Surviving the City

Category: Book
Illustrated By: Donovan, Natasha
By (author): Spillett, Tasha
Series: The Debwe
Subject:  YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General
  YOUNG ADULT FICTION / People & Places / Aboriginal & Indigenous
Awards: <DIV>Chosen for the 49th Shelf recommended reading list, The BFF List. A list for new books for teens and young readers about the challenges and rewards of friendship. And yes, the drama too, which always makes for good reading.</DIV> (2019) 07
Publisher: Portage & Main Press
Published: March 2019
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 56
Size: 10.00in x 6.50in x 0.15in
List Price:
$ 21.95
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$ 19.95
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*Tasha Spillett's graphic novel debut, Surviving the City, is a story about womanhood, friendship, colonialism, and the anguish of a missing loved one. Miikwan and Dez are best friends. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up in an urban landscape- they're so close, they even completed their Berry Fast together. However, when Dez's grandmother becomes too sick, Dez is told she can't stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can't bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez's community find her before it's too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don't?
From The Publisher*Miikwan (Anishinaabe) and Dez (Inninew) are best friends. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up Indigenous in the city-they're so close, they even completed their Berry Fast together. When Dez's grandmother becomes too sick, Dez can't stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can't bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez's community find her before it's too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don't?
Review Quote*"Centering the strong hearts of Indigenous women and girls and shattering racist assumptions, Surviving the City is a beautiful, uncompromising honour song to those of us that not only survive the urban, but navigate through it with the courage of our Ancestors."  - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost 
Review Quote*

This is the most impactful, moving graphic novel I have ever read. The illustrations were breathtaking and haunting, and absolutely LAYERED. So, so much depth and complexity and heart to this story.

This story matters.

It was beautiful to see Anishinaabe and Inninew rep (and language rep!) on page. I teared up the first time I saw "kokum" on page. Just. I don't even know where to begin. This book dives deep into inter-generational trauma and the way our past and our families and their wounds haunt us. I could go on about both of those books for days, but I just want to say this: this will be a re-read, re-read, re-read. Native kids deserve to see themselves represented in a story like this. I'm so very grateful.

Review Quote*

Tasha Spillett writes with the kind of raw voice that Indigenous girls deserve to hear. Surviving the City takes the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit, and she brings that to life in a story that doesn't just focus on MMIWG2S.

I think what I really admire about Surviving the City is that Spillett is able to tell the story of two girls, Miikwan (Anishinaabe) and Dez (Inninew), just being girls while living in a world that just can't handle Indigenous girls getting to enjoy their lives and their culture. Miikwan and Dez are living their lives, while also dealing with a sick grandmother, a missing mother, and the looming fear of not being allowed to live at home due to government interference. Miikwan and Dez are trying to do the things they love, while also having to deal with the racist misogyny that all Indigenous women have to face. 

Surviving the City is a painful read, but it's also incredibly uplifting and touching at times. I think this is why it struck me the way it did. I never felt like Miikwan and Dez were the vehicles for a story they were barely a part of. They were incredible characters who felt like the real people who deal with these issues, largely in part because the story isn't just about their issues. It is also about their love for each other and their families and their cultures.

The art here is absolutely lovely, and it did a lot to make this story feel more real to me. The background scenery is lovely, but I especially love the design of Miikwan and Dez.

I definitely recommend this one. The story highlights real issues that everyone should know about, without entirely being about those issues. This is evocative and touching. The extra information included at the end is vital for anyone looking for the stats that lead to the creation of stories like this one. I'll be watching out for more work from both Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan in the future.

Review Quote*According to the RCMP, ten percent of women in Canada who have been missing for at least 30 days are Indigenous. Indigenous women are five times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. So, this graphic novel, about two Indigenous girls, who live in the city, is very sad, and very true. Surviving in the city is hard when you are a target. I love how the spirits of the dead hang around the Indigenous peoples, but the white people have an alien spirit that hangs around them. Very to the point. This is not an easy story to read. But it is also true that this is still happening, right now, and far too many girls and women have been lost to not make a point that we have to care for each other.

And the resource center, mentioned in the book Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. is real (, so this is also a good source for girls and women reading this to know there is a safe space for them. There is so much going on, that is background for this story, but anyone can read this, and know what is happening, and be aware. Highly recommended for school, libraries and personal libraries. Thanks to Netgalley and Highwater Press for making this book available for an honest review.
Review Quote*Whoa! Talk about raising awareness! This reminds me of why I truly love to read, why I became a Librarian, books like this. Not just to be entertained, but to learn, then to put this book in the hands of others! God, I cannot wait until this is published, this is the kind of book you go hunting for when it's a day late! Is March 15th a hard date or can we get this out there sooner?!?!?! Excellent work, we need more from Spillett!
Review Quote*A startling, timely, and beautifully illustrated account of the plight of indigenous girls, women, and two-children in Canada. Not to be missed.
Review Quote*I'm smarter than I was 1/2 hour ago. Before I read this ARC of Surviving the City, I had no idea about the plight of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. This will be going in our middle school library upon release. In addition to a beautiful, important story, the illustrations of ancestors, spirits, and even evil highlight the importance of the culture and how in tune this population remains. There are many lessons to gain reading these 58 pages. I can't wait for students to learn them.
Review Quote*This is an important book that should be read by everyone. Missing indigenous women and girls is a huge problem within both Canada and the United States. And it doesn't get the attention it deserves. Everyone should be concerned about this and helping to make this come to an end. No more!