Book Review: Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's My Way

In June of 2015, I happened to be in Ottawa for a library conference at the same time as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada wrapped up. I happened to be walking by the park where Buffy Sainte-Maire was performing, just in time to catch her entire set. I was mesmerized. The music was amazing, and she was just...well she's one cool lady. I spent the next six weeks listening to her CDs, and a month later she played a fantastic show at Interstellar Rodeo. Her music continues to get heavy play as my office music.

So I was pleased to come across her biography recently, and excitedly learned more about one of the world's great women...

Buffy Sainte-Maire: It's My Way
By Blair Stonechild
282 pages

And learn more about Buffy I did. Though not strictly chronological, Stonechild takes us through Buffy's life from childhood, to university, to her early music career, to her artistic pursuits, to her advocacy and impact on Aboriginal education and culture, to her later/current music career. She's lived a fascinating life, and I was especially interested in reading about her early music experiences (like the story about the connection between Buffy and Joni Mitchell) and her work with Aboriginal education. Stonechild uses extensive footnotes, and via interviews with Buffy and the people in her life, as well as media stories, I believe he presents an accurate biography. His writing is very accessible: this is not a hard read. In the end, I got confirmation that Buffy Sainte-Marie herself is a fantastic role model, a principled woman who stuck by herself and her heritage, and as I said cool lady.

The neatest thing about reading this book, was the mentions and stories of all the songs and CDs. Some I knew, and could sing in my head. Some I listened to on youtube while I was reading. Some I googled the lyrics for. This really added to the experience of reading the book. It reminded me of the time I visited the Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels a lifetime ago - you wear a set of headphones as you tour around, and when you are standing outside a display, the sound of the instruments automatically plays for you via sensors in the ceiling. It was a fantastic way to experience a gallery, and I found myself wishing the book came with a similar well timed soundtrack!

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about a Canadian music legend! And pick up the new CD, it's great!