Tilly has always known she’s part Lakota on her dad’s side. She’s grown up with the traditional teachings of her grandma, relishing the life lessons of her beloved mentor. But it isn’t until an angry man shouts something on the street that Tilly realizes her mom is Aboriginal, too—a Cree woman taken from her own parents as a baby.
Tilly feels her mother’s pain deeply. She’s always had trouble fitting in at school, and when her grandma dies unexpectedly, her anchor is gone. Then Abby, a grade seven classmate, invites her home for lunch and offers her “something special” to drink. Nothing has prepared Tilly for the tingling in her legs, the buzz in her head and the awesome feeling that she can do anything. From then on, partying seems to offer an escape from her insecurities. But after one dangerously drunken evening, Tilly knows she has to change. Summoning her courage, she begins the long journey to finding pride in herself and her heritage. Just when she needs it most, a mysterious stranger offers some wise counsel: “Never question who you are or who your people are. It’s in your eyes. I know it’s in your heart.”
Loosely based on author Monique Gray Smith’s own life, this revealing, important work of creative non-fiction tells the story of a young Indigenous woman coming of age in Canada in the 1980s. With compassion, insight and humour, Gray Smith illuminates the 20th-century history of Canada’s First Peoples—forced displacement, residential schools, tuberculosis hospitals, the Sixties Scoop. In a spirit of hope, this unique story captures the irrepressible resilience of Tilly, and of Indigenous peoples everywhere.
CREATIVE NON-FICTION • Ages 14+ • 190 pp • 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN 978-1-55039-209-8 • paper • $19.95
Watch a video of Monique Gray Smith speaking about Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience
Winner of the 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature
“What a gorgeous read! Reminiscent of Lee Maracle’s Will’s Garden and Ruby Slipperjack’s Little Voice, Tilly will bring strength, comfort and peace to all who read it. Let it discover and inspire you, too. Wow! I’ve been waiting for a book like this for years. Mahsi cho, Monique Gray Smith, for digging so deep to create something so loving and nurturing for the world.”—Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed and The Moon of Letting Go
“Gray Smith intricately pieces together stories, traditional teachings and hard-earned personal wisdom, creating a hand-stitched quilt you can’t help but wrap yourself in—a quilt filled with optimism and the assurance that no matter how lost we are, hope, love and guidance surround us at every turn. Delicate with the handling of mature details, but fiercely candid with emotion, Tilly is an ideal resource not only for youth, but also for those who are easily triggered, while its universality will be appreciated by a wider audience. A brave new voice ready to take her place among the great contemporary storytellers, Gray Smith breaks her own trails as she explores what it means to be Indigenous in a modern world.”—Christy Jordan-Fenton, author of Fatty Legs, A Stranger at Home and When I Was Eight
“Thank you SO much Monique Gray Smith for this inspiring, tender, and very real book!! It has truly influenced me. I bought five copies and sent to some dear friends who are now benefiting from a story of hope and resilience. Your writing is a gift! Canadians are fortunate to have you as one of our story-tellers.”— Anne Marie Hogya