Shadows Cast By Stars by Catherine Knutsson

Shadows Cast by Stars

I’m giving Shadows Cast By Stars, by Catherine Knutsson, 4.5/5 stars.

Honestly, the book kissed perfection, with it’s beautifully embraced native mythology, shot through with dystopian fantasy, and critical feminism. The story takes place in a future version of North America, where a plague a has struck, and the only people in the world who are immune are those known as the “Others”, or as we know them, Natives. Because of their immunity, these people are hunted down by the government in a world destroyed by disease and disaster. If only we could defend that as something the Canadian government would never do, but truly, it seems more likely than not, given our history with residential schools. The story follows the life of Cassandra, a Métis girl who lives with her twin brother and father who quickly have to move from the populated mainland to the Island. The Island, protected by the Boundary, is one of the last safe places left for Others, but even there Cass’ family isn’t welcome, and are ostracised for being different. Because she was raised in a different world, she is outspoken, strong-willed, and defiant in a society where women have been taught to be protect by male soldiers, and submissive to their will. Facing threats from the government, her community, and the spirit world, Cassandra struggles to find the life she has always wanted for herself and her family.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves mythology, action, and profound insight into issues that are very much relevant today. Catherine Knutsson’s debut novel is a masterpiece, simply put.

-Rylee

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Airport Pulled Pork (3.3)

Prompt: Write a food/travel article. 

Word Count: 348

Surrounded by haggard, heavily armed men, I couldn’t think of anything but the food in front of me. Exhausted and half starved, the tiny airport restaurant’s dusty neon advertisements glowed like a divine sign in the early morning light. At six AM at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, I had the best meal of my life.

 

The trip had started as a last minute rush to book tickets to Panama City Beach, Florida, where my grandfather migrate to each winter. It was my first vacation by plane, and I found myself captivated by the very idea of flight. Airports, as always, were filled with layover zombies hoping to make it through security while stoney faced guards looked on. It took us three flights and a two hour car ride to get to the sleepy seaside Florida town. Pristine condo buildings lined the empty beaches, their occupants too old to brave the icy waters. The only store for miles was a Walmart that had choked out the local population of mom and pop shops.

 

On New Years Eve, we drove an hour to find civilization. A tourist pier was hosting a party. The movie theater played free movies all night, local bars spilled over with party-goers and country music. At midnight, under fishing nets laced with Christmas lights, they had their own (Beach) Ball Drop.


Because of our last minute bookings, our flight home had a stop all the way over in Dallas. The hyper-modern building even had it’s own high speed train to take travellers from branches of gates to the next. Our second flight was on a tiny plane over in near the military gates, in a less public side of the airport. With three hours to kill we diligently followed the service officers to one restaurant in this sections. When we looked around, heaping pulled pork seemed to be the only thing they were serving. The simple bun and meat combo was decadent in our half starved mouths. No one in the room spoke, but somehow this half-forgotten restaurant brought three dozen barely-conscious travellers together.

Absolved (My Choice, undecided)

Prompt: My choice! Note: This is my drawing. 

Word Count: 349

Warning: Article could be offensive to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

priest

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

 

My voice echoes in the small pine confessional and the woven wooden screen between us trembles with reverberations. On the other side, the priest is only a shadow. He remains silent, so I continue.

 

“I didn’t mean for it to come to this, Father. I swear, I’m  good person. I’ve been coming to this church for some time now- every Sunday, even. I was new to town, and you welcomed me into the fold with open arms. You helped me find God. He spoke to me, Father, I swear it. He helped me find my true purpose. It was His divine words that brought me here today.”

 

The Father doesn’t reply. He has always been a good listener; he truly cares about his flock. I’m still nervous though, and my voice trembles. I tuck my quivering fingers into fists, and knead my thighs with them. I fret over a stain in the hem of my shirt, trying to gain confidence.

 

I keep rambling, but the Father keeps listening intently. I tell him about the empty nights on dark streets. About the tinkering laughs of the happy people inside the warm casino, who smiled at me when I came to the table. Their thin lips and shark’s teeth. The clank of empty bottles in empty sinks, the gurgle of liquor in an empty stomach.

 

“It was God who brought me here today,” I repeat firmly. “He was the one who told me to do this. He told me it was time for Isaac to prove his faith, to sacrifice Abraham. I was waiting for the ram, Father, but he didn’t provide me with one.”

