Blog prompt 3 2011

Tomson Highway’s powerful Kiss of the Fur Queen is unlike anything we have read so far in our course.  Thinking about the assumptions or expectations you brought to this text as a reader, what surprised you the most about this book?  In your answer, make sure to provide specific examples and refer to what you feel to be a key passage that supports your argument.

Your response to this blog prompt is due no later than March 5.

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17 Responses to Blog prompt 3 2011

  1. Shelley says:

    The most intriguing thing for me in this novel was the figure of the Fur Queen. I assumed from the title of the book that the Fur Queen was going to be an otter (perhaps she is). It was fascinating to see that she was a creature of the sky with the ability to change shape and form as she wished. Beauty queen to Abraham, a pregnant prostitute to Jeremiah, the benefactor of tickets to the Winnipeg ballet which will change Gabriel’s life. At his death, the Fur Queen returns to a creature from the sky, kissing Gabriel softly on the cheek as his soul leaves the earth. The same way that she welcomed his father, Abraham, as he died.

  2. Steven H says:

    Honestly, the thing that surprised me the most about “Kiss of the Fur Queen” was Thomson Highway’s amazing ability to describe his characters, their interactions, and the scenery. His ability to do describe these things makes his writing extremely easy and fun to read. Additionally, it allows you to clearly envision the story he is telling. Before reading the novel, I wasn’t sure how good of a writer Thomson Highway was. After reading the novel however, I would say he is an amazing story teller and a gifted writer. One passage that really caught my eye appeared on page 192; he wrote, “Gabriel and Jeremiah sang as they leaned, one on each side, over the bow of their father’s blue canoe. Like lightning, their reflections flashed under them-the lake a perfect mirror- as the vessel sliced dark liquid. At the stern, Abraham Okimasis pushed the motor’s steering handle left, the boat veered right-waves grazed pebble-beached Awasis Point- and the fish camp leapt to view.” (192) This passage really struck me because it was written in such a perfect manner. It perfectly describes the two brother and their experience with their father, riding to Awasis Point. You can easily picture the small waves and the smooth beach without even knowing specifics. Furthermore, it is almost poetic, in the sense that the ending words in first and last sentences rhyme. This passage is just one example of Highway’s amazing writing ability and talent for story telling.

  3. Rachael says:

    Tomson Highway communicated and portrayed a sense of “Native” humor that I had heard of (he also mentions it in the audio recording we heard in class), but had not really understood before reading this novel. For whatever reason (ignorance, mostly, I assume), I expected a much more traditional account of events and emotions from the book, but was greeted and sometimes stunned by Highway’s crude humor and sometimes seemingly insensitivity that left me feeling even more traumatized by the events that he relates. In chapter 36 we meet Weesageechak once again, this time as Miss Maggie Sees. The fox with “missile-like tits, ice-blond meringue hair.” (p.231) Miss Maggie who asks “Does your bum hum when you cum?”( p.234) and hisses into Jerimiah’s ear: “Show me the bastard who come up wit this notion that who’s running the goddamn show is some grumpy, embittered, sexually frustrated old fart with a long white beard hiding like a gutless coward behind some puffed-up cloud and I’ll slice his goddamn balls off.” (p.234) So yes, this is the trickster and we might expect nothing less from it, and yet- it’s not exactly that I expected something less, but, perhaps something different. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I found this story to be beautiful in its way, and certainly compelling. I felt so awkward at times when I was reading these crude lines, I wanted to recoil a bit and cringe. And I realized how this is a point that Highway is trying to make in the first place—that I could feel my repressed, puritanical, absolute blatant “whiteness” resisting this “native humor” that is so prevalent, natural, and easy for him to express.

