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On/Me

Francine Cunningham

Francine Cunningham lives with constant reminders that she doesn’t fit the desired expectations of the world: she is a white-passing, city-raised Indigenous woman with mental illness who has lost her mother. In her debut poetry collection On/Me, Cunningham explores, with keen attention and poise, what it means to be forced to exist within the margins. Cunningham does not hold back: she holds a lens to residential schools, intergenerational trauma, Indigenous Peoples forcibly sent to sanatoriums, systemic racism and mental illness, and translates these topics into lived experiences that are nuanced, emotional, funny and heartbreaking all at once. On/Me is an encyclopedia of Cunningham, who shares some of her most sacred moments with the hope to spark a conversation that needs to be had.

“Cunningham doesn’t pull her punches, but they are quick, stinging hits, capturing difficult realities, the in-between worlds of belonging and not, of bearing the assumptions that make us a part of a group or alone. The dangerous smoulder of her mind is masterfully harnessed to clarity, illuminating pain and turbulence without being tragic.”
—Eden Robinson, author of Trickster Drift

“Potent artistry, redolent with the beauty and bitterness of everyday life: each poem draws you in—compels you on to the next, yet you linger. Every page a chef-d’oeuvrekatawasisin!”
—Darrel McLeod, author of Governor General award-winning memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

“In this collection, Francine Cunningham’s crisp and gorgeous poems take on so much of what it is to be a person: to consider the meaning of family, to experience grief, to live with mental illness, to eat KFC, to tease and to laugh. With pitch-perfect details, these poems get personal and emotionally universal, and show us how humour and love are the things that hold us together. These poems hold stories that need to be told.”
—Dina Del Bucchia, author of It’s a Big Deal!