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The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the…

by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

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905251,185 (3.27)32
A "courageous and revelatory memoir" (Naomi Klein) chronicling the life of the leading Indigenous climate change, cultural, and human rights advocate For the first ten years of her life, Sheila Watt-Cloutier traveled only by dog team. Today there are more snow machines than dogs in her native Nunavik, a region that is part of the homeland of the Inuit in Canada. In Inuktitut, the language of Inuit, the elders say that the weather is Uggianaqtuq--behaving in strange and unexpected ways. The Right to Be Cold is Watt-Cloutier's memoir of growing up in the Arctic reaches of Quebec during these unsettling times. It is the story of an Inuk woman finding her place in the world, only to find her native land giving way to the inexorable warming of the planet. She decides to take a stand against its destruction. The Right to Be Cold is the human story of life on the front lines of climate change, told by a woman who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential Indigenous environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world. Raised by a single mother and grandmother in the small community of Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Watt-Cloutier describes life in the traditional ice-based hunting culture of an Inuit community and reveals how Indigenous life, human rights, and the threat of climate change are inextricably linked. Colonialism intervened in this world and in her life in often violent ways, and she traces her path from Nunavik to Nova Scotia (where she was sent at the age of ten to live with a family that was not her own); to a residential school in Churchill, Manitoba; and back to her hometown to work as an interpreter and student counselor.  The Right to Be Cold is at once the intimate coming-of-age story of a remarkable woman, a deeply informed look at the life and culture of an Indigenous community reeling from a colonial history and now threatened by climate change, and a stirring account of an activist's powerful efforts to safeguard Inuit culture, the Arctic, and the planet.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
3.5 stars

Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in a Northern Quebec Inuit community and raised by her mother and her grandmother. She was sent away to school in Churchill, and (mostly) enjoyed her time there. She later married, had kids, and went back and forth between her home in Northern Quebec and the southern part of the province.

Eventually, she would become an activist; she is most commonly associated with environmental activism, but really she is an activist for her Inuit culture, for education and health care, and yes, for the environment and climate change, and how it is currently affecting the Inuit culture and lifestyle. They are seeing the effects of climate change now, and they feel that they deserve “the right to be cold” – they need that cold – in order to sustain their traditional culture.

This was good. I expected more of the environmental aspect in the book (and a lot of that did come in the 2nd half), but actually ended up enjoying the biographical part of the book best. Much of the 2nd half of the book included her travels to various conferences and counsels to tell the story of the Inuit to put a “human face” on the environmental crisis in the Arctic. Surprising to me, I just didn’t find that part as interesting. Overall, though, I liked it. ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 7, 2019 |
Urggghghhghifadjghgh. I hate it when books are important but just not well written. The memoir parts are cloying and simplistic, the details about when and where Watt-Cloutier became in charge of what are dull, and the real meat of the argument, when she actually talks about policy, especially Indigenous resource extraction in the Arctic, where she really shines, is pushed away to the back. She says it again and again: her goal is to put a human face on climate change in the Arctic, and so, obviously, in a book about her, she (along with some family members) is the human face, but it ends up being a "and then this happened and then this happened" until she gets to her arguments in the end. Interspersing different arguments with human faces maybe would have kept my attention more.

I know you're not enjoying that book Geoff says to me. Because it's the fourth night you are reading it.

On one hand, you should read it because you should learn about the Arctic and climate change and bad things happening (which always gives me anxiety and makes me feel helpless because I feel helpless with all this), but on the other hand, it's kind of like lumpy oatmeal, so eat it 'cuz it's good for you but there's probably a more palatable style that the oatmeal could have been presented in.

The Right To Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier went on sale (in the US, it's been out awhile here in Canada) May 1, 2018.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  reluctantm | Jun 26, 2018 |
In The Right To Be Cold, Sheila Watt-Cloutier raises the point that for many people, depictions of animals from the arctic are much more familiar than the human inhabitants. When we talk about global warming, the "face" of climate change in the north is usually a polar bear. We see so little of the Inuit, people whose self-determination, culture, and ability to survive are being threatened by warmer temperatures.

