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Kiss of the Fur Queen

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,923 ratings  ·  133 reviews
Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated
...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 14th 1999 by Anchor Canada (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,923 ratings  ·  133 reviews


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Jenny
Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Canadians
This book makes me wish that we all spoke Cree and that Tomson Highway could've published this book in his birth language (as he says he composes his works in his head in Cree, and has to wrangle them into English so they can go on the page).

This is a Canadian literary treasure. It's about family, god, love, death and life. It shows the destructive power of the residential school system of the '50s and the AIDS epidemic of the '80s, both of which the characters face (in fact, this book is a
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Wendy
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-books, nov-18
"Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen--a wily,
...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Amazing book that manages to combine myth, magic, shape- and time-shifting with a gritty reality, a down-to-earth humour and an essential sadness. Take the humour and whimsy of Thomas King or Sherman Alexie; the lyrical poeticism and depth of character of Louise Erdrich; the poignancy, raw pathos and passion of Richard Wagamese and Joseph Boyden. Anchor it in a playwright's sensibility for the visual and the dramatic, and you have Tomson Highway: an original and founding voice in Indigenous ...more
Lydia
If people are looking into human history millennia from now, I hope they find this book. If aliens were to take form and come to my house, I'd hand them this book.

Highway takes the two lives of two young men, Champion (Jeremiah) and Ooneemeetoo (Gabriel) and gives you everything about their lives. The Residential school system, their lives in Mistik lake and the men they become. Jeremiah, afraid of his Indian identity, and Gabriel, battling with his own queerness.

This book is visceral -- it
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Kimberly
Feb 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: school, indigenous
I really wanted to like this book but for some reason I just couldn't take it anymore. I gave up after reading 90% of it and coudln't continue, even though I had only 30 pages left. I think four years of university have finally taken its toll, to the point that I have the urge to vomit when I read something so extremely literary. I really hated Highway's writing; everything is so chaotic and the story jumps around and it's so fragmented and everything is just flashing by. The font of the book ...more
R K
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5-3

I honestly can't decide where I would place this book. The premise was so amazing and the level of depth Highway puts into the books is magnificent. I get the feeling that I would have enjoyed this book more if I was able to take my time to read it and not rush through it.

The entire story is on how the Aboriginal communities of Canada were (and still are) treated by the Western/Christian communities. This story specifically focuses on how residential schools affected the Aboriginal
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Megan Baxter
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Different books bring different pleasures. Sometimes it's the plot, tense and urgent and carrying me along. Sometimes it's characters, people I come to love and want to see what happens to, and who make it hurt when bad things come. Most rarely of all, I think, it's the writing itself, the kind of writing that wraps you up and carries you along, that, rather than being at best unobtrusive, leaves me searching for just the right turn of phrase to capture how the prose makes me feel.

Note: The rest
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ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
A sad, honest, magical book about Canada’s indigenous peoples and the horror of the residential schools into which children were forced. Our First Nations people will suffer from this for generations to come.

I loved this book because I loved the characters; I knew the characters; the places; the residential school the characters suffered in; the conversations. This book is real.

Reading it was a journey back to something I have only silently witnessed, and to the people I knew who had suffered
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Ishita
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Achingly beautiful, Highway presents a vibrant novel that drives home the repercussions felt by residential school survivors, for the rest of their lives. Without victimizing them, he places his main characters, Jeremiah and Gabriel, in a position of strength as masters of their own lives and fate, while intertwining traditional Cree storytelling with their urban lives. Filled with alluring prose and magical realism, this book is a passionate eye opener to this disturbing period of Canadian ...more
Amber
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book had a promising start, but really lost its steam midway through. It was then a chore to finish - for me, personally.

3-4 stars for first half
1 star for second

2/5 overall
Martha☀
The Fur Queen in this novel is the spirit who links humans to the spirit world. She can be a trickster, a lesson, a warning. She visits when things are dire and can lead you to decisions which will strongly impact your future, for good or for evil.
Following the lives of Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis from their childhhood home in Eemanapiteepitat, in Northern Manitoba, through their years at the Birch Lake Indian Residential School and onto their brutal introduction to adulthood in Winnipeg,
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Keetha
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Took me forever to read this and I hoarded it from the library for months but it's not the book's fault, it's mine. This book makes you suspend understanding and go with it to places that are simultaneously beautiful and despairing. I haven't read enough work by indigenous writers, making a list as of now.
Makenzie
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Just finished and I am going to SOB. Incredible. The constant use of magic realism made me love it so much.
Kate McDougall Sackler
Pretty depressing novel that follows a pair of native brothers from the reserve, through residential school and into their separate art careers. This book explores abuse, addiction, AIDS, breaking from and returning to old traditions, and melding the old and the new. Powerful and heartbreaking. On the downside, the dream sequences were sometimes difficult to follow and there was too many Cree words for non Cree speakers to follow. My book did have a glossary at the end which would have been ...more
Brian
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful novel. Definitely a must read. I couldn’t say it any better than this review that I borrowed from The Canadian Book Review.

