Author Susan Currie writes a remarkable story about the importance of knowing where you come from and honouring your identity. Through the eyes of the main character, The Mask That Sang transports readers on a journey of self-discovery and finding the courage to speak your truth. Students and adults alike will make connections to the themes that are embedded throughout the story.
When Cass and her mother inherit her grandmother’s house, a place they can finally call home, Cass believes life will be better for them. She soon realizes that having a fresh start at a new life has challenges. There is an element of mystery and fantasy when Cass discovers an Iroquois mask that speaks and sings to her. The voice encourages her to be brave, to find her voice and to use it to stand up to bullying and defend the truth. Strange images come to her in her dreams, as if the mask is guiding her to uncover a hidden truth. With the help of her new friend Degan, she discovers Iroquois culture and begins to understand her family roots and the effects of intergenerational trauma.
I would highly recommend this book for Grades 6, 7 and 8 students. Educators can easily meet curriculum expectations in a variety of subjects such as Language, Health, The Arts, Social Studies and Geography. Topics such as bullying, residential schools and stereotypes are embedded throughout the story. However, if students are to develop a deeper understanding, educators will need to explore these topics in more depth through inquiry learning, discussions and cross-curricular activities. For instance, students can consider how a character feels emotionally using visual art, drama and/or dance, discuss why the author used stereotypes about culture in the text and the effect of biases in the media on self-esteem and examine the impact residential school experiences have on First Nations families and communities.
The Mask That Sang reminds us all about the importance of following our path and honouring our culture by knowing where we came from and being proud of who we are.
Kareena Butler is a First Nations member of the Ottawa Carleton Teacher Local.