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May 25, 2022 Modern Law Library

Work for Canadian residential school survivors informs lawyer's debut novel

By Matt Reynolds

As a lawyer, Michelle Good spent years investigating the trauma that Canada’s residential school system inflicted on Indigenous people. As an author, it took her nine years to write her first novel about the lives of five teenagers who leave a church-run school and coalesce in Eastside Vancouver, British Columbia. For Good, it was imperative that she took her time to get the story right. Her patience paid off.

Her debut book, Five Little Indians, was published in 2020. It has since become a Canadian national bestseller, winning the HarperCollins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize, the Amazon First Novel Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Award.

This month, the U.S. Department of the Interior released the first volume of its report into Indian boarding schools, upon which the Canadian schools were modeled. Investigators identified burial sites at 53 different schools and said more than 500 children had died. It expects the number of burial sites to increase as the investigation continues.

Meanwhile, Canada began its process of truth and reconciliation about a decade and a half ago. And it was last year’s discovery of dozens of unmarked graves in Canada by Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation at the Kamloops Indian Residential School that sparked the U.S. probe.

Good, a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, discusses the U.S. investigation and the Canada’s winding road to truth and reconciliation with the ABA Journal’s Matt Reynolds in this episode of the Modern Law Library podcast.

She also explains how her work as a lawyer informed the writing of the book and why many Indigenous people still feel the impact of the Canadian school system to this day.

In This Podcast

Michelle Good

Michelle Good worked for Indigenous organizations for 25 years and as a lawyer advocated for residential school survivors for over 14 years. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at the University of British Columbia while still practicing law and managing a law firm. Her poems, short stories and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Canada, and her poetry was included on two lists of the best Canadian poetry in 2016 and 2017. Five Little Indians is her first novel.