Set in northwestern Ontario in the 1960s, Silent Words tells the story of a young Native boy and his journey of self-discovery. Danny's life is a daily struggle for survival. He runs away from his violent and abusive home and, on his own, finds his way through a series of Native communities along the CN mainline. Various people take the boy in for a time, including a family with other children, an elderly couple, a boy and his father, a young bachelor, and a wise old man. Through his travels and encounters, Danny learns about himself and the world he lives in.
Silent Words offers an intimate view of Native Communities and their values: being non-judgemental, open and accepting, sharing with others, and respecting elders. Danny starts his journey without an understanding of his Native background thus allowing readers to experience and learn with him as he undertakes his quest for self-knowledge.
The language in this novel is simple and accessible, and yet richly evocative of the flavour of northern Native life. Ruby Slipperjack writes with great sensitivity about the people and places she knows, and it is her unique storytelling ability that provides the power and insight in this novel. She says, "I have been to all the places I write about. I know the smell, feel, and texture of the earth I walk on. I belong to it." In this book, she shows a remarkable ability to convey with English words the subtle forms of non-verbal communication, the implied meanings, the silent words, that are an integral part of Native expression.
About the author
or Ruby Slipperjack-Farrell is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Indigenous Learning at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Ruby spent her formative years on her father's trap line on Whitewater Lake. She learned traditional stories and crafts from her family and has retained much of the traditional religion and heritage of her people. Her family later moved to a community along the railway mainline. She went to residential school for several years and finished high school in Thunder Bay.
After graduating from high school Ruby successfully completed a B.A. (History) in 1988; a B.Ed in 1989; and a Master of Education in 1993. In 2005 she completed a Doctoral program at the University of Western Ontario.
Ruby is a member of the Eabametoong First Nation and speaks fluent Ojibway. She uses her maiden name "Slipperjack" when she writes, in honour of her parents and ancestors for the cultural knowledge and teachings that inform her writing. Ruby has retained much of the traditional religion and heritage of her people, all of which inform her writing. Her work discusses traditional religious and social customs of the Ojibwe in northern Ontario, as well as the incursion of modernity on their culture. Ruby is also an accomplished visual artist and a certified First Nations hunter.
Ruby is the mother of three daughters and currently lives in Thunder Bay with her husband and their two shelties.
"Ruby Slipperjack is one of the strongest Native voices in Canadian Literature."
— Thomas King
Other titles by Ruby Slipperjack
Cher Journal : Les mots qu'il me reste
Violette Pesheens, pensionnaire à l'école résidentielle, Nord de l'Ontario, 1966
Dear Canada: Hoping for Home
Stories of Arrival
Dear Canada: These Are My Words
The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens
Dear Canada: A Time for Giving: Ten Tales of Christmas
Cher Journal : Terre d'accueil, terre d'espoir