  4. Jeff S says:

    I anticipated a much more traditional First Nations focus when I first approached this novel, something more similar to Ravensong in imagery and spiritual focus. This, of course, represents the problematic approach of assumptive views towards contemporary First Nations literature, and resembles in some ways the expectation of “Indianness” presented in The Truth About Stories. I was surprised to find that novel was centered more on the struggles of the two brothers to grapple with changing First Nations society, and in large part a rejection of the traditional life in their village. Of course, an immense portion of this rejection comes from the resentment of Christianity and deviance from traditional values, which creates a very interesting effect: the brothers often resent their First Nations heritage, and choose the city over the village, yet this choice stems (in great part) from the Christianity that has corrupted their First Nations heritage. This creates the lack of belonging central to the story, which is not what I expected, especially after reading the beginning which takes place solely in the village. This displacing dichotomy is echoed throughout the novel, in events, characters, writing style, and even the use of names. One of the best illustrative examples, I think, is the scene where the brothers go to the mall to shop for high school clothes. Jeremiah tells Gabriel what to wear to fit in with the white boys, their ultimate goal in shunning their heritage, yet they find themselves understanding the mall through the story of the Weesageechak killing the Weetigo. Highway uses their Christian names here, but frequently adds in the First Nations last name Okimasis, and even refers to them as “the brothers Okimasis” right before the longest description of the Weesageechak. This unusual playing with names shows the brothers’ undefined location between cultures.

  5. Kaleigh Mulpeter says:

    Throughout the novel Kiss of the Fur Queen, by Tomson Highway, many events struck me as particularly surprising and disturbing. Although I am aware of the troubling instances of abuse that have taken place in Native American residential schools, it makes it all the more horrifying to hear a first-hand account.
    I found one of the first sightings of abuse particularly offensive. Jeremiah witnesses his younger brother being mistreated:
    As [Jeremiah] stood half-asleep, he thought he could hear the smacking of lips, mastication. Thinking he might still be tucked in his bed dreaming, he blinked, opened his eyes as wide as they would go. He wanted-needed-to see more clearly. The bedspread was pulsating, rippling from the centre. No, Jeremiah wailed to himself, please. (Page 79)
    Having a younger sister myself, I feel particularly uncomfortable during this scene. I can easily imagine the sensation of horror that Jeremiah must have felt seeing his brother molested and being unable to do anything about it. Also, the fact that Jeremiah had also received this brutality gives the reader the notion of the prevalence of molestation and its cyclical nature within the residential schools.
    Another facet within the book, that was not necessarily shocking but important nonetheless, is the changing dynamic of Gabriel and Jeremiah-Champion’s relationship. The brothers start off with a very close friendship, sharing all of their time, playing and learning. “ ‘Your arms aren’t high enough!’ Champion yelled. His concentration broken, Gabriel toppled over with a little yelp. ‘Higher. Higher. And you should bend your wrists. Like this. Antlers are crooked,’ said Champion as he marched around the prostrate beginner” (Page 41). We see the later lack of camaraderie as the boys reach adolescence and are confronted with more complex issues:
    Gabriel landed with the whole of his weight. HE would gouge out his brother’s eyes. Where was a knife, a screwdriver, a pencil? Fine, he would use his naked fingers. “And you,” between pummels, he spat, “how can you still listen tot heir sick propaganda? After what they did to us?” With his last drop of rage, Jeremiah pulled Gabriel’s neck to breaking point, then hissed into his ear: “Is big, eh? Is big.” “Noooooo!” Gabriel smashed his elbow into Jeremiah’s face. “I. Am gonna break your arm. You will never, ever play another not eon that fucking piano. (Page 208)
    The events of Gabriel and Jeremiah’s youths have effected them in different ways, creating a void of disagreement between the two of them which adds to the tragedy of the events that occurred within the Native American residential homes.

  6. C.J. Frisina says:

    I found Kiss of the Fur Queen to be interesting and different mainly in terms of the First Nations perspective on white people. Throughout the book there are constant references to how the whites and their religion have ‘saved’ the native people from their perspective. This is evident when Abraham tells Gabriel that Catholicism ‘saved’ the Cree from damnation and that they should be grateful for it. Additionally, Mariesis tells Gabriel that Jeremiah ‘better be receiving Holy Communion’ every Sunday in church. Even though the children are skeptical, adults seem to have been brainwashed by organized religion and choose to ignore the societal oppression that they receive. At some points, such as when Jeremiah and Gabriel united in Winnipeg, they seem eager to integrate and dress themselves as whites do in the city, even enjoying stripping themselves of their native culture in order to conform. I find this interesting because it is typical for novels to place somewhat of an emphasis on native recognition of oppression such as in Ravensong. In Kiss of the Fur Queen, the Cree seem fairly obedient, to an extent that it is more than just passively, particularly considering their zeal for Catholicism. Furthermore, I found this book interesting because it gives a lot of incite as to how unaware older native generations were of the abuse that occurred in residential schools, particularly with incidents of molestation such as those experienced by Gabriel. Back in their home in Northern Manitoba, families hold the church in high regard, particularly the need for residential schooling and sending their children away. I think Thomson Highway has done a remarkable job of displaying the brainwashed First Nations perspective of the white world, where the ‘white way’ is seen as superior to theirs after decades of cultural oppression.

