On -isms: Betty, The Helen Betty Osborne Story Review

By | Thursday, December 29, 2016 Leave a Comment
Tooling around on Facebook, a young gent sees a link to an article about Amanda Sinclair, who had gone missing some time earlier. Clicking over to the site, he learns about the "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Canada." The scene cuts to an earlier rally where demonstrators are trying to bring attention to the thousands of Aboriginal women who have gone missing, and there we learn the story of Helen Betty Osborne who was found raped and murdered back in 1971.

Betty wasn't an exceptional student. Having come from a relatively poor family, she had to work hard to keep up with other students, but she dreamt of becoming a teacher and returning to her home village to help others. After visiting a sick friend in the hospital, she found herself walking back to her place alone. She was then kidnapped by a group of drunken frat boy types, beaten, raped, and left for dead in the woods. The unnamed Facebook user is eventually drawn to tears and shares the story link, noting that it's only a start.

The Osborne story is new to me. Between the incident occurring both before I was born and in another country, it's hardly surprising that it never hit my radar before now. I was certainly aware of some of the issues faced by First Nation Canadians, but this was not one of them. The book is clearly written to help counter that and simply raise awareness of the issue more generally. So in that respect, it accomplishes its goal well.

I was not previously familiar with either writer David Alexander Robertson or artist Scott B. Henderson, but they both do a solid job here. I think some aspects might make a little more sense to Canadians (the specific nature of the school system, for example) but only from the sense of background details; everything a completely ignorant reader needs to know is there. The double-framing technique (having a Facebook user recall back to a demonstration where Betty's story is relayed) struck me as a little odd, but not so much that it pulled me out of the narrative.

The book's intent is a modest one. It doesn't propose any solutions, or even suggest actions you can take as the reader beyond sharing these women's stories. That saddens me, not so much because of any lost opportunities, but rather because it implies that the issue is so completely under most people's radar that getting to the point of mere recognition or acknowledgement is seen as an achievement. Hopefully, though, this story touches more people, brings more awareness of the issue, and leads to some positive action.

There are a lot of groups of people out there whose stories aren't be told and/or are ignored because they don't have white privilege at their disposal. Pick up a copy of Betty to help ensure that stops being the case.
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