As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and by her teen years she was alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counselor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian. In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in her adopted city, Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Ma-Nee Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humor, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people.
"This collaboration between Chacaby and social scientist Plummer tells the story of Chacaby’s remarkable life. She was born in a tuberculosis sanitarium in 1950 and raised largely by her grandmother—who early on recognized her special nature—and their Anishnaabe community. Her story was shaped by social conditions specific to that era of colonialism in Canada. She avoided residential school by being in the bush when the other children were rounded up, but then had to survive abuse by her closest family; a harrowing escape with two children from an arranged, abusive marriage; alcoholism; living on the streets of Thunder Bay; and coming out as a lesbian in a small community in the early 1980s. Chacaby’s story is suffused with people helping others overcome hardship. These helpers include Chacaby herself, once she is in a position to aid others. Leveraging the storytelling traditions that she learned as a young girl in Ombabika, Ont., this autobiography is rich in detail and reads like taking tea with a wise and dear grandmother. Plummer’s role is evident in the way the book is organized, but she is otherwise unobtrusive, facilitating rather than obfuscating Chacaby’s narration"
-- Publishers Weekly, Reviewed on: 01/23/2017
“From groundbreaking and controversial AIDS awareness programs in the 1990s to the work she continues to do today, both with her own family and her extended reserve family, her life and this memoir ultimately serve as handbook of hope.”
-- Winnipeg Free Press
“An extraordinary account of an extraordinary life and very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Biography, LGBT, and Native American Studies collections.”
--Midwest Book Review
“An excellent memoir that gives readers, whether Indigenous or not, a direct connection to the past and to a personal story about gender, sexuality, overcoming adversity, and becoming a leader, an activist, a healer, and an inspiration to two-spirit individuals everywhere.”
--Robert Bittner, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies