A story about identity

What does a cougar cub do when he finds himself to be the only cougar in the forest?

That is the dilemma facing Ajig, the main character in a new illustrated children’s book by Michael Isaac entitled How the Cougar Came To Be Called The Ghost Cat.

Isaac, originally from Listuguj First Nation and now teaching at the elementary level for the Victoria School Board on Cape Breton Island, wrote the book based on how he felt when attending school and having assimilation to another culture forced upon him. It is written in both English and Mi’gmaw. It is illstrated by artist Dozay (Arlene) Christmas, originally of Tobique First Nation and now of Membertou First Nation near Sydney.

In the book, Ajig is told by Raven that the other animals are afraid of him and that to fit it, he has to stop acting like a cougar. But Ajig gets lonely, being the only cougar, so Raven tells him how to get to the forest where other cougars live. Ajig soon finds he doesn’t really fit into either world now. That is when he decides to become the Ghost Cat.

“We need more texts that are culturally relevant to our students-stories that they can relate to and assist in their continued development of both the English and Mi’gmaw languages,” said Isaac in a press release.

In the book itself, Isaac offers a further explanation in a section called About the Story.

“Living in two worlds has a price. Often that price is the soul and the feeling of never completely fitting in. The desire to be welcomed and respected for our differences is the wish of all human beings.”

Although the book reflects Isaac’s experience of assimilation at school, that theme of the book is universal and speaks to every child who finds himself or herself marginalized or forced to change who they are in order to conform to a societal norm. How the Cougar Came To Be Called The Ghost Cat is published by Roseway Publishing and available at bookstores throughout the Maritimes or from the publisher’s website at http://fernwoodpublishing.ca/roseway at a cost of $12.95 plus shipping. It is also available through Chapters.ca. A video about the book can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/IsaacBook

–By Tim Jacques, Campbellton Tribune, Dec. 3, 2010

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