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Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket
Adult Nonfiction
Pages: 180
Themes: Indigenous art, Reconciliation, Residential Schools, Survivor stories, intergenerational trauma
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 10/Sep/2019
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Picking Up the Pieces tells the story of the making of the Witness Blanket, a living work of art conceived and created by Indigenous artist Carey Newman. It includes hundreds of items collected from residential schools across Canada, everything from bricks, photos and letters to hockey skates, dolls and braids. Every object tells a story.

Carey takes the reader on a journey from the initial idea behind the Witness Blanket to the challenges in making it work to its completion. The story is told through the objects and the Survivors who donated them to the project. At every step in this important journey for children and adults alike, Carey is a guide, sharing his process and motivation behind the art. It's a very personal project. Carey's father is a residential school Survivor. Like the Blanket itself, Picking Up the Pieces calls on readers of all ages to bear witness to the residential school experience, a tragic piece of Canada’s history. 

Waubgeshig Rice, journalist and author of Moon of the Crusted Snow - March 22, 2019
"Picking Up the Pieces is both a crucial record of history and an outstanding assertion of love and community. The story behind the creation of the powerful Witness Blanket project is one of great care and consideration, with residential school Survivors and their families at the centre. By sharing his own family's connection to a brutal and shameful part of Canadian history, renowned artist Carey Newman brilliantly guides us through the meticulous and thoughtful process of creating one of the most important pieces of art to exist in this country. I had the privilege of experiencing the Witness Blanket on its tour, and it was a poignant moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Reading how it all came together is yet another vital experience. Like the Witness Blanket itself, Picking Up the Pieces will educate and enlighten Canadians for generations to come. It's a must-read for anyone seeking to understand Canada's residential-school saga. Most importantly, it's a touchstone of community for those survivors and their families still on the path to healing."
The Honourable Judith Guichon, former Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia - March 22, 2019
"Picking up the Pieces is in its own way as powerful as the Blanket itself. In the stories connected to each item, collected from residential schools in every province and territory, Carey has found a profound but gentle, loving way to teach readers about our shared history. The respect with which he treats these items and the powerful stories enfolded within them allows us to move from understanding to acceptance to a shared, deep sadness. Carey’s contributions to reconciliation are monumental and will help educate all Canadians as we move through this difficult period of growth and on to a healthy shared future."
Daniel Heath Justice, author of Why Indigenous Literatures Matter - March 22, 2019
"Objects, like people, tell stories; stories are inscribed in places and belongings as well as in books, and they carry wonder as well as wounding. This heartbreaking, eye-opening and transformative visual chronicle of Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket is a profound record of Canada’s residential school system and the Indigenous students who endured, suffered and survived it. But far more than that, it restores and re-stories the collective will of Survivors and their families to document, narrate and understand that history on their own terms, through the material objects and belongings that emerged from that harrowing history and its legacies. In a time when superficial notions of reconciliation so often ignore the challenging realities of settler colonial violence against Indigenous Peoples, Picking Up the Pieces insists on returning truth fully to our conversations about Truth and Reconciliation. Read this book. Share it. Live it. Most of all, honour its call to better relations, now and in the future."

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