  7. Andrew C. says:

    I though I was going to be unable to provide specific examples to the novel as I do not have the novel with me here on break. Although after reading through some of the other posts I noticed that the passage that really surprised me, after I completed the novel, was already mentioned by Chelsea. “Gradually, Father Lafleur bent, closer and closer, until the crucifix that dangled from his neck came to rest on Gabriel’s face. The subtly throbbing motion of the priest’s upper body made the naked Jesus Christ – this sliver of silver light, this fleshly Son of God so achingly beautiful – rub his body against the child’s lips, over and over again. Gabriel had no strength left. The pleasure in his center welled so deep that he was about to open his mouth and swallow whole the living flesh – in his half-dream state, this man nailed to the cross was a living, breathing man, tasting like Gabriel’s most favorite food, warm honey…” (78-79). I knew that the novel was about the residential school system and that the Catholic priests were said to have sexually abused their students, but I did not believe that Tomson Highway would have gone until as much detail as he did. I appreciate his subtlety as well as his attention to detail (possibly an oxymoron). For instance, Highway creates a great perspective on the issues that students at these residential schools had to face, and the affect it has on their entire life. Gabriel was effected by this moment for the rest of his life, it even led to his death, to a certain extent. This is the most surprising thing about the novel. Highway tells the reader every detail they need to know, and despite his descriptiveness, tells the reader in a way that is cryptic. By being so cryptic he allows the reader to experience what Gabriel must have been thinking. For Gabriel, this event must have been incredibly confusing, as he was still young at this time. Highway describes the event in a manner that is both cryptic and descriptive which it is incredibly well done. Kiss of the Fur Queen was an amazing novel and I have already recommended it to many of my teachers who enjoy Canadian literature. Highway tells the story in a way that makes sense to both the reader, as well as the characters, whilst being both attentive to details and cryptic.

  8. Elizabeth C says:

    I don’t know what I found surprising about Highway’s novel. I found many of the topics disturbing and difficult to face. To be honest, the language of Mariesis surprised me more than anything else. It sounded unbecoming to hear such language coming from a mother. I fully understand Highway’s premise that English is an intellectual language much different from Cree, which finds humor in things that come across as crass in English. So it was a constant shock to hear Mariesis, whom I was very affectionate towards, swear strongly.

    This may seem like a little thing in the face of so many serious issues which the book brings to light. The stories of the residential schools, the abuse of women throughout the book, and the story of AIDs were disturbing, but not surprising to me. I was aware of them prior to reading this book, and I think that I would like to focus on the little thing that did surprise me, which was the way Mariesis talked – or, more specifically, on language and culture.

    I know that language, and the differences between English and Cree in particular, were very important to Highway as he wrote this novel. I think in this book, Highway shows how language itself embodies the perspective of a people towards life, and also conversely, shapes it. The Okimasis brothers approach the English-speaking world with a Cree perspective. Highway is quoted as saying in the article, The universe of Tomson Highway, “the humour, the workings of the spirit world, the fact that Cree has no gender, the concept of god as two-spirited [both male and female] – everything is so difficult to explain in English. And the business of [circular] time doesn’t translate.” These concepts that don’t translate are exactly the concepts which shape the way the Okimasis brothers understand the world. But they, the Okimasis brothers, enter into a part of the world where things are thought about very differently. As Highway mentions, linear time, concepts of gender, the idea of a certain hierarchy in existence are all ideas which the Okimasis brothers will have to confront and find a way to understand. This conflict which the brothers found themselves in caused me reflect on how I would approach reconciling these differences. I heard once in an interview with a Nobel laureate that the world is only ever described, it can never be known, and just as there are different mediums through which artists portray art (clay, pencil, oils, pastels) so there are different mediums which we use to describe the world. This relates to the story of the Cree and the English cultures – the story of the Okimasis brothers. We have grown up learning to describe (and explain) the world using different mediums. But it is the same world. I find comfort in this. The language which Highway gives to Marieses surprised me, not a big deal relative to other topics I could have chosen. But it is indicative of the greater topic of cultural differences, cultural misunderstandings, and the necessity to find a way to connect to other people’s experiences.

