205 pages
ISBN 0-88974-044-5
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is an associate professor at the University of Calgary
and author of Dance of the Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice


Lee Maracle is probably the best-known of those who identify themselves
as First Nations writers. As poet, storyteller, orator, essayist, and
activist, Maracle brings a Native sensibility to contemporary literary
forms favored by settler culture. Her I Am Woman was a profoundly
innovative literary work in spirit and genre. Ravensong conforms more
closely to traditional Western narrative as a novel about a young
woman’s coming-of-age in a British Columbia Native community during
the 1950s.

In this fiction, the heroine, Stacey, and her author explore the
differences between aboriginal and settler cultures, understanding that
the future rests on successful cultural accommodations. At the same
time, Maracle’s is a thoughtful, often mystic, and sometimes subtly
challenging Native point of view. She has written elsewhere about the
importance of lineage memory, and here it pervades the fiction as
Stacey’s village suffers the Hong Kong flu epidemic, a revisitation of
catastrophic epidemics of the past. The value to Native peoples of
lineage, community, and clan—precepts so little understood by
non-Natives—is in fact highlighted in this story. As well, Raven and
Ravensong are magically omnipresent for Stacey, even as she leaves the
village to become a student at university, where she will presumably
absorb the values of non-Native society.

Ravensong is an invaluable fiction for its authentic, felt presentation
of Native philosophy and belief. As sociocultural literature, it is
noteworthy for the optimistic possibilities offered to the heroine. In
the past, authors like Beatrice Culleton, Jeanette Armstrong, and
Maracle herself have not been so positive about their Native
characters’ future.


Maracle, Lee., “Ravensong,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/14056.