Kiss of the Fur Queen available in Paperback
"In his first novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen, noted playwright Tomson Highway tells the story of two Cree brothers who were severely abused at a Catholic residential school, and he uses the full transformative power of magic and myth, as well as a compelling traditional novel plot, to restore to them their dignity and, by implication, that of their people."—Toronto Globe and Mail
"Highway's novel vibrates with the force of the collision of two cultures, the long history of a people living at one with nature, and the violence of their enforced conversion to Christianity. Emotionally complex, witty, symphonic and sad, Kiss of the Fur Queen is a remarkable novel, filled with blood, guts, life and love."—Vancouver Sun
About the Author
Cree playwright and author Tomson Highway holds seven honorary doctorates and has taught and performed at universities across North America and Europe. Among his many literary, dramatic, and musical works are two award-winning plays, The Rez Sisters and Dry-Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing; three children's books; and a musical drama, Rose.
Reading Group Guide
Kiss of the Fur Queen for me is a celebration of the Cree lifestyle, culture and language. The Cree culture and way of life is a unique and important part of Canadian culture, which needs to be celebrated and preserved. I wanted to share this with a broader audience, and encourage other Native writers to find their voice.At the same time as celebrating this culture, Kiss of the Fur Queen is also a cry for its preservation. As Jeremiah and Gabriel experience, an idyllic lifestyle can often be interrupted at a young age by very destructive social forces. These forces have serious repercussions on artistic communities, and I felt that this story needed to be told to bring this to light and to try to put an end to that loss. Writing this book was a personal catharsis for me of that loss and, I hope, for the Native people and all artistic communities. — Tomson Highway
1. The mythological figure of the Fur Queen is very prominent in the story and continues to appear in various guises throughout. What does this figure represent for the two boys?
2. Gabriel and Jeremiah react very differently to the sexual abuse they endure. Discuss these reactions and what they suggest about the boys' characters.
3. Cree is often described as a humorous, musical language, the language of a culture that tries to find the joy in everything. Highway mixes Cree with English throughout the text. Discuss the ways in which the varying sounds, structures and vocabularies of these two languages symbolize the gulf between cultures in the novel.
4. Jeremiah and Gabriel find it difficult to adjust to city life when they move to Winnipeg as teenagers. They are ostracized, made to feel like outsiders in the only country they have ever known. Discuss the similarities and differences between the experiences of the Okimasis brothers and those of immigrants you have known coming to Canada for the first time.
5. The Okimasis brothers are firmly connected to their roots in Cree culture, and yet they leave their home on the reserve to join 'city life,' rarely to return. Discuss the difficulty of being true to one's background, while living one's own modern life.
6. Jeremiah is keenly aware of the stereotypes assigned to Natives and knows that some of those prejudices reflect aspects of Native life. Jeremiah resists becoming the type of man a hostile society expects him to be. Can stereotypes be self-fulfilling prophecies?
7. There are many different mythologies—Christian, Cree, Greek—that weave through this story. Discuss the role these mythologies play in the lives of the Okimasis brothers. Discuss the impact different mythologies have on modern day literature and culture generally.
8. A fundamental difference between Cree and English and the worlds these two languages represent is that in Cree there is no gender, no rigid male-female categories. Does Kiss of the Fur Queen suggest what the imposition of a strict gender hierarchy would mean for Native culture? Is it possible to read Gabriel's fate as symbolic of this cultural destruction? What other novelists have used disease as a metaphor for social disintegration?