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It Stops With Me: Memoir of a Canuck Girl

ISBN: 0-9746545-0-7

By Charleen Touchette
Review by: Jessica M. Laccetti

07/06

Approaching Charleen Touchette’s latest textual offering for the first time, readers will be drawn to the unusual cover design. With a smudged grey background, reminiscent of kindergarten pastel-drawing sessions, the clear and capitalized letters spell out the “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” of a pulse. Sitting upright in pink pajamas underneath a pink quilt and amongst the screaming words is a young girl with long black braids threatening to reach beyond the confines of the page. The bed too, with its wooden headboard, a large letter “H,” calls for help. In this story, Charlene, as narrator, takes us through her journey from injury to healing.

Beginning with chapter “un,” the novel gives a snapshot of Charleen’s dad: “He was a nervous man, gyrating, lanky, all arms and legs in perpetual motion. Archie did not walk; he marched at a clip, his arms swinging, his long knobby fingers crossing and re-crossing and his mouth jabbering on and on in English punctuated with thick Québécois French” (18). From this description readers may infer that this man is capable of causing pain: he gyrates, he jabbers, he swings, and, importantly, he has knobby fingers. This chapter ends with a 40 year old Charleen mulling over a forgotten photograph and, for the first time, recognizing a “deep sadness in those tear-filled eyes” of her father’s.

After years of abuse, Charleen leaves home at 17 to pursue college courses after discovering a hidden but innate artistic talent. Her mother though is deeply set against the idea of her leaving, saying “you should become a doctor or do something to help people” (93). Once her parents have left, Charleen is free to explore the university campus and senses the possibility of another, happier, life. When Barry, her “boyfriend,” appears on the scene, Charleen is filled with new learning experiences; jazz, dancing, friends, and love. With Barry and his family at her side, offering the all-important unconditional support, Charleen is able to deal with and finally overcome her tortured childhood and mysterious illness.

Becoming recognized as an artist also means Charleen is a symbol to children, to Native Americans, and to tradition – two traditions from which she was alienated but eventually able to connect with. It Stops with Me is an emotional rollercoaster bound to stir up sympathy and admiration in any reader. The beautiful illustrations which form part of the narrative also add a sense of depth and immediacy to Charleen’s plight, encouraging each reader to discover her own journey.

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