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Cover Miss Chief Eagle Testickle

Book Review: ‘The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle Vol 1’ by Kent Monkman and Gisele Gordon

Turtle Island

The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: Vol. 1 by Kent Monkman and Gisele Gordon is not your everyday memoir. As its subtitle, “A True and Exacting Accounting of the History of Turtle Island” suggests, this book is also a history of the land now known as North America. However, this isn’t history like you’ve ever read or seen before.

Miss Chief Eagle Testickle is a character whom painter Kent Monkman and writer Gisele Gordon have been utilizing in multiple media. A nonbinary, sex-positive being, Testickle has been appearing in Monkman’s paintings for years. These paintings are the foundation of this book’s story as it recounts the history of “Turtle Island” – Canada specifically – from an Indigenous perspective.

In part one of their memoirs Miss Chief Testickle takes us into the world from the time of its creation to when the first Europeans make their appearance in North America. As Monkman is of Cree ancestry, the creation story he recounts is primarily based on the traditions of his people, but with the added twist of being taken from Testickle’s point of few. 

Right from the beginning readers will notice Cree words interspersed throughout. While there is a glossary at the back of the book, as well as extensive historical footnotes, Gordon and Monkman have done a wonderful job of integrating the meanings of each word into the text. However, the Cree words aren’t necessarily as cut-and-dried as their English counterparts, and tend to be more emotionally and spiritually descriptive. 

History, in Living Color

Interspersed also are reproductions of Monkman’s incredible paintings. Beautiful, full-color reproductions bring scenes of Miss Chief Testickle’s experiences in pre-contact Turtle Island to life. Some of the paintings are deliciously tongue-in-cheek reworkings of iconic Renaissance paintings featuring our heroine instead of the traditional subjects. 

Others are simply beautiful canvasses that capture the spirit of the lessons Monkman and Gordon are trying to impart to readers. Visually and literally they are trying to make us understand the relationship Indigenous people had with land prior to the arrival of the Europeans. While Miss Chief Testickle’s “relationship” might have been more personal than some (wait until you find out how they got their name), the character is far more than simply human.

They’ve been around since the beginning of time and have existed in more than just physical form. They are an essence of life and sexuality, and a good friend to the spirits of the land, including the little people, the trickster, and the many relations of the people – from the birds in the sky to the buffalo on the plains and the trees of the forest. 

Kent Monkman and Gisele Gordon have created a wonderful history of Canada. As seen through the eyes of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle it’s by turns ribald, fecund, and beautiful. Those still blinkered by the so-called history they were taught in schools will either reject this out of hand as wrong or open their eyes to the possibility that there is more than one side to the story. 

The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle Vol. 1 is an important and beautiful work of art. The language and the images work together to create something vital that will hopefully shock and amaze you. Read it and wonder at the imaginations that went into its creation and be grateful for their existence.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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