Only Young: A novel & critical introduction

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University of New Brunswick


My novel, Only Young, and its accompanying critical introduction explore specific lived realities and difficult circumstances surrounding Newfoundland’s ongoing struggle with Indigeneity and identity in the wake of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation enrolment process. Only Young is named after a well-known colloquial Newfoundland phrase describing a lack of maturity or experience. This creative thesis is a coming-of-age story that portrays the complexities of Indigenous identity in Newfoundland from the perspective of a young Two-Spirit character, Sarah, whose story resembles my own. Only Young’s primary narrative takes place partly in Newfoundland and partly in Ontario and is set in 2011, when Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band was recognized by the federal government. The novel also flashes back to Mi’kmaq characters living at the time of Newfoundland’s 1949 Confederation with Canada. The dissertation examines these events and the narratives surrounding them primarily via Sarah’s exploration of both the colonial constructions of identity, and her larger family’s relationship to her ancestral lands and body. Despite hesitations, Sarah goes on a road trip from Ontario to western Newfoundland with her estranged father Charlie to his small Mi’kmaq community where he attempts to make amends. The road trip ends abruptly during a fatal snowstorm and an encounter with a moose. The novel portrays some of the implications of newfound identity on individuals who have sought band membership since 2011. Through Only Young, I examine how colonialism continues to fracture the identity of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq peoples and perpetuate trauma, creating a sense of estrangement or unbelonging through government-dictated criteria and selection processes for band members. My story is complicated by the fact that the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, the traditional government of the Mi’kmaq people across Canada, has also refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and its members. Prefaced by a sixty-page critical introduction that surveys recent Indigenous work on identity formation, trauma and healing, my novel examines the theoretical and fictional implications of being part of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq tribe, regardless of band status.