'Some Stories Need to Be Told, Then Told Again': Yvonne Johnson and Rudy Wiebe
Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman (Wiebe and Johnson, 1998) is the story of Yvonne Johnson's experiences of childhood sexual abuse and incest, her repeated experiences of rape through her teenage and adult years, and her participation, with three others, in the 1989 killing and sexual abuse of Leonard Skwarok, a man they barely knew but whom they believed to be an abuser of children, and whom Johnson believed to be a threat to her own young children. Her story is, profoundly, a woman's story, a story of violation by men: by her father, by his father, by her brother, by their acquaintances, by police and by strangers. It is a story of trauma, recovered and retold, while Johnson served a life-25 sentence for first degree murder. In being written from prison, it is also the story of a woman's experience of the Canadian criminal justice system, her arrest, trial and sentencing, and her incarceration - for the first part of her sentence in Kingston's Prison for Women (P4W) and later in the then-recently opened Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge. Stolen Life is the story of a Cree woman writing back to structures of power and patriarchy that have attempted to silence her. It is also a Cree woman's story of her recovery of identity through women's rituals and ceremony. And it is a story recovered and retold with the help of many, but primarily with the help of a Rudy Wiebe, a white, middle-aged man. It is this issue of collaboration and gender in Wiebe and Johnson's book that I would like to address in this present essay, which is for this writer a returning to Johnson's story.
Link to publisher version (URL)
This record is in the process of being updated. Please contact us for more information.