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A Stranger At Home: A True Story


The powerful memoir of an Inuvialuit girl searching for her true self when she returns from residential school.

Traveling to be reunited with her family in the Arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It's been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers.

Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely ...

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The powerful memoir of an Inuvialuit girl searching for her true self when she returns from residential school.

Traveling to be reunited with her family in the Arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It's been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers.

Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, "Not my girl." Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider.

And Margaret is an outsider: she has forgotten the language and stories of her people, and she can't even stomach the food her mother prepares.

However, Margaret gradually relearns her language and her family's way of living. Along the way, she discovers how important it is to remain true to the ways of her people — and to herself.

Highlighted by archival photos and striking artwork, this first-person account of a young girl's struggle to find her place will inspire young readers to ask what it means to belong.

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Editorial Reviews
This is a book everyone should read.

— Betty Gelean

Resource Links
This book realistically portrays the impact of residential school life on Aboriginal children.

— Myra Junyk - Betty Gelean
This is a book everyone should read.
Canadian Teacher Magazine
Without being graphic or overwhelming, the Fentons recreate a tragic moment in Canadian history through the innocent reflections of a child...a must for any classroom library.
Resource Links - Myra Junyk
This book realistically portrays the impact of residential school life on Aboriginal children.
Canadian Materials - Shelbey Krahn
This memoir, detailing a woeful piece of Canadian history and demonstrating Margaret's strength of character, compassion, courage and her willingness to sacrifice herself for her family's sake, gives the reader a lot to ponder. Highly recommended.
Professionally Speaking (Ontario College of Teache
A Stranger at Home will speak to anyone who has experienced displacement or assimilation into a new culture. This fabulous story enhances the Grades 6 to 8 social studies curriculum.
Children's Literature - Laura J. Brown
A Stranger at Home is the compelling sequel to the successful true story titled Fatty Legs. Margaret is now ten years old and after being separated from her family for two years she is excited to be returning home. It is something that she has dreamed of and waited for; but now that she has returned, the family reunion is not what she expected. The first thing that happens is that her mother refuses to believe that Margaret is who she is. She does not recognize Margaret, and neither do her siblings. Margaret is immediately shocked by the reaction of her family and has no idea what to do. Her father does recognize her and squeezes her in a warm, cozy embrace. Margaret is looking forward to the home she missed so dearly, but her family has moved near the porting village so her father can make a better living. Margaret is greatly disappointed by this, but what is more disheartening is that she has forgotten her people's language, she cannot stomach her mother's food, and she is considered by the others as an outsider instead of the Inuit girl that she is. Once again she has to struggle to fit in, but this time she is the stranger at home. Reviewer: Laura J. Brown
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—In this sequel to Fatty Legs (Annick, 2010), in which Margaret Pokiak described her first time away at a residential school, the girl now describes her assimilation back into her Native world. At 10 years old, she returned home to her remote Arctic village after being away for two years to be educated by priests and nuns. The thrill of reuniting with her beloved family was quickly muted by the realization that she had lost most of her native language and her taste for traditional food. She felt very much a stranger to those she loved most and was generally considered an outsider by everyone now because of her different clothes and her inability to speak Inuvialuktun. Barely recognizable to her siblings, unable to effectively communicate with her mother, her only bridge to this now unfamiliar world was her father, who also attended the residential schools and spoke English. While it may not have the same drama and tension of the first memoir, this tale provides a compelling and moving story of a girl searching for the strength to find her place in the world. The writing is unpretentious and accessible, and readers who enjoyed the first book will find this an interesting follow-up. Vivid paintings are a beautiful accompaniment to the storytelling. Photographs from Pokiak-Fenton's own collection add important points of reference for readers looking to visualize the characters and the unique setting of the Arctic Circle. A welcome addition to biography collections.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews
After two years in Catholic residential school, 10-year-old Olemaun returns to Tuktoyaktuk on Canada's Arctic coast, a stranger to her friends and family, unaccustomed to the food and clothing and unable to speak or understand her native language. Margaret Pokiak's story continues after the events of Fatty Legs (2010), which described her boarding-school experience. In this stand-alone sequel, she describes a year of reintegration into her Inuvialuit world. At first, her mother doesn't even recognize her: "Not my girl," she says. Amini-Holmes illustrates this scene and others with full-page paintings in somber colors. The sad faces echo the child's misery. Gradually, though, with the help of her understanding father, she readjusts--even learning to drive a dog team. She contrasts her experience with that of the man the villagers call Du-bil-ak, the devil, a dark-skinned trapper no one speaks to. She has a home she can get used to again; he would always be alien. The first-person narrative is filled with details of this Inuit family's adjustment to a new way of life in which books and reading matter as much as traditional skills. A scrapbook of photographs at the end helps readers enter this unfamiliar world, as do the occasional notes and afterword. Olemaun's spirit and determination shine through this moving memoir. (Memoir. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554513611
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 7/14/2011
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 941,285
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the author of Fatty Legs, which was named one of the 10 best children's books of 2010 by The Globe and Mail. She is currently working on several children's stories, a novel for adults and a short story collection.

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton spent her early years on Banks Island in the Arctic Ocean. She now lives in Fort St. John, British Columbia.

Liz Amini-Holmes' illustrations have appeared in children's books, magazines and newspapers. She lives near San Francisco, California.

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