In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience
by Helen Knott
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Elena Bentley
$21.95 ISBN 9780889777316 (Softcover)
Is there any other act more revolutionary than healing? No, not for Helen Knott, debut author of In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience. “Healing yourself is the ultimate act of resistance… of remembering who we are as Indigenous peoples.” This book is a coming home story. A return to family, culture, tradition, and language. A reclamation of an Indigenous identity that had, for too long, been suppressed by shame, sexual violence, and intergenerational trauma.
Within the covers of this newly released paperback edition published by the University of Regina Press, Knott seamlessly weaves together memories from her past with the events, both personal and familial, that led to her addiction and eventual sobriety. But sobriety did not come easy for Knott. She writes that she had “always been aware of a darkness that lurks within addiction… [a] dark thing” that wanted to consume her. Despite her own struggles, however, she has dedicated herself to helping those in need.
Knott, who holds a bachelor’s degree in social work, feels that “life is about living for others.”
In 2009, she travelled to Nicaragua to build a school, then returned again in 2011 to build another and expand the project. Later, she was named an Indigenous Youth Ambassador and spoke at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland about how “Canada is failing Indigenous peoples.” Even now, she continues to find ways to pay it forward. On July 24, 2020, Knott launched the Because You Can: Single Parents Writing Prize with the hopes of supporting aspiring writers who are also single parents – just as she once was.
Writing, reading, and storytelling have always been Knott’s “sturdy crutch[es].” It is clear that her gift as a talented writer was nourished by a lifetime of soaking in literature; in fact, Knott credits her father who, she says, “broke a link in the chain of intergenerational dysfunction” by reading “one Dr. Seuss book at a time.” From a young age, Knott “fell deeply in love with words, with their positioning on the page and the on-paper dance they orchestrate.” Her writing style often blurs the lines between prose and poetry, and her attention to the little details – like the texture and feel of her asu’s hands, the smell of her papa’s Old Spice, or the sound of an eagle cry – add richness to the text. Admittedly, parts of the book are difficult to get through, owing to the honesty and openness with which Knott describes the violent moments in her life. For Knott, however, “humour diffuses everything,” and her ability to balance the dark with the light demonstrates a humble and mature spirit – perfect for someone whose purpose it is to “relay words” to the world.
Knott knows firsthand that words can condemn and hurt, but they can also heal. There is no doubt that In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience is a book that will “ripple out” into the world, inspiring one revolutionary act at a time.
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