Format: Music plus graphic novel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2016
From the publisher:
Secret Path is a ten song digital download album by Gord Downie with a graphic novel by illustrator Jeff Lemire that tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School fifty years ago.
Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to return home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids—more than anyone will be able to imagine—he tried.
Chanie’s story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable. Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history—the long suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system—with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation. Every year as we remember Chanie Wenjack, the hope for Secret Path is that it educates all Canadians young and old on this omitted part of our history, urging our entire nation to play an active role in the preservation of Indigenous lives and culture in Canada.
I heard about this book and music in my LibraryThing group. I was immediately interested because Jeff Lemire did the artwork and as you know he’s one of my favorites. It wasn’t readily available but I was able to get a copy throuth interlibrary loan.
This is much more than the graphic novel. The music is an integral part of Chanie’s story. The only text in the graphic novel is the lyrics to the songs by Downie.
After reading the book I watched the animated film that was created from Downie’s music and Lemire’s art. It’s about an hour long but in my opinion the best way to experience this story.
In all of it’s formats Chanie Wenjack’s story is heartbreaking. In the music of Gord Downie and the art of Jeff Lemire it is one of the most beautifully heart wrenching stories I’ve ever experienced.
This is the film which is about an hour long followed by an hour long panel discussion. Secret Path is bookended by Downie’s visits with Charlie’s family. Save this link and watch it when you have time.