  9. Katie C. says:

    Something that most surprised me about Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen was how against his own heritage Jeremiah is. He is just so un-accepting and against his roots that I found myself getting angry with him at points. I can understand how, having such a hold over the community, against Christianity and the church he is but he never shows it. One scene was when he and Gabriel were on their way to church and Gabe does not want to go. Jeremiah handles the situation by saying, “We promised Mom and Dad” and Gabe responds, “No, YOU promised.” He lied to his brother telling him that he made a promise and this acceptance and welcoming of the Church into his life is very surprising considering what him and his brother experienced at their time in the residential schools.

    Another scene is when Jeremiah shows up accidentally to the Pow Wow that Amanda has invited him to. He is appalled at how they are acting and shows no sense of understanding that he is a part of this culture. One thing that consistently surprised me throughout this book was that Jeremiah never even had any want to learn about his culture, he just denied that he had any. As strong of a person he is and as sure of a himself as he is I would think that he would want to show the world how good Natives can be and through how powerful and a part of the community that he is. At the bars he always sees Natives drunk and messy and wants to forget that he’s one of them but I would think he should want to show them who he is and what type of person he is so they have someone to look up to and a model to follow. He should be proud of who he is and show the white community that he is Native and that they are not all how those drunks make them seem to be. Jeremiah’s lack of heritage and his acceptance of the Church and Christianity was definitely the most surprising thing to me throughout this novel.

  10. Susan T. says:

    The thing that surprised me the most was how vivid and disturbing certain scenes were; specifically the scene when Jeremiah is getting his head shaved, and the other when the Father Lafleur was sexually abusing Gabriel at the Residential School.

    After reading this scene I couldn’t help but cringe and feel sorry for Jeremiah. All I wanted to do was help him. I felt as if I could sense and feel his pain myself. Just reading “Clip, clip, clip. Champion could feel his hair falling, like snowflakes, but flakes of human skin. He was being skinned alive, in public; the centre of his nakedness shrivelled to the size and texture of a raisin, the whole world staring, pointing, laughing.” (53) Just the words”…being skinned alive…” were powerful words that exhibited his emotions very well.

    After reading the scene about Father Lafleur sexually abusing Gabriel, I was a whole bundle of different emotions. I was angry, disgusted, sad, etc. I was angry that no one knew that this was going on (or did they and they were just too scared to say anything?), I was disgusted at the fact that this actually happened and at Father Lafleur himself, and lastly I was sad because of the hurt it caused. There is one particular part that stood out to me the most: “The priest’s left arm held him gently by his right, his right arm buried under Gabriel’s bedspread, under his blanket, under his sheet, under his pyjama bottoms. And the hand was jumping up , reaching for him, pulling him back down, jumping up reaching for him, pulling him back down” (78) This just stood out the most because of how detailed it is, and how it describes how it happens over and over again with the repetition of actions.

    Overall, I thought that this book was very different from the previous two that we read. Although it was disturbing, emotional, and hard to read at times; it was a very interesting novel, with a lot of insight.

  11. Xinh Xinh N. says:

    Unlike the other books we have read so far, Kiss of the fur Queen is so different. The other books we have read, they are toward the Native people’ lives and their perspective on the white people, and they did not show how the Natives adapted to the white community. However, in the Kiss of the Fur Queen, the audiences can see how the main characters- Jeremiah and Gabriel adapted to the white community and how successful they were in the white society. In fact, this book gives a mix of positive and negative views of how influential the white people were after they disturbed the Natives’ lives. In the early chapters, the presence of Christianity in the community seemed significant to the novel. Even though there were people who did not like the idea that they are dominated by the church, but there were people who absolutely obeyed the orders that the church commanded. For example, in the baptismal scene, Annie Moostoos kept insisting his nephew’s name was Ooneemeetoo Okimasis, not Satenae Okimasis. However, she was overruled by the priest when he said, “women are not to speak their minds inside the church” (p 37). The priest ignored Annie’s opinion about her nephew’s name and he told her that women are not allowed to speak in the church. Even though there was disagreement, Annie could not do anything else; and at the end, the baby was given the name- Gabriel by the priest. On the other hand, Abraham Okimasis seemed to do what the priest asked him to do. When it was time for Champion (Jeremiah) to go to the residential school, his wife asked whether he really had to go, and Abraham simply replied that Champion must go, since it was what the priest wanted. Abraham should at least express some opinion or concern, but he did not do anything.

