Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice…
“It’s hard to say what happened to Delphine Nikal when she set out to hitchhike home after a night in town,” said Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times. The 15-year-old from Smithers, B.C., has never been found since friends last saw her on Highway 16 after their June 1990 outing. A serial killer has been blamed; four years later, another indigenous teenager disappeared on the same two-lane road, and her remains were later found nearby. Journalist Jessica McDiarmid, who grew up in Smithers, argues that those unsolved Highway 16 cases, and dozens like them, are products of endemic racism, a claim backed by a recent national inquiry into the murders of indigenous women. “If you read one book this month,” said Jeva Lang in TheWeek.com, “make it Highway of Tears.”
McDiarmid “knows the terrain well,” said Mona Gable in Outside. She understands that towns along Highway 16 lack public transportation, making hitchhiking a necessity. And though she’s not indigenous, she sees how law enforcement’s quickness to attribute the disappearances to victim misbehavior can sow distrust. “The girls’ families do trust McDiarmid, though, and that serves an essential purpose. It allows readers to know the impact of these devastating crimes. I cried when I read that one despondent mother, after years of searching for her daughter, slowly drank herself to death.”
But this Canadian best-seller, like the national inquiry, comes awfully late, said Mary Annette Pember in Rewire.news. For centuries it has been “open season on indigenous women” in North America, so I “can’t entirely hide my exasperation” when white journalists “discover” the issue. Ultimately, we indigenous women need more than allies who build their careers on true-crime storytelling that makes a spectacle of Native American poverty and abuse. We need “bold, giant steps” to change the hardships these women endure.
Correction: Thomas Jefferson was mischaracterized on last week’s Books page as the second U.S. president. He was the third. ■