Drew Hayden Taylor, Take Us To Your Chief

... and Other Stories, says the subtitle, and there's nothing that 12-year-old me loved more than collections of stories.

Novels, sure, good stuff, and nonfiction books as well (and I thought my then-beloved Owls in the Family was nonfiction), but one book with ten stories? Ten different kinds of win.

For 12-year-old me, who was rapidly emptying a pre-Internet small-town library of books, to the point that I was reading some of the Cherry Ames and Trixie Belden novels when I got tired of Chip Hilton and risque Western novels (that only some librarians would let me check out "for my Dad"), a quality short-story collection was GOLD.
Weird image from the good people
at trixie-belden.com

(Re Trixie Belden, singer-songwriter Dan Mangan knows what I'm talking about, since "Dan Mangan" arrived as a new character in the Trixie Belden novels published between 1961 and 1963.)

Unnecessarily long story short: I was really pleased by the chance to force our "Beer and Books" book club to read Drew Hayden Taylor's collection Take Us to Your Chief, which is blurbed accurately on the back cover as "classic sci-fi stories with a contemporary First Nations outlook." Most of the guys didn't get it, really, but if they don't want nine different kinds of win, plus a tenth in the foreword, that's their problem. I'm with Kerry Clare about this book: "while there is indeed something incongruous about First Nations science fiction, it's only because I've never read any, not because it doesn't make total sense. Is there a cultural group more familiar with notions of alien contact and invasion?" If you've got even a little openness or awareness about Indigenous issues, especially in Canada, then this book is by turns funny and provoking and sad, and well worth your time.

Not that there isn't a potential complaint to be made about the book. After all, once you understand the basic schtick, then the reading experience can get old if you don't admire the various changes that can be rung upon it.

Thing is, it's only a complaint if you don't admire the variations, and there's a lot to admire here:
  • dreamcatchers and government psyops programs
  • rock art and time travel
  • Anishinaabe!  In!   Spaaaaaace!
Don't trust anyone wanting to jump off the story title "Superdisappointed," which is about the world's first Aboriginal superhero, to say that this book is in any way disappointing. Light and frothy, mostly, but a little unpredictable even when you know where it's going, and every story has a smart, complicated set-up that plays off First Nations stereotypes in really productive ways.

Twelve-year-old me would instead have found this book superfun, and that's also how old me found it. Bet you will as well.


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