The truth and bright water
Monroe Swimmer, of all the characters in Truth and Bright Water, performs Indianness most deliberately. As a trickster-figure, he cheerfully inserts Indian scenes into paintings with no clear cultural connection to them: “there was an Indian village on the lake, slowly coming up through the layers of paint” (King 138). He disguises his own agency in the action of telling, like showing a magic trick to a child, though given the book’s other instances of magical realism it is just as possible that he may really have been witness to a spontaneous resurrection. He also, in his travels, collects bones of “Indian children” (King 265) to bring them to Truth, “the centre of the universe” (265). Whatever nation they belonged to in life, Monroe inters them in Blackfoot country. Their bones go in the river, and their likenesses go into natural scenes because the hyper-Indian is nature personified, man in the state of nature. The title of this book fascinates me. Here’s why: I’m reading the book in honor of April being National Dog Month (indeed there is a dog named Soldier in the book), yet the story is about two coming-of-age Native boys. The title comes from the geography. Truth is an American town on one side of a river and Bright Water is a reserve on the Canadian side of the same river. Truth and Bright Water are sister cities, or tiny towns to be exact. Truth & Bright Water is more about a Native teenage boy named Tecumseh than it is about the small towns of Truth and Bright Water which he calls home. Tecumseh is fifteen and life for him consists of keeping peace with his separated parents, keeping his abused cousin company, learning how to drive, trying to find a job, understanding what it means to be Indian during tourist season, unraveling the mysteries surrounding his aunt, and finding things like a baby’s skull with his dog, Soldier. While Tecumseh is an average kid his community is anything but. Truth & Bright Water opens...
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