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Invisible North: The Search For Answers on a Troubled Reserve

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  39 reviews
A vivid first-person account of life on a troubled reserve that illuminates a difficult and oft-ignored history.

When freelance journalist Alexandra Shimo arrives in Kashechewan, a fly-in, northern Ontario reserve, to investigate rumours of a fabricated water crisis and document its deplorable living conditions, she finds herself drawn into the troubles of the reserve. Unab
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 17th 2016 by Dundurn Group
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Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Right now there is a debate about books in Canada, called Canada Reads. The theme this year (and has been in different variations of the same theme in the last few years) is What is the One Book Canada Should Read Now? Invisible North is not in the running this year, and it's a shame. This is definitely one book every Canadian should read now.

Conceivably, this book is short enough to be read in one sitting. But I was unable to do that. I had to put it down after each chapter in order to 1.) cal
Natasha Penney
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-bingo
Bravo Alexandra Shimo for your profoundly personal, painful and powerful insights you shared in this book of a trip to the Kashechewan reserve in Northern Ontario to uncover the truth behind a water crisis.

What the author found, in addition to an interesting water crisis story, were deplorable living conditions, staggering poverty, a cycle of defeat and a close-up view of the inequities forced on Canadian First Nations peoples forced to endure the daily humiliations legislated by the Indian Act
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most eye-opening books I've ever read.

This book is part of my "Truth and Reconciliation" reading, and I picked it up one evening because I figured a memoir would be relatively easy bedtime reading, in terms of language if not content. That assessment turned out to be correct: it's a short book written in a very readable style, blending an account of Shimo's months on a northern Ontario reserve with background about the history of the reserves and the treatment of Indigenous people by
Friederike Knabe
I am asked to write an extensive review. A summary will appear here later. Overall, an important, depressing, challenging read on the ongoing devastating conditions in northern remote First Nations reserves. Hope is always just over the horizon, promises are made and change can't come soon enough.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every country has its dirty little secrets and Invisible North tells of Canada's modern day mistreatment and neglect of the native Indians in Kashechewan First Nation. Source material comes from the author's personal experience on the reservation and from research.

The subject matter is very bleak but I would recommend this book or something similar to raise awareness that human rights abuses still exist in countries with strong reputations for progressive human rights policies. This book is a g
Brian Hickey
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Invisible North is a true 5/5 star accomplishment, and a trip that was emotionally charged on a number of levels. Writing a truly objective review proved to be tougher than expected for during its last couple of chapters my heart was pounding, I was angry, I felt ashamed to be Canadian, I was upset as to how little I actually knew about the plight of most Native People living on reserves, and most of all, it left me wanting to help. (Thankfully, Shimo provides the reader with a number of resourc ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this book 5 stars because for a short, concise read, this book provided vital information and understandable context that every Canadian should have to understand the tragedy of life on reserves. In my ignorance of the political and social reasons for indigenous peoples entrapment in reserve life, I never knew the right questions to ask to understand better, and, frankly, the questions I wanted to ask seemed so obvious that I knew I had to be missing something. This book connected th ...more
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best, and hardest, book I read all year. Invisible North: The Search For Answers on a Troubled Reserve makes you understand way more about the unfairness of Indian Act and the struggles of indigenous people in Canada. ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Journalist Alexandra Shimo goes north into the remote Northern Ontario reserve of the Kashechewan, she plans to write about a water crisis that broke out on the reserve in 2005. She discovers instead the depressing conditions that Canada's aboriginal people live under and the terrible human rights violations that occur to this day.
I had thought as a nation that we had a despicable record of lies, broken treaties and abuse of Native Americans, but the violence that Canada has perpetrated is unspe
Tracy Morton
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am privileged! I know this. Sometimes it's good to have a reminder and this book certainly gave me one. It amazes me that people have to live this way in Canada. I'm ashamed that we have people living in third world conditions or fourth world conditions First Nation communities are being called. I have to wonder if we would grow to have a better social consciousness if we were forced to read more books like this in highschool instead of so many classics.
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book contains a lot of information that is hard to read, especially if you’re like most Canadians who think First Nations are being treated well in this country. However, it’s an important book and I encourage people to read it, learn and advocate. It is an embarrassment to our country that we let anyone live in these conditions.
Wendy Caron
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended read for those who are interested in the issues confronting indigenous northern communities. It is very readable and presents lots of information on many issues; interestingly from the perspective of a non-indigenous visitor. Brought to mind observations made by Julie when she was doing a medical rotation in Moose Factory and had occasion to work the clinic in Kashechewan.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow, what a great but incredibly depressing book. Sheds light on a snapshot of life on reserve. Good explanations of the relationship between First Nations and the federal government explained in ways slightly different than usual. I have a small amount of knowledge about these issues and felt I learned some new things in this book.
Nov 28, 2016 added it
Shelves: 2016
Should be required reading. Maybe I'm naive but I don't see that Shimo has any political motivation for this book and has simply written of her experience - brutally and honestly. Now what will we do with this knowledge? I am ashamed. I will do better.
Alexandra Prochshenko
Record high suicide rates, unemployment, alcoholism, floods, poverty, hunger, HIV rates, diseases, the absence of doctors and fire department, mouldly houses where children sleep in shifts because there is no room for everyone at night… what country comes to mind?