 

More silence. I fill in the words for him, my voice empty.

 

“Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat. Amen.”

 

I opened the slim door, and stepped out of my side of the confessional. The church’s vaulted ceiling holding still air.

 

Drip

 

   Drip

 

        Drip

 

Behind me, a small red stream spreads from the corner of the priest’s side. I walk away, like  the angels leaving Sodom and Gomorrah to burn.

Satire (3.2)

Prompt: Write a post of satire on an popular issue. I chose rape and victim blaming. 

Word Count: 341

Are you considering reporting a mugging? Do you feel like this horrible violation should be punished in a court of law? Before you do, consider the following.

Is it possible that you simply gave the mugger your wallet, and now you’re embarrassed to admit it? Thieves tell us this is quite common, and that many mugging victims falsely report these types of crimes as a way to get attention. Simply put, the mugger has a wallet of his own, so why would he want yours? You should also consider that he has a promising future and comes from good family, and that being accused of mugging could damage his reputation.

In other cases, many victims know their muggers before hand. It is possible that in having a wallet, you led him to think you wanted it to be stolen. Remember, because you may have been nice to him in the past, you owed him the wallet.

Is it possible you were intoxicated when the mugging occurred? It is common knowledge that having money and drinking leads to being robbed. In this case, you’re to blame for the mugging because you drunken state meant that you would have given him your wallet anyway.

Another common cause for personal theft is how the victim is dressed. If your clothes suggest that your are affluent, the criminal is compelled to mug you. He simply can’t help himself if you wear expensive clothing.

The last thing you must consider before you report the crime is if you were alone with your mugger. In these cases, often it is your word against his, because all evidence is either ignored or simply not processed by authorities. Given the overwhelming stereotypes of mugging victims, you will most likely come out of it ridiculed and shamed. In some cases, people who have their personal property stolen even lose their jobs for reporting the crime. Wouldn’t it be better if you just kept your head down and hope you aren’t mugged again? A simple misunderstanding isn’t worth all this trouble.

Midnight Move (2.4)

Prompt: Write a dramatic incident, with two examples of parallel structure. 

Words: 348

I had the job for two years.

Little after my fifteenth birthday, my aunt offered me a job at her cupcake store. For two years every Sunday I would get up at eight AM, pull on my baby pink chef’s coat, and went to work. The shop was a half hour walk from my house towards the Hintonburg, and I’d get there just before ten. I knew everyone who worked there, every single product, every recipe, every speck of the place. I helped customers, answered the phones, decorate cupcakes.

I loved it there. I didn’t mind the cleaning I had to when it got slow, or the crazy ladies who ordered giant Channel themed cakes and who wouldn’t believe we didn’t take hundred dollar bills. There was a professional grade espresso machine and unlimited tea, and that’s all that mattered. The regulars were friendly and so were my co-workers.

 

At around Christmas of the second year there my mom asked if business had been slowing down at the cupcake shop. Maybe I was in denial, but I hadn’t really notices. By March break, we had maybe five or six customers a day. Towards May I started noticing things missing from under the counters, like labels, stamps, bags. My mother relentlessly reminded me to start applying to different places, but I ignored her.

 

Because I only worked five hours a week, I got paid twice a month. The official pay day was Friday, but they’d leave it in a safe place to so I could get it on Sunday. About a month before exams, after all the other stores had stopped hiring because of the return of the university students, my aunt texted me that she had forgotten to hide my check. She asked if I could come pick it up on Tuesdays after school.


It just so happened I had gotten into a bad fight with my mother that night, about finding a new job. When I went to pick up my paycheck, I was surprised to find everything gone, and a “For Lease” sign in the window.

Tale of Narcissus (2.5)

Prompt: My choice

Word Count: 297

Note: Do not suffer yourself my hand writing.  The images are a visual aid (with spelling mistakes) , and the story is copied(and corrected) below. 

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“Narcissus was not a man of myth. Narcissus is a teenage girl who stares at her reflection in her Iphone screen. She  puckers her lips, adds another coat of gloss to already shiny lips. All the while she keeps eye contact with herself in her improvised mirror. She almost puts her phone away, but instead checks her reflection one last time before setting it down on her desk. She turns to her friends, pouts, starts another tragic story about her tragic life.