    The presidential school scenes were also significant because they showed what Champion and Gabriel have been through. Champion had to change his name to Jeremiah and their hair was cut short. Also, they were sexually abused by one of the priests at school. They had to keep silent because no one would believe them if they told what happened. Despite the horrible experience at the presidential school, Jeremiah still decided to stay in the white community for school, unlike others kids who went home after their schooling was over. Jeremiah stayed in the white community because of his interest in music. Even though, he was lonely, he endured his loneliness by practicing, “he thanked God that he had learned his father’s lesson on solitude: how time alone could be spent without need for crying, that time alone was time for shaping thoughts that make the path your life should take, for cleaning your spirit of extraneous- even poisonous- matter” (p103). This quote is powerful because for Jeremiah, being lonely is not a bad thing; in fact, it is a good thing for him because he could concentrate on practicing and reflected his thoughts. When Jeremiah thanked God, I wondered if he was really meant it or it was just a saying?

    Gabriel’s reaction to the mall was interesting because from the description, he could not hide his impression on the mall and what was surrounding him. Gabriel compared the mall size to his hometown, all the clothing and the food. For Gabriel, it seemed like there were a lot more that life offered, and he enjoyed it. Unlike Jeremiah, Gabriel could not hide his disappointment and his loneliness. He did not feel fit in when he was at school, and he did not want to be like Jeremiah, be with the piano all day long. Therefore, he went out and experience life. He drank even though he was underage. At the end, Gabriel got to experience life more than Jeremiah.

    Even though Jeremiah and Gabriel sometimes argued, their relationship did not change. They were always there and supported each other. The ending part, when Gabriel was about to die, it was so touching, Jeremiah was there with him, against his mother’s wish, Gabriel avoided to see the priest. For me, it seemed like, Gabriel wanted to peacefully die. He did not want to see the priest because he did want to be reminded of terrible things that he went through at the residential school. His desire is always haunted by memories of the abuse he suffered.

  12. Ali V. says:

    For me, the most surprising part of Kiss of the Fur Queen was the extreme faith that Gabriel and Jeremiah’s parents placed in the Catholic Church and the residential school. Before reading this text, I was under the impression that the native families were very against the Catholic Church’s intrusion in their lives and that they did not support the residential schools. However, after reading this book, my perspective on this definitely changed. While I recognize that there was probably a great presence of anger and resentment towards the interference that the Catholic Church forced upon the native people, I noticed in this particular story that Abraham and Mariesis embraced this presence and influence of the church. Although there were moments in which other families showed resentment towards the power of the Catholic Church, Abraham and Mariesis were always reminding their children of how important the church is in their lives and that they should take everything they could out of their residential school experience. This presents a great amount of irony throughout the story because Abraham and Mariesis show full support for all of the practices of the church and they tend to abandon many of their own native beliefs as a result. Meanwhile, the church that Abraham and Mariesis are placing so much faith in contains members, such as the priest at the residential school, who are participating in practices opposite of what the church as a whole preaches towards. This blind faith in the Catholic Church is made evident throughout this text because Abraham and Mariesis are constantly reminding their children to pray and go to church and participate in all of the other such practices that will help them to be “good Catholics”. This definitely surprised me because I was under the impression before reading this book that the native peoples were not in support of the Catholic Church at all. However, after reading about the perspectives of Abraham and Mariesis in regards to the church, I began to realize that this was not always the case.
    One section of the book that really brought about this realization was the scene that detailed when Abraham was dying. It is at this time that Gabriel and Jeremiah wanted to officially tell their father about the horrible occurrences of the residential school so that their father would not die praying to such a corrupt system. However, before they had a chance to do so, the priest entered the room and they saw the connection that their father clearly had with this man. It was appalling to me that these boys had to suffer with the grievance that was caused from their years at the residential schools in silence because their parents still had so much faith in everything that the church represented. It is this scene that really emphasized the split view that the children and their parents had of the Catholic Church due to their drastically different experiences.

