Author: Tomson Highway
Publish Date: 2021-09-28
Capricious, big-hearted, joyful: an epic memoir from one of Canada's most acclaimed Indigenous writers and performers Tomson Highway was born in a snowbank on an island in the sub-Arctic, the 11th of 12 children in a nomadic, caribou-hunting Cree family who traversed the tundra by dogsled and lived off the land. In Permanent Astonishment, one of the greatest writers of our time animates the magical world of his northern childhood, paying tribute to a way of life that few have experienced and fewer still have chronicled. Growing up in a land of ten thousand lakes and islands, Tomson Highway relished being pulled by dogsled beneath a night sky alive with stars; sucking the juices from roasted muskrat tails; and singing country music songs with his impossibly beautiful older sister and her teenaged friends. Surrounded by the love of his family and the vast, mesmerizing landscape they called home, his was in many ways an idyllic far north childhood. But five of Tomson's siblings died in childhood, and Balazee and Joe Highway, who loved their surviving children profoundly, wanted their two youngest sons, Tomson and Rene, to enjoy opportunities as big as the world. And so when Tomson was 6, he and Rene were flown south by float plan to attend a residential school and begin the rest of their education. In 1990 Rene Highway, a world-renowned dancer, died of an AIDS-related illness. Permanent Astonishment is Tomson's extravagant embrace of his younger brother's final words: "Don't mourn me, be joyful." Infused with joy and outrageous humour, Permanent Astonishment offers insights, both hilarious and profound, into the Cree experience of culture, conquest and survival.