Throughout her book, Sheila Watt-Cloutier discusses the Inuit people, shedding light on the trauma that colonization has caused. She shows how various policies serve to erase Inuit culture and make people reliant on southern cultures and systems that are not their own and often cause harm. And she shows how climate change and pollution are not simply environmental concerns, they affect basic human rights.

With frequent headlines about the melting arctic, it's hard to think of a more timely book -- or, for that matter, a more underrepresented side of a global crisis. This is a book I will be recommending whenever I can. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
I wanted to like this more than I did. It was fascinating to read about Watt-Cloutier's life and how quickly the culture changed within her lifetime, and the climate and environmental issues she talks about are highly important. However, I found the discussion of all the meetings rather dull, and there were a lot of digressions that derailed the main thread of the story. Or I guess the issue wasn't the digressions, more the way they were handled. If there had been smoother transitions back to the story, the digressions might not have jarred so much. It must be said, though, that the voice is pretty much how she talks as well. (She spoke at the University of Ottawa in 2017, which is what prompted me to read the book in the first place.) If you like books about environmental issues or cultural change and are prepared to wade through meetings and digressions, you may want to check this out. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Sep 12, 2017 |
Sheila Watt-Cloutier is an activist and while she may be best known for her work as an environmentalist, what drives her is advocating on behalf of Inuit people in Canada and around the world. What I especially admired about her, upon reading this book, is her fight to put a human face on climate change -- her drive to show that Inuit culture is linked to the Arctic and that protecting the Arctic environment is necessary to protect Arctic people and culture. The book is well written and takes the reader through Ms. Watt-Cloutier's 25 years working for this goal. The book also provides insight into Inuit culture and a behind-the-scenes look at global activism. Well worth reading. ( )
1 vote LynnB | Mar 14, 2017 |
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Epigraph
In a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world through her work, a portion of its lost heart. -- American poet Louise Bogan
Dedication
For my late grandmother -- my Atikuluk -- Jeannie and my late mother, Daisy. For my children, Sylvia and Eric. For my grandsons, Mister Lee and Inuapik. For the Love of my Inuit culture. In memory of Terry Fenge.
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The world I was born into has changed forever.
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A "courageous and revelatory memoir" (Naomi Klein) chronicling the life of the leading Indigenous climate change, cultural, and human rights advocate For the first ten years of her life, Sheila Watt-Cloutier traveled only by dog team. Today there are more snow machines than dogs in her native Nunavik, a region that is part of the homeland of the Inuit in Canada. In Inuktitut, the language of Inuit, the elders say that the weather is Uggianaqtuq--behaving in strange and unexpected ways. The Right to Be Cold is Watt-Cloutier's memoir of growing up in the Arctic reaches of Quebec during these unsettling times. It is the story of an Inuk woman finding her place in the world, only to find her native land giving way to the inexorable warming of the planet. She decides to take a stand against its destruction. The Right to Be Cold is the human story of life on the front lines of climate change, told by a woman who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential Indigenous environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world. Raised by a single mother and grandmother in the small community of Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Watt-Cloutier describes life in the traditional ice-based hunting culture of an Inuit community and reveals how Indigenous life, human rights, and the threat of climate change are inextricably linked. Colonialism intervened in this world and in her life in often violent ways, and she traces her path from Nunavik to Nova Scotia (where she was sent at the age of ten to live with a family that was not her own); to a residential school in Churchill, Manitoba; and back to her hometown to work as an interpreter and student counselor.  The Right to Be Cold is at once the intimate coming-of-age story of a remarkable woman, a deeply informed look at the life and culture of an Indigenous community reeling from a colonial history and now threatened by climate change, and a stirring account of an activist's powerful efforts to safeguard Inuit culture, the Arctic, and the planet.

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