The Education of Augie Merasty

The Education of Augie Merasty

A Residential School Memoir

Book - 2015
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"This story of a child is heartbreaking and important. It brings into dramatic focus why we need reconciliation." - James Daschuk, author of Clearing the PlainsThis memoir offers a courageous and intimate chronicle of life in a residential school. Now a retired fisherman and trapper, the author was one of an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children who were taken from their families and sent to government-funded, church-run schools, where they were subjected to a policy of "aggressive assimilation." As Augie Merasty recounts, these schools did more than attempt to mold children in the ways of white society. They were taught to be ashamed of their native heritage and, as he experienced, often suffered physical and sexual abuse. But, even as he looks back on this painful part of his childhood, Merasty's sense of humour and warm voice shine through.
Publisher: Regina, Saskatchewan :, University of Regina Press,, 2015
ISBN: 9780889773684
Branch Call Number: 371.829 M532e
Characteristics: 76 pages
Additional Contributors: Carpenter, David 1941-,
Alternative Title: Augie Merasty

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susan_findlay
Dec 28, 2018

I chose to read this book because the Lib Ed folks at the U of L decided that it was going to be the university's 'book of the year' - that as many faculty as possible should incorporate into their classes this year. It's not even remotely connected to my discipline, but I decided to read it anyway.

One of the 'selling' features they used to promote this book to us was that it was short. And it is certainly very short. Minus the introduction and conclusion, there are about 50 very small pages of text. Which is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. But it may be relevant to some readers, so it's worth noting.

At it's core, this book is a memoir - a series of brief stories (some of them quite horrifying) about life at a residential school - told by a former pupil who was in his midseventies at the time of the writing. If you're not already familiar with what happened at residential schools, it's an important thing to learn about, and this book (or any other like it) would likely shock you.

I appreciated the structure of the book. We start off with the story of how Augie reached out to his editor, an English professor, and the rather long drawn out process of him convincing the professor to help him tell his story as well as the process via which the book was written (as a series of passages written out of order, some of them retold multiple times; the professor's job was essentially to organize and compile; Augie did the writing). Then we start with what fond memories Augie had of nuns and priests who were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing - loving the children and looking after them. After that, we are introduced, one chapter at a time, to a number of horrid nuns, brothers and priests who abused the children, some physically and some sexually. While the cover talks about how the children were taught to reject their own culture, the text itself doesn't really talk about that at all. I don't recall any passages about the actual teachings at the school. So, while I understand that that did indeed happen, the book feels a little incomplete without addressing it. I suspect it would have been hard to find a logical place for it - and I suspect Augie was more interested in telling other stories - but I feel like it would have improved the book.

After all of the stories Augie wrote have been told, the book finishes with the story of the professor tracking him down in order to sign the agreements required to get the book published. The introduction and conclusion do a nice job of framing the story by helping us get to know at least a little about the man doing the writing - not just the boy at school.

All in all, I tend to prefer books with more character development than this one featured - but I do understand why it is an important book.

i
Ifeoluwasola_0
Jan 08, 2017

I felt priviledged to be able to share in the memories of Augie Merasty. More than anything else, the background of writing the book revealed the deep and inadvertent results of being in reaidential schools. The background, in fact, more than the memoire itself showed the real consequences of residential school, the story in which the country has a "dark and complicit past."

r
rpavlacic
Jan 21, 2016

The residential school system was a blight in Canada's otherwise proud history. From 1876 to 1993, tens of thousands of aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their homes and made to attend boarding schools either on larger reservations or in major cities. Most of these were run by churches. During this time, thousands were mentally, physically and sexually abused with full state immunity for the perpetrators. It was only in 2008 that a formal apology was made by the government and the churches, but the reparation payments did not go near enough to compensate the victims for what they went through. This brief but vital book tells the story of one victim from his perspective attending one such residential school for nine years and the impact it had on him. There are thousands more like him.

m
mogie
Jan 01, 2016

This book provides insight into the tragedy of Residential Schools in Canada. It did not explore the psychological repercussions of the atrocities experienced in great depth but provides a basic understanding of what occurred. I found the story interesting and am glad that the author included the challenges that he experienced in writing the book.

m
muffinpopcorn
Aug 19, 2015

Not as good/ informative as I had expected ,but I persevered and finished it . Disappointing book .

m
mclarjh
Jul 13, 2015

Disappointing. The survivor strikes me as unreliable, and many of his stories are second hand, not directly experienced. The editor puts himself first too often and adds little to the book. Still, a slight glimpse into one man's residential school experience.

v
ViviaWal
Mar 21, 2015

The Globe and Mail book section for March 21st has background on this author and the journey to having his work published.

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