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Half-Breed

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,186 ratings  ·  115 reviews
Maria Campbell's biography is a classic, vital account of a young Métis woman's struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood.

Maria was a strong and sensitive child who lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried in vain to escape by marrying a white man, only t
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Paperback, 184 pages
Published January 1st 1983 by Goodread Biographies (first published January 28th 1973)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,186 ratings  ·  115 reviews


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Brian
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just when you think things can't get any worse for a mixed race Native/Caucasian woman, they do. Campbell's memoir is simply brutal - a series of cascading heartbreaks one after another. Growing up in a world where neither the whites nor the Indians want you around, the half-breeds of Canada in the mid 20th century existed in a purgatory that looked a lot more like hell. Chalk this up to one of those reads to remind me never to complain about anything I might think is really going wrong in my li ...more
Emmkay
What a powerful memoir. I gather that it has been on high school reading lists, but it was new to me. Published in 1973 when Maria Campbell was only 33, it recounts her life growing up on the road allowance in a large Métis family, struggling with the complexities of poverty, racism, shame, and misogyny. I thought it was amazing. What a remarkable, insightful woman.

It’s written in a simple, engaging style that, weirdly, reminded me of reading the ‘Little House’ books as a child, particularly whe
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Lucinda
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an unflinching look at the injustices faced by the Mètis people of Western Canada, and one woman's struggle to escape the traps of poverty within that context. It can be hard to read because Maria Campbell really faced one difficulty after another after another... I am in awe of the grit and determination she shows in not giving in to despair and in telling her story so honestly. Definitely a book to pass on to everyone you know – an education in Canadian racism against aboriginal people ...more
Elinor
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to read this because I kept putting it down. Maria's struggles were so painful that I was in agony for her. How she ever came out the other side from a life of neglect, poverty, abuse, drug addiction and prostitution is almost unbelievable. Nobody is spared in this memoir, including arrogant whites; racist governments; native men who abuse women; and natives who seek individual power rather than standing together. And the Métis, thanks to their informal lowest-of-the-low s ...more
Aubrey
3.5/5

I am part of a demographic whose greatest experience with the people of Maria Campbell consists of watching the drawn out voyeurism of CSI and other murder mysteries whose victims often hale from the much mythologized lands of indigenous reserves and associated, rampantly poverty stricken areas. It is vital, then, to actively seek out the narratives who commonly appear only in the media and only as a variant of migrant caricature or brutalized corpse, as my world allows indigenous nations t
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Stiina
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second read of this important book. It helps me learn the history of my own province that was never taught to me in school.
Christy
Wow. Anyone who can read this book and not feel incredibly lucky themselves is either heartless and soulless or living a truly terrible life. In Half-Breed Maria Campbell, a Halfbreed who grew up in Saskatchewan, describes her childhood and early adulthood, living in poverty, dealing with racism and discrimination, trying to avoid the division of her family at the hands of the government, suffering abuse, turning to prostitution and drugs, and finally getting clean and finding hope in Native pol ...more
Deodand
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: canadians
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karan
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was very engaged with this book, the story-telling approach, amazed at how much Maria lived and loved and survived in so few years. I must now find out what she's been doing for the last forty years. An amazing story that helps to explain where where we've come to in indigenous relations. Her perspective as a woman involved in organizing expresses a fuller picture of what was happening politically. ...more
Gina
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I believe that one day, very soon, people will set aside their differences and come together as one. Maybe not because we love one another, but because we will need each other to survive."

Powerful in its simplicity, but it is very disturbing too. Her personal journey is successful, but there is still a lot of healing to be done for her people. All of them.

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Magdelanye
This book was one of the pivotal books that opened my eyes when read it right after it was published. Thanks Emmkay for reminding me how much I love this brave trailblazer.
❀ Susan G
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
Maria Campbell has a strength not known to many. Living in poverty, raped, abused and beaten, she has survived. she has survived a life of racism and abuse, yet fought back against drugs and alcohol and has shared her story with Canadians. This is not an easy book to read but an important narrative which will help Canadians understand the racism, abuse and generational trauma to First Nations and Metis people. Kudos for her to have the strength to improve her life, help others and share her life ...more
Amy Coles
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As someone who really judges books by their covers, this is something I never would have picked up on my own - you can definitely tell that it was published in the 80's; but it was required reading for my 20th century Canadian literature class, so I really had no choice. I am so glad I had to read this though, it was incredibly powerful and raw, without any dull moments. It really is amazing that this is a true story!

This biography does an amazing job disrupting the stereotype of Canada being a
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Sydney
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Halfbreed" is brief in its pages, but heavy in its heart. It's an autobiography I can and will champion for its revelation of Canada's systemic racism against Indigenous peoples, both in the past and in the present.

