Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly

I have mixed feelings about this book.

This book is about the murder of Tina Fountain and it’s investigation by the police. It’s a true crime novel. It seems to be a sympathetic and relatively neutral account of the investigation, with a few mentions of racism and politics.

When started reading it, I was impressed with the author’s approach to talking about Tina and the overall issues of racism towards Indigenous people. But, I was in the middle of it when I was reminded about the importance of own-voices in reviews and story telling. The author is a BBC journalist and, as far as I can tell, she’s not Indigenous. It made me look at the book a bit more critically and I realized that I knew more about the lead investigator than I did about Tina. It also made me realize that the discussion of Colten Boushie and the demands to address the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was really only included to set the stage and give the reader some insight on the pressure investigators had to find Tina’s murderer.

Does that make the book bad? No, it just makes it another true crime novel that doesn’t really add to the important discussions around systemic racism, MMIWG, broken support systems, etc.

I’m glad I read it because I, admittedly, didn’t know much about Tina Fountain’s death. But, I could’ve just read the Wikipedia article. I know very little about Tina after reading this book, other than she was a sweet girl and got into a bad situation that ended in her murder. This book was more about the lead detective and his investigation.

Tanya Talaga wrote Seven Fallen Feathers. It’s about the deaths of 7 high school students in Thunder Bay. As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, it’s “…devastating, infuriating, and absolutely essential for anyone interested in learning more about racism in Canada or the issues faced by indigenous youth.” If you’re going to read about Indigenous people being murdered in Canada (and you should), start with this book.

I also encourage you to read the #ownvoices (Instagram) reviews of Red River Girl. For example, @anishinaabekwereads (Instagram)has a lot of important insight about this book and the author’s approach to telling the story (scroll back in their feed to early February).

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