Book Review of 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga
The Children’s Book Review
Written by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Ages 12+ | 136 Pages
Publisher: HighWater Press | ISBN-13: 9781553793557
What to Expect: History, Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
Despite ongoing calls for truth and reconciliation, many non-Indigenous North Americans continue to be unaware of and even to deny the violent realities of the residential school and “Indian boarding school” systems in Canada and the United States. Against the backdrop of this denialism, there are a number of works of Indigenous children’s and young adult literature about the schools that stand out as required reading.
One example is David A. Robertson and Scott B. Henderson’s graphic novel 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga, whose compiled four-part narrative—originally published as a series—brings readers through two centuries of Cree history in its confrontations with settler colonialism. Along the way, Robertson and Henderson offer up both a “window text” for those with little knowledge of these histories and a “mirror text” that reflects and valorizes Indigenous identities.
While one segment of this deftly narrated and illustrated book details the smallpox epidemic of 1870, another takes place at a residential school where teen protagonist Edwin’s father is prohibited from speaking his native language, is forced to convert to Christianity, and becomes a survivor and a witness of multiple other forms of educational violence and abuse. And yet 7 Generations, which is recommended by its publisher for readers ages 12 and up, is also an intergenerational coming-of-age story, a multiply heartrending love story, and a narrative of resilience and power.
Alongside depictions of family separation, language loss, sexual assault, depression and suicide, and additional complex repercussions of intergenerational trauma, Robertson and Henderson’s readers will encounter moments of personal and familial healing and recovery as well as acts of forceful resistance. Just as Edwin’s father refuses to back away from a confrontation with a priest who has assaulted his brother, Edwin will refuse to let himself be defined by his “yesterday” or by the pain that white Canadians have inflicted on his family in their “both… distant and recent past.”
An equally fitting choice for adolescent and adult readers, 7 Generations deserves to be much more widely read.
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About the Author
David A. Robertson (he/him/his) is an award-winning writer. His books include When We Were Alone (winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award), Will I See? (winner of the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award), Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story (listed in The Margins), and the YA novel Strangers (winner of the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction). David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.
About the Illustrator
Scott B. Henderson (he/him/his) is the author-illustrator of the sci-fi/fantasy comic The Chronicles of Era and has illustrated titles including 7 Generations, Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story, selected stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold, and the Eisner Award-nominated A Blanket of Butterflies. In 2016, he was the recipient of the C4 Central Canada Comic Con Storyteller Award.
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About the Reviewer
Suzanne Manizza Roszak is an assistant professor of English at the University of Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, where she teaches literature and creative writing. Her books include Uncanny Youth: Childhood, the Gothic, and the Literary Americas (University of Wales Press 2022) and They Also Write for Kids: Cross-Writing, Activism, and Children’s Literature (University Press of Mississippi 2023) as well as the poetry collection Sicilianas (Bordighera Press 2023).
7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga, by David A. Robertson and Scott B. Henderson, was reviewed by Dr. Suzanne Manizza Roszak. Discover more books like 7 Generations by following our reviews and articles tagged with cultural wisdom, grief, and historical fiction.