Marcie R. Rendon- Prairie Gothic Mysteries and More

Photo S. Mattison

Shawna’s presentation was accompanied by a slideshow, with the first intriguing image being an aged black and white photo. Shawna explained it was taken on her family farm near Richdale, Alberta. We would soon find out its connection to her talk.

While she was suffering Covid’s lingering “brain fog,” Shawna discovered Marcie R. Rendon, an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) author from the White Earth Nation in Minnesota. Seeking “lighter” reading, Shawna became hooked on mysteries and read at least forty.

Shawna has an affinity for Ms. Rendon’s Cash Blackbear Series (2018- .) Shawna related to the author’s descriptions of farm settings in Minnesota and North Dakota, which seem not unlike Alberta’s. She also related to the 1970s timeframe. A creepy atmosphere, so important to mysteries, can be found in rural landscapes that include lonely and somewhat dilapidated farmhouses, burnt down buildings, and more.

Shawna read some selections which mirrored her own rural experiences – e.g. “She lifted four fingers off the steering wheel in a courtesy wave.” However, many of the Indigenous experiences Ms. Rendon writes about would be outside our knowledge and experience. As one example of the darkness to be discovered in the books, Shawna read a disturbing excerpt describing a child tasked with collecting eggs.

Cash, the 20-year-old Ojibwe protagonist, is sometimes led by visions, and is full of spirit and grit having survived a brutal foster care system. She has fought bigotry as an orphan working hard on a farm, as Indigenous, and as a young woman who is now a truck driver. Cash and the other fascinating, well-developed characters in the novels highlight many important issues Indigenous people deal with.

Shawna briefly summarized Ms. Rendon’s other works, including poetry, plays, short stories and children’s books. They touch on the same themes, but it is the Cash Blackbear series that will reach a wider audience, heightening people’s awareness of Indigenous experiences through an intriguing mystery.

Janet H.

Next week member Robin S. will present on author Jonathan Franzen.

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