Recently, I just finished a book that was written by Rudy Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson. It is titled “Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman.” It took me a really long time to read this book, and not because I didn’t have the time. It took me a rather long time to read this book because of the realness of it all and also with the fact that I could relate.
The novel is about the life and the story of Yvonne Johnson, a Cree woman who is serving time for first degree murder. When I say that I can relate, I am not saying that I have served time for first degree murder. It is much more deeper than that, and it also part of a deeper story that I have yet to share–I still am not sure if I am ready to tell the world that part of my life yet.
Yvonne Johnson started serving her time when she was 28 years old. 2014 is her release date. That would mean she had served her 25 years, which is the minimum for first degree murder. She will be 53 years old when she is released.
Her story starts off by telling of her childhood. There are repeated, and very descriptive stories of abuse–all kinds of abuse. If you can think of it, it happened. She was also born with a double cleft palate. Something that was hereditary for her family. Her grandmother had it and then she and later her own child. Johnson tells of stories of memories where she could recall trying to speak but nothing but spit or tears could come because of the double cleft palate. You can imagine what life must have been like for her having to grow up as a Cree, Aboriginal woman and with also a physical deformity in the 70s and 80s–a time not comfortable for anyone other than “whites.”
I don’t think it would be fair for me to write in detail about some of the stories she shared in her book because those are her stories. Not mine. While reading this book, I got sick. I cried. I grew angry. I, in fact, almost didn’t finish it.
I am glad I did make it past the first few hard-telling chapters. By the middle of the book, Yvonne hopes to find love even after have not been loved or knowing what love felt like; she knew that she could be the one to pass it onto her children. She does not give up and she hopes for change for the better for her children’s lives.
There are glimpses of light and hope for Yvonne Johnson, yet throughout her story she has a hard time sharing or finding someone to trust to help her receive the help to overcome and to understand her haunting past which comes to haunt her in dreams, people, events, etc.
This is a moving book. This is a book of realness, a story that is not uncommon to Aboriginal woman. In the end, I am glad that I had the opportunity to read this book as a professor had lent me the book. I believe that everything happens for a reason and for me to read this book, I felt that it brought a sense of openness and sense of ownership especially when it comes to my own story.