Week 13: Stolen Sisters

We must turn the page

[Trigger warning: brief mention of abuse and murder]

“The abuse of women is well known in history, and tells you a lot about what’s happening to our earth” —Ladonna Brave Bull Allard

This week I am switching it up again and sharing three books about women and girls who have gone missing in the wild. In 2018, 302,218 women went missing in the U.S. and they were disproportionately women of color. Two of these stories discuss the crucial issue of the disappearance of Indigenous women. The reported number of missing indigenous women in the U.S. in recent years is above 5,000 but only about 100 of those cases were recorded by police.

Highway of Tears

Illustration by Callan Burton-Shore

A sign on the side of Canada’s Highway 16 reads, “Girls, don’t hitchhike on the Highway of Tears.” In Highway of Tears, Jessica McDiarmid dives into research on the epidemic of missing indigenous women in Canada. She focuses on the stories of the indigenous women and girls who have disappeared in a small county of British Columbia. Mona Gable reviewed the book for Outside. There is no public transportation on Highway 16, or in surrounding towns, so hitchhiking is often the only choice women have. McDiarmid traces these disappearances back to colonialism and the boarding schools that stripped Native children of their culture. She explains that these cases were not given attention until the community got together and demanded it. Gable said, “The mothers refuse to give up on their daughters who have been murdered or remain missing. They march along the highway, demanding action…”

Disappearing Earth

Illustration by Callan Burton-Shore

Disappearing Earth is not your typical mystery about missing girls. Author Julia Phillips tells the story of two sisters, Alyona and Sophia Golosovskaya, who go missing at the hands of a mysterious man in the remote Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. However, the focal point of the novel is not the disappearance of the girls as much as it is the stories of the many women affected by it. In a New York Times article, Ivy Pochoda touches on some of the themes that Phillip’s uses to connect all of these stories, such as the struggle for Indigenous equity, immigration, police indifference, and misogyny. For instance, one story is of a native girl, Lilia, who also goes missing but whose case gets much less attention. The landscape is also key in the narrative, for Kamchatka is a place with few people or roads, but with rich wildlife and towering mountains.

Homeless in a National Park

Illustration by Callan Burton-Shore

In My Abandonment, Peter Rock tells the true story of a dad and daughter who lived undetected in Oregon’s Forest Park for four years. The book was inspired by two news articles published in Portland in 2004 and has now been adapted into a film, Leave No Trace. In the story, the father, a veteran, and daughter leave their home and possessions to live in the woods. They live in a hidden cave and he trains her to live off the land. In Rock’s book, the father treats his daughter extremely well and educates her using old encyclopedias, but she is deprived of social interaction and modern-day skills. An article from The Seattle Times says that the book is “told in the voice of a girl whose life will be oddly blessed and blighted by a latter-day Henry David Thoreau.”

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Thank you for reading! I hope these books keep you entertained and educated over the holidays.