  13. Joe A. says:

    I think what surprised me most about Kiss of the Fur Queen was its moral ambivalence. What I mean by moral ambivalence is that there are no clear rights and wrongs in the novel. In Ravensong, I feel there were clear binaries and good guys and bad guys. For example, there was a clear divide between white town and the village and it was clear which side the narrator sided with, morally. Neither Stacy nor her family committed any real wrongs, the Indians were the good guys, the white man was the bad guy. In Kiss of the Fur Queen, the story seemed to unfold without moral judgements from the narrator. All of the characters hurt other people, had serious flaws, made mistakes. But no one side is to blame in this novel. Yes, the Residential schools were atrocious, but it is the Indians’ own parents that force them to go and who force Christianity on the boys. Yes, the white man’s world is degrading in many ways for the boys, but it is also a world they embrace and grow within. Yes, the Indian village is beautiful and idillic, but it is also violent and corrupted and the novel does not seem to blame the white man for this per se. Yes, Jeremiah is our hero in a way and he does save his brother, but he also hurts his brother deeply and is an alcoholic. Yes, Gabriel is a hero for us as well, but he cheats on his partner and hurts his family in different ways. Yes, the boys’ father is the champion of the world, but he fails to save his children from the evils of Residential school and fails to even build trust between the boys and himself (they will not tell him about the abuses they endure). After reading Ravensong, I expected Fur Queen to do more of the same blame game, which is quite easy in Native literature because there were such atrocities committed toward Indians and there were clear good guys and bad guys. But I found this novel much more interesting because it takes a more inquisitive and three dimensional look at these issues. It seems less concerned with figuring out what was right and what was wrong and focuses instead on what it was like to be there, what the experience meant to those involved, and how their lives were shaped.

  14. cwcollie says:

    Of the three books we have read thus far, Kiss of the Fur Queen was the most disturbing and most vivid in terms of imagery. Although some of the themes within the story we had seen before in Ravensong and The Truth About Stories, Highway’s book went above and beyond. I found Highway to be extremely honest, at times shockingly so because of the disturbing material he was discussing. Highway’s novel reminded me (in some aspects) to Ravensong. They both had a lot of terrific imagery and also used similar strategies in terms of what the characters were thinking (consciously or unconsciously). These thoughts were displayed very uniquely as they seemed to take place in a dreamlike state, a conscious state, and then a mix of the two. Due to the fact that this novel is partially autobiographical, I thought this strategy worked very well as past memories and unconscious thought were tied in with Highway’s adult, conscious thoughts. It is no wonder why the author described writing this story as a type of therapy, perhaps making sense of his childhood with a distant and more developed perspective.

    The aspect of the story that truly surprised me was everything that had to do with the sexual abuse experienced by Gabriel and Jeremiah. Having been a young boy when countless Catholic sex scandals were surfacing (even in my own diocese), hearing a first hand account of experiencing this awful situation was shocking. The way the priests went about essentially stripping these boys of everything they had known (eventually making them grasp onto a new way of life) sounded like something out of a horror story. The after effects of the sexual abuse, in terms of the two brothers, was very surprising and to be honest really strange. While Jeremiah took a very long time to sort of deal with his abuse and try to move on from it (if that’s even possible), it seemed Gabriel had a very easy – almost too easy – time dealing with his abuse. He was able to build a life for himself relatively quickly and was happy. Is it possible that a kid could take some type of pleasure from abuse such as this? “The pleasure in his center welled so deep…tasting like Gabriel’s most favorite food, warm honey.” Perhaps since he was stripped of everything else, he was welcoming to any type of relationship in his life. In any case, I simply have never heard of a child’s reaction to abuse being anything close to Gabriel.

