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Monday March 29, 2010 in Books
Write It on Your Heart is a celebration of the late Harry Robinson, one of the great storytellers of the Interior Salish people of North America.
Collected over a ten-year period, the stories selected for this volume tell from a First Nations point of view about the origin of the world; the time of the animal people; the time before the coming of the white man; the stories of power; the prophet cult and its predictions of profound cultural and economic change; and the post-contact world. The collection ends with Robinson’s own version of “Puss in Boots,” true in every psychological detail to the European story, but set in the ranching country of the Similkameen Valley.
This collection is unique in that it chronicles not only the treasure house of a vibrant First Nations culture, but also the sweeping changes which took place in that culture as it began to interact with the new colonists who introduced a foreign language and writing to the mythic world of Coyote, Fox and Owl. As more and more of his listeners, First Nations included, understood only English, Robinson began to tell his old stories in this new language in order to keep them alive. By the time Wendy Wickwire met him in 1977, he had become as skilled a storyteller in English as he had been in his mother tongue. Robinson knew that the profound cultural changes which had taken place in his lifetime would continue and took to heart the matter of preserving the storytelling tradition. With his approval, Wickwire recorded his stories and brought them together in this critically acclaimed collection. Write It on Your Heart stands as a monument to the epic world of Harry Robinson, ensuring its survival in the many generations to come.
ISBN 13: 9780889225022 | ISBN 10: 889225028
6 W x 9 H x .75 D inches | 320 pages
$29.95 CAN / $29.95 US
Backlist | Non-Fiction | Bisac: SOC002010
2 Paperback Edition
2nd edition, new format
QUOTES OF NOTE
“Write It on Your Heart is an important addition to Canadian literature not because of the range of stories or the anthropological-ethnological information they contain, but because it is one of the few pieces of transitional literature we have. It stands between traditional oral storytelling and contemporary written work, recreating at once the voice and the performance of the oral storyteller in a written form … It is the voice that captivates, a voice contained in both the language and the structures which Wendy Wickwire, who transcribed Robinson’s stories, has faithfully maintained. It is not that in reading the stories we hear the ‘illusion’ of an oral voice, for other writers have been able to accomplish this; it is that in reading Robinson, one is virtually forced to read the story out loud, thereby closing the circle, the oral becoming the written becoming the oral.”
– Thomas King
“Write It on Your Heart is nothing less than a masterwork in the genre of oral literature. Robinson’s mastery of his craft and his tradition are flawless. Wickwire’s poetic transcriptions are equally masterful.”
– Journal of American Folklore
“Epic, mesmerizing tales by a great Okanagan storyteller … that lift [one] eerily and movingly, into a different world.”
– Toronto Star
“Nowhere have I read a more productive synthesis of the Indian oral tradition … and the written word. A few other books have come close, but only close.”
– Vancouver Sun
Finalist for the 1990 BC Book Prize: Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize
About the ContributorsHarry Robinson
As a member of the Lower Similkameen Band of the Interior Salish people and a rancher for most of his life, Robinson also looked upon himself as one of the last storytellers of his people. As he came to realize fully the importance of the storytelling tradition in his community, he began telling stories in the Okanagan language and became as skilled in English storytelling by his mid-seventies. Wendy Wickwire met Robinson while working on her doctoral thesis and recognized what, as Thomas King would later suggest, may well be “the most powerful storytelling voice in North America.” He passed away in 1990—shortly after the publication of Write It on Your Heart, the first of three story collections which will ensure the survival of the epic world of Harry Robinson in many generations to come.”
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.