Well, surprise-surprise, it’s a First World spot named Canada.

I never thought that I could say: "This is the book that everyone has to read," but here I am, saying it. Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve is t
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is nonfiction but a quick read. The author has more of a presence in the narrative as the book continues. The story gets personal and complicated all at once, but then all of a sudden it isn't again. The specific use of her conflict with people residing in Kashechewan is remarkable for how real it feels, but also reads slightly superficial. This book comes close to showing us the real Kashechewan, but from the experiences of an outsider who does not experience what it means to be a Fir ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am often sceptical about reading a book about First Nation issues by a non-indigenous author, but Alex Shimo gives an honest account of the hidden truth behind the cultural genocide of Canada’s First Nations people and manages to peel away the layers that point responsibility at the federal government for today’s crisis on many reserves across the country. On my quest to learn the truth and educate myself- this book has given me much to think about.
Eloise Smith
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A shockingly truthful portrait of a First Nations reserve. Fourth world poverty in the first world. Alex reveals aside of Canada that is often brushed under the carpet. She tells stories of vicious circles of poverty and how the peoples attempts to change their situation are endlessly stymied by a faceless government. This is a book that you don't forget.
I strongly urge all Canadians to read this book, it is quite short and easy reading. It is incredibly embarrassing to learn and have confirmed the Federal Government's absolutely appalling attitude towards our First Nations and the reserves they are forced to live on.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This should be mandatory reading for all Canadians...and then we need to keep up pressure on our political representatives that we can and should do better. So much is owed and so much damage has been done...and continues to be done...
Ed Winters
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Powerful testament to a brief adventure in a northern Canadian First Nations community. A must read for anyone whose country has an indigenous population. Is it enough to simply throw money at a problem and hope it disappears? These people need a leg up to become partners in society, not more promises and roadblocks. Create solutions in partnership with the communities and our mutual success is guaranteed.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
While it can be a little heavy, it's very topical of the issues happening on the reserves today.
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and shocking book that drives home just how awfully Canada treats its indigenous population.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a troubling book to read, but every Canadian should read this book, to gain even some understanding of what is happening on some of Canada's reserves.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Eye-opening look at the deplorable conditions Canadian Natives are living in. Author a bit repetitive, but very insightful.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Had to return it to the library only about 1/2 read. May request it again to finish reading it.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The only way to describe the condition of the northern reserves in Canada is genocide.

Freelance journalist Alexandra Shimo flew in to a northern reserve called Kashechewan and stayed for months until her health and low morale forced her to leave. She returned later to get more answers.

Barely habitable moldy houses with faulty plumbing and electricity are the norm and stingy social services fail the youth who either commit suicide or despair of ever improving their life. Numerous attempts by th
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's difficult to believe that any country could treat indigenous people worse than the U.S., but apparently Canada has managed.

The plight of the First Nations people is heartbreaking and almost unfathomable. The book itself veers uneasily from wonky history of Canadian-First Nations relations and governmental structures to one woman's unraveling in a difficult environment. I wish we could have gotten to know more of the people of this reserve. But the extent to which they have been neglected is
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Couldn't put it down. A compelling and well-written exploration of a troubled, but resourceful community.
Daniel Rowe
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good and hard look at a community facing real issues and the injustice of a Canadian system that stymies growth and acts consistently Irresponsible. Well done for brave reporting at a physical and mental cost that can't be understated.
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Alexandra Shimo studied at Oxford (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) and did a Master's in journalism at Columbia before she went to work as a producer for the CBC and an editor at Maclean's. An award-winning journalist, she lives in Toronto.

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