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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Mezzo-Soprano: Memoirs of a Rez Girl by Rhonda Head is the author's autobiography, a compact work that details her life growing up as a First Nation person of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Head starts with her earliest memories of a youth spent largely outdoors with a deep connection to nature and her transition to a mixed-race school where Indigenous and white children learned together, and her first experience with racism which comes from an unlikely source. As she grows up and forges her way on an independent path of education, the fulfillment of lifelong dreams through song and travel begin to blossom until she returns to the bosom of the reservation. Still determined to get a degree, Head moves once more to Winnipeg, only to have her immediate plans derailed by the surfacing of a devastating diagnosis, at which point the true story of perseverance manifests itself in the most inspiring way.
Mezzo-Soprano is a wonderful story that reads like more of a coming-of-age novel than a memoir, such is the fantastic journey of Rhonda Head's life. The narrative is in the first person and initially feels perhaps a bit simple in the writing style, but as the story unfolds this is counter-balanced by a degree of substance that overshadows the light length with the weight of its content. Many readers of the “latch-key” generation will be able to identify with what is essentially the raising of herself. As Head paints a picture of her outdoor childhood, I too am reminded of a time when we could wander off for hours upon hours without fear or worry. This, however, is where my ability to relate ends as Head sets her sights as high as any individual can, allowing us to hitch our wagon to her shooting star and view the world through her own lens. What she is able to overcome and achieve is remarkable, and this is exactly the type of book that should be in the hands of our sons and, particularly, our daughters—a real-life story of success against all odds.