  15. Anne H. says:

    What surprised me the most about this novel was not the sexual abuse and disturbing portrayals of child molestation by Catholic Priests or young white men raping and murdering First Nations women. This is not to say that I was not horrified and didn’t lose sleep over these accounts, because I did, but more to say that I was not surprised. In my education I have found there are horrible, sick people who do terrible evil things for reasons I may never understand. Through these horrors there are always good people who stand up for you and help the victims of such crimes. What surprised me the most about Kiss of the Fur Queen was Jeremiah’s absolute intolerance and complete disdain of his brother Gabriel’s homosexuality. AIDS was not yet common knowledge and Jeremiah could not blame his hatred on Gabriel’s lack of protection and getting sick–how could Gabriel have known? Jeremiah is repulsed by Gabriel because of the sexual abuse that occurred when they were sent away to school. I was surprised at Jeremiahs lack of support for his brother with whom he was so incredibly close and admired fully. I thought that Jeremiah would be able to understand that just because he was sexually abused by a man does not mean that being gay is wrong and sick. Had Gabriel been sexually abused by a woman in his young age, and then been a heterosexual man, I’m sure Jeremiah would not have disapproved. By roping all gay men together Jeremiah is being a hypocrite in the way people rope all Indians together. It’s not as if Gabriel enters into a sexual relationship or spiritual relationship with a Catholic priest, or Catholicism in general. He refuses these beliefs and in this way rejects the foul injustices he experienced. Gabriel being gay is no acceptance of sexual child abuse by Catholic Priests and I was surprised that Jeremiah couldn’t see the difference between the two by supporting his brother.
    Some people begin to verbally assault Gabriel about him being gay. “‘So, a lanky punk drawled…’where’s your pantyhose, Flossy?’ Gabriel looked to Jeremiah: weechee-in. But though the pall had lifted from Jeremiah’s eyes the dryness in his throat had thickened, the perfect alibi. For how else would he face the truth: that he was embarrassed to be caught in cahoots with a pervert, a man who fucked other men? On an Indian reserve, a Catholic reserve? He reached into the box, grabbed two bottles and walked into the night” (250-1). Gabriel looks to his brother for help, but does not receive. That surprised me more than anything!

  16. Lauren K. says:

    I think what surprised me most about the book was the recurring sexual abuse from the priest. I have never really been exposed to the life at the residential schools and it horrified me to hear what had been going on at some of them. That scene basically took me by surprise because I did not think that was going to happen. After that it was hard for me to even think of the residential schools as a good thing at all, especially after even thing else they took from the children that went there. I thought Tomson Highway did a good job in his writing in showing how that incident never left Gabriel in all of his life. Every time he had some other sexual experience with a man the image of that scene was brought up by the taste of honey. This kind of incident is not something that can be easily forgotten. For Gabriel this would affect his entire view of the Catholic Church. He didn’t see the point of praying and going to church. He didn’t trust the church. He went to residential school with the thought of being able to trust the people there and his trust was betrayed. Even on his dying bed, he refuses his last rites from a priest. After the residential school, he didn’t want anything to do with the Catholic religion or the Church. Who can blame him after what he was put through?

  17. Chelsea G. says:

    The thing that surprised me the most about Kiss of the Fur Queen was the way the sexual abuse was described. I am not sure what I expected, but I did not expect a description that included Gabriel feeling pleasure while he was being abused, “Gradually, Father Lafleur bent, closer and closer, until the crucifix that dangled from his neck came to rest on Gabriel’s face. The subtly throbbing motion of the priest’s upper body made the naked Jesus Christ – this sliver of silver light, this fleshly Son of God so achingly beautiful – rub his body against the child’s lips, over and over again. Gabriel had no strength left. The pleasure in his center welled so deep that he was about to open his mouth and swallow whole the living flesh – in his half-dream state, this man nailed to the cross was a living, breathing man, tasting like Gabriel’s most favorite food, warm honey…” (78-79). This is unlike any description of abuse I have ever read. It is not simply used to shock the reader, though, it is the beginning of Gabriel’s complex relationship to sex. Throughout the novel, Gabriel’s sexual desire is described as “warm honey.” With these two words, Highway refers back to this description of Gabriel’s abuse, reminding the reader of the terrible things Gabriel went through at the residential school. For Gabriel, desire is always haunted by memories of the abuse he suffered.

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