Race to Finish
by Marion Mutala
Published by Millennium Marketing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.99 ISBN 9-781777-371319
Marion Mutala is a literary machine, with sixteen published books and more on the way. I’ve previously reviewed two of her children’s books—Grateful and the 175-page, multi-story achievement, Baba’s Babushka. The Saskatchewan writer’s latest title, Race to Finish, is a poetry collection, dedicated to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG); the First Nations children buried in unmarked, residential school graves across Canada; and the Black Lives Matter movement. It begins with a foreword by artist Kevin L. Peeace, who relays the experience of presenting in an elementary school and being asked by a young student: “What was it like being at the residential school?” Peeace also provided the compelling black and white cover drawing of a bisected face: one half representing the bricks and tears of the residential school experience, the other representative of his peoples’ connection to the land and familial love—at least that’s my interpretation.
Mutala’s poems champion racial equality, gratitude, positivity, and God, as well as personal experience, ie: “the old wooden cookstove on the/farm when I was a child” (from “Reminds Me”). Not every poem is rosy, however. In “God’s Tricks” she acknowledges that “life happens”: “A little of this and a lot of that and too soon/We are in high school dragging our butts around,/Tired, wanting to sleep the days away and party/the nights”. And as life continues, we eventually “look old and tired” and “Our spirit is fried like a parched desert”.
The writer chooses various styles and structures: some pieces rhyme, some are a single stanza, and some, like the prosaic “Envision,” read like miniature pep talks: “Why not envision the best city in Saskatchewan, in Canada, in the entire world?” “Plain Lucky”—dedicated to the late writer Wes Funk—contains the everyday dialogue of two friends enjoying coffee together. The piece “Don’t You Think?” repeats the opening line and adds another with each new stanza. It begins: “I think if you stand in front of a church with a/Bible held high in your hand, you should open/it,” and in progressive stanzas the writer advises said Bible-holder/s to read and “use” the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Mutala writes from the perspective of one who is “white privileged,” and she should be commended for addressing systemic racism in these poems, many of which blatantly articulate that “Black Lives and Indigenous Lives Matter”. She encourages “other white privileged” folks to speak up about racial injustice and persecution based on sexual orientation. “Do not be silent!” she heralds. “Smarten up!”
This small book includes an “Open Dialogue” featuring eight questions, ie: “What are things people can do to promote reconciliation?” and “What are things people can do to stop homophobia?” and invites readers to share their stories “so we can listen, understand, and change to make life better”. It concludes with a “Resources” section.
A portion of this book’s proceeds go to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Want to learn more about the prolific Mutala? Visit www.babasbabushka.ca .
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