Tomson Highway is one of Canada’s best known playwrites, most notably the author of The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, both of which are Dora and Chalmer’s Award winning plays. Published in 1998, Kiss of the Fur Queen is Highway’s first and only novel; containing many autobiographical points, this book takes on a lot of issues. In North
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Rachel
4.5 (ROUNDED UP TO 5) STARS FOR "KISS OF THE FUR QUEEN" BY TOMSON HIGHWAY

Wow. What a gorgeous, beautiful, heartbreaking book that takes a look into Cree culture and the horrifically dark period of Canadian history regarding residential schools. Kiss of the Fur Queen follows the lives of two Cree brothers, Champion and Ooneemeetoo, who are sent to residential school and forced to assimilate to the dominate Catholic and white culture around them. Their hair is cut, their traditional attire banned,
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Alice Montgomery
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Kiss of the Fur Queen was probably one of the most important materials which helped me become more aware about Indigenous issues. Sometimes, reading about facts isn’t enough to understand the psychological and sociological impacts. In this instance, fictional novels are extremely important. They are a vehicle which can draw readers to a broader understanding. It is like walking a mile in another person’s shoes. While I cannot begin to comprehend entirely the trauma that residential schools have ...more
Glenn Sumi
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Tomson Highway oughta stick to playwrighting.
The acclaimed dramatist (The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing) has penned a first novel that should have been rejected, politely, at the audition stage.
An uneasy mixture of Gabriel García Marquez and Judith Krantz – magic realism with sex and careers – Kiss Of The Fur Queen chronicles the lives of two brothers, Champion and Gabriel Okimas.
Terrible things happen to them at the Catholic school they're forced to enter. Later on,
...more
Rick
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book just didn't work for me. It was the story of two Cree brothers from Manitoba and their experience in Residential Schools and how they dealt with that for the rest of their lives. The book certainly has value from that perspective. However, I have found some of the memoirs of Residential school survivors more enlightening, regarding those experiences. I found the writing style of this novel not overly appealing to me. The characters just didn't seem real enough... part of the problem ...more
Abigail
This book is a very interesting and captivating story. Its a wonderful book and I hope to find the time to reread it.
It traces the impact of Residential Schools and forced assimilation on two brothers, both of which experienced horrific sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, and both of which had wonderful talents, one musically and the other in dance. It shows the way their lives deteriorate as a result of the Residential schools and how much healthier and ambitious they were living and
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B. Mason
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tomson Highway's experience as a playwright is evident in his first novel but he uses action and theatricality in his prose to his advantage. The narrative of the brothers skips along through years and it is the individual moments of conflict that ripple and resonate through the story even if lacking in a taut sense of cohesion. The scenes woven together display the personhood of these characters and though at times some of the dialogue seems a bit overwrought (the mall church comparison springs ...more
Michal
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
The writing was excellent and the story was very well-told. However, this is not an easy read, and the transitions between "real life" and the dream-like sequences are often confusing.
That being said, you begin to really care about the two brothers and their lives. The sadness in this book is almost palpable, evokes emotion, which to me is a sign of good writing.
I have a strong suspicion that I would enjoy this novel more if I were to read it again. Reading some of its reviews (after the fact)
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Jessica Levitt
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
W.O.W. I've not read an exhaustive collection of first hand accounts of the effects of residential schools on First Nations youth, but those I've read always leave me with such a feeling of hopelessness. How could the Catholic church and Canadian government botch this missionary/assimilation attempt so badly? And how will they ever repair the damage?

I love Tomson Highway's writing style. His use of language is frequently extraordinary and his ability to blend different story lines leaves my
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Jessica
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-nations, canlit
We discussed this fascinating and poetic tale on Hello Hemlock in September, thanks to the beautiful Emily's suggestion! One thing I will add to my video review is that, despite its beautiful prose and approach to these themes, there are many triggers for those sensitive to sexual abuse and the abuse of children. Read with caution and awareness, and if possible, push through to the end <3
Tiago
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt
Giving it 3 stars, even though it's more really 3,5. However, I felt it was missing something to get the following rating. Sometimes things felt rushed or even brushed over. I understand that it was its purpose, but sometimes it felt out of place or simply random. Probably will enjoy it more on a possible future re-reading.
Shonna Froebel
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, drama
Great
Pamela
May 24, 2015 rated it liked it
(view spoiler) ...more
Raf
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A challenging and important book for anyone interested in the intersection of decolonization, the erotic, and queerness. Tomson's approach to rewriting colonial trauma through a Cree lens is powerful and regularly made me feel uncomfortable and out of place.*

Residential schools, alcoholism, domestic abuse, loss of culture and connection to place are themes throughout the book. Yet, at no point did I feel that Tomson's characters were stereotyped as strength-less victims or "tragic indians".
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Mary McDonough
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book. I know I will read it again soon.
Georgina Nish
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book despite the heavy topics it covers. Tomson Highway depicts the truth of residential schools, cultural genocide of indigenous people and the inter generational trauma suffered in a striking way. The only thing is be aware of the shifting perspectives between characters, flashbacks, and time jumps as until you are able to pick up on the small things which tell you when and who you are reading the perspective of it can be a little hard to understand. Highly recommend to anyone ...more
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In the six decades since he was born in a tent in the bush of northernmost Manitoba, Tomson Highway has traveled many paths and been called by many names. Residential school survivor, classical pianist, social worker and, since the 1980s, playwright, librettist, novelist and children's author.

He is fluent in French, English and his native Cree. In 1994 he was invested as a Member of the Order of
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“The Trickster, of course," Gabriel finally answered himself, "Weesageechak for sure. The clown who bridges humanity and God - a God who laughs, a God who's here, not for guilt, not for suffering, but for a good time. Except this time, the Trickster representing God as a woman, a goddess in fur. Like in this picture. I've always thought that, ever since we were little kids. I mean, if Native languages have no gender, then why should we? And why, for that matter, should God?” 2 likes
“Don't mourn me. Be joyful.” 2 likes
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