Autobiographical writing as healing process: Alice Masak French in conversation with Christine Watson

Watson, Christine and French, Alice (Masak) (1999) Autobiographical writing as healing process: Alice Masak French in conversation with Christine Watson. Hecate, 25 1: 169-181.

Author Watson, Christine
French, Alice (Masak)
Title Autobiographical writing as healing process: Alice Masak French in conversation with Christine Watson
Journal name Hecate   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0311-4198
Publication date 1999
Sub-type Discussion - responses, round table/panel discussions, Q&A, reply
Volume 25
Issue 1
Start page 169
End page 181
Total pages 13
Editor Carole Ferrier
Place of publication Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Publisher Hecate Press
Collection year 1999
Language eng
Subject C4
751001 Languages and literature
420203 North American
Formatted abstract
Alice Masak French was born in 1930 on Baillie Island, a small island off the northern coast of Canada. Throughout her eventful life, she has witnessed the huge, often painful, changes to Inuit cultural and social traditional lifestyles. She not only has first-hand experience of the joys of Inuit seasonal hunting travels, but has also experienced the pain of being separated from her family in a residential boarding school. At the age of six, her mother died and she was sent to live at an Anglican school in Aklavik, in the Northwest Territories. She remained there -- with only sporadic visits with her family -- until she was fourteen.

The two volumes of Alice's autobiography document the changes and transitions that took place in the Western Arctic from the 1930s to the late 1980s. Alice describes the various ways in which her and her family were affected by the introduction of Christian boarding schools, government programs and policies, declining sources of food, and changing social values. Alice's stories of growing up in a period of cultural upheaval are poignant, poetic and often humorous as she grapples with new and frightening experiences such as adapting to the rigid rules of boarding school, learning to drive a dog-team or riding a public transit bus in Vancouver for the first time. Both My Name is Masak and The Restless Nomad have been valued as historical and cultural records by her family, her community, and by schools in Northern Manitoba which have often placed them on their curricula. But these books are not just mere historical artefacts. They also have significant literary merit as a result of the complex development of personal and community stories side by side and on top of one another, so that Alice's personal narrative cannot be understood outside the context of her community's experiences and traditions. In this interview, conducted at Alice's home in Medicine Hat on 13 January 1999, Alice explores the ways in which writing her autobiography has helped her to overcome the legacy of anger and frustration left by her years in boarding school. She also discusses how issues such as language, spirituality and cultural maintenance have affected her writing and her way of remembering the past.
Q-Index Code C4

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Discussion - responses, round table/panel discussions, Q&A, reply
Collection: School of Social Science Publications
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Created: Tue, 10 Jun 2008, 14:52:38 EST