Maria Campbell was born to a Métis family on the Canadian prairies and grew up believing she was a worthless "halfbreed," and one of those "road allowance" people squatting on crown land. As her family faced extreme poverty and hardship, they also struggled to be accepted by both no
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Kat
Oct 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I loved the descriptions of her childhood. She was a very resourceful girl. I would have loved to learn some of the skills she had as a young girl. I feel bad for her in a way. Not so much for her life but for her feelings about it. There is a lot of anger and most of it directed at 'white people'. She blames them for her problems and for the problems of native men. A lot of people have been treated wrongly throughout history but it is how you handle yourself that will be remembered. When a pers ...more
Lester
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book does the 'speaks volumes'. A book to be read in school as 'The Outsiders' and 'To Kill A Mockingbird' are. This book is non fiction though..no mistaking that!
Written in (rather, published in..) 1973..the world has changed greatly..yet..not at all. Living in the Yukon Territory..all of the good, bad and indifferent in Maria Campbells book..still happen here.
In the 30 plus years that I have lived here..there is such a struggle to do right that each small accomplishment only happens with
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Nikhil
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, indigenous
A short, potent memoir about a Métis woman whose community and family come apart during the 30s-70s in response to a series of negative shocks created/exacerbated by the Canadian government.

From what I gather, the Métis were a nomadic people who were able to enjoy a measure of economic security through, and created cultural rituals around, hunting, gardening/small scale cultivation, gathering, and trapping. This is a mode of economic production that is anathema to the modern nation state (basic
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Gaelan
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexis
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This book isn't always easy to read, but it's a classic of Indigenous literature and tells the story of one woman's life growing up Metis from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Maria's work has been influential on Indigenous literature in Canada, and Indigenous stories.

She is a true icon and has done so much.
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Lauren McDonald
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
make sure you get an uncensored copy
Crazy_smiler
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a difference from one autobiography to another. When this book ended I wanted to clap. I feel bad that I did not care for “I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Anjalou but I did not like her writing style. Maria on the other hand did so much better. I had one question during and then it was answered. Lol Maria is a remarkable woman. She was maybe going to rent from a friend of mine a couple of years ago. I’m tempted to find out if it happened. She’s one I could like having a conversatio ...more
Bardwi Narzary
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing tale of love, family, identity and most importantly, survival.
guzump
Campbell provides a unique insight into the struggles of indigenous women in Canada. Her writing style is creative and entertaining, and I have to say, the book was very touching at some parts.

However, I feel that it lacked in some respects. It's true that this is an autobiography, and the details of the book can't be changed (since they were actual events in her life), but I feel she could've been more specific for some parts. For example, we never really find out what her jobs were in Vancouve
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Barbara
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was shocked and horrified when I originally read this book back in the mid 1970s. I was less shocked, but equally horrified having just read it again. Maria Campbell is straightforward in recounting her story of growing up in a loving but very impoverished Metis (called half-breeds in that era) family. They were forced to live on the road allowance and faced continual racism. The situation grew ever more dire, until at 12 Maria was taking care of all her younger siblings and trying to find a w ...more
Linnea
A really incredible story of strength, and an inclusive and welcoming look at Metis and Road Allowance histories. I appreciate that Campbell steers clear of sentimentality, and that she is honest about the terseness she was forced to take up as a survival tactic. I feel she gives a fair view of those groups (political and/or religious) affecting her story, and is true to her claim that she doesn't speak from a place of bitterness, but from a place where she sets out to speak about the way things ...more
Matthew McCarthy
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Maria Campbell's Halfbreed is a simple, but heart-felt novel. Halfbreed is Campbell's memoir; an account of the struggles she had to overcome, such as racism, addiction, and misogyny, and her quest to find a way out.

Seeing as how I read Joy Kogawa's Obasan earlier this year, I feel it's hard not to draw comparisons between the two novels. While Obasan is a more poetic -- and in my opinion, better -- novel, both tell stories of overwhelming hardship and strengthh. A good read for anyone who belie
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Darlene Wilson
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Maria Campbell's biography is an account of a young Métis woman's struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood.
Maria lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried to escape by marrying a white man, only to find herself trapped in the slums of Vancouver -- addicted to drugs, tempted by suicide, close to death. The inspiration of her Cree great-grandmother,Cheechum, gives her confidence
...more
Adrik
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brief, to the point and yet vast in content, this memoir clearly illustrates what it was like to grow up as a "half-breed" in Canada. Even though most of the events happen in the 40's, 50's and 60's it still unfortunately is not too far removed from the situation many first nations find them in today. I believe this book should be taught again in Canadian schools as it clearly shows the consequences of racism and stereotypes when pressed on a fragile population. I admire Maria for her strength s ...more
Andrea
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is short and simply written, but incredibly profound. As a Canadian, I firmly believe that every Canadian should read this novel. It tells the story of the author and about the Aboriginal experience. The book helped my understand Aboriginal issues and why they can't be fixed overnight and never by government policy makers. I strongly recommend this novel, because it portrays what feels like and old issue in a way I had never seen it before. Here's a link to my blog post on the novel.

...more
Rhonda
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Half Cree and half European, the author and her people (the halfbreeds) experienced considerable discrimination and hardship. The writing is choppy and the story telling is a bit incoherent at times, but the book communicates the frustration, hopelessness, and eventual determination of the author to survive. The ending left me wanting to know more. I wish she would write another autobiography, as this one ends with her as a 20-something in the late 1960's. ...more
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Maria Campbell (born 6 of 26 Apr 1940 near Athlone, Edmonton) is a Métis author, playwright, broadcaster, filmmaker, and Elder. Campbell is a fluent speaker of four languages: Cree, Michif, Saulteaux, and English. Park Valley is located 80 miles northwest of Prince Albert.

Her first book was the memoir Halfbreed (1973), which continues to be taught in schools across Canada, and which continues to i
...more

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