. There's a whole lot more to translation than that. I had fun reading some interviews with translators and realizing there's this whole other part of literature I'd never considered before.

3. Reading women in translation doesn't have to end! Women in Translation month may be over, but that doesn't mean I have to stop reading women in translation. Which is good because I still have about 10 books out from the library, and I'm excited to read them!

I'm so glad Women in Translation month exists, and I hope it keeps growing every year so that more people like me can discover some awesome books. :)

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