 

Echo was not a nymph but an internet addict. She passes her time on gossip sites, trash talking and Tweeting to satisfy her craving. She never puts down her phone either, terrified to miss a moment of someone else’s life. In her own mine she is alienated by the queen bee, but in truth, she has isolated herself. She was never in love with Narcissus; Echo can only love the warm embrace of a strong, caring wifi connection.

 

Meanwhile, Narcissus reaches for her phone to check her reflection once again, just in case. Satisfied, she smiles at herself. Nothing to worry about there. She scans the room, and is content only when she catches someone gazing back at her. Funny, she didn’t realize the window would provide such a good looking glass, but now that she sees herself in this flattering light, she is elated. She checks her social media accounts, and the six figure follower count is a shot of dopamine straight to her brain. Everywhere she looks, she is reassured of her beauty, and in the values of society, her worth.


Narcissus was not a man of myth. Narcissus is a teenage girl who buys a fountain pen and writes her own story out on paper only to admire her own hand writing.”

Working Late (2.2)

Prompt: Write a conversation between two very different people

Word count: 346

8:30… 8:31….8:31….

I can practically the earth moving as I waited for the end of my shift. I work as a cashier in a supermarket, and the last half hour always dragged by.

 

“Well, hello there, Sunshine,” a smoky, old voice purred behind me, making me jump.

 

The old man stood beside the cash register, well into his sixties and already toothless and stooped. The glint in his eyes made me uneasy, like smooth talking seventeen year old girls was a game to him.

 

“Hi. How are you?” I asked in my most generic, polite cashier voice.

 

“Better now that I’ve met you, Sunshine,” he said slickly. “Aw, now, look you, blushing like an angel. What has an old man like me done to make you so happy?”

 

It wasn’t my first time dealing with old perverts, but this late at night I had no interest in putting up with him.

 

“Oh, I’m not blushing,” I told him, ringing his groceries through as quickly as I could.

 

“Well, Sunshine, I think you are,” he insisted, a wide grin plastered across his heavily lined cheeks.

 

“I promise you, sir, I’m not,” I repeated politely but firmly. “It’s ten dollars and forty five cents, please.”

 

“Hey, now, Sunshine, what do you say? What time do you get off work?”

 

I felt my teeth groaning as I ground them down, but it was all I could do not to snap at him.

 

“The only way I’m comparable to the sun is that if you get any closer, I will set you on fire,” I wanted to say.

 

Thankfully, I didn’t have to. My manager came over, sensing my unease. Unlike me, he was tall and intimidating, and oh, yeah, male.

 

“Sir, I think it’s time you move on,” he suggested calmly. “We have other customers.”

 

The old man didn’t seem to think much about the empty store. He nodded, raising his hands into a classic defensive position. Nothing frustrated me more than this.Why couldn’t I be taken seriously?


“I hear you, friend. I’m going.”

Tea and Sugar (2.3)

Prompt: write a scene that involves an important beverage. 

Word count: 345

My grandmother sat down, her gold leaf China tea set rattling in her arthritis stricken hands. She set a tiny, rose adorned  tea cup on a thin bone coloured plate in front of each of us. I watched patiently as she tilted the ancient tea pot, and let a stream of thin amber liquid splash into them both. Age had not been kind to these cups; the spider web cracks that ran through them matched the lines etched on my grandmother’s skin. Like the veins visible through her papery hands, the tea glowed through the bone cups. Her cataract veiled eyes struggled to focus on me, though I was a mere three feet away, sitting in an identical hard chair.

 

“Now, myshka, why did you say you were here?” she asked in Russian. When she had first immigrated to Canada in the fifties, she had learned English, but in recent years her dementia had stolen her second language.

 

Without waiting for my reply, she placed a sugar cube between her dentures, and took a long sip from her drink. It must have been awful sweet, but it was a remnant from her youth as a society darling in Moscow. I waited a moment, carefully placing the foreign words in marching order. I even took a sip of my own tea to hide my uncertainty, but she continued on regardless.

 

She reached over and patted my arm with a cold, leathery hand that had failed to absorb any of the tea’s warmth. “Such a pretty myshka. It’s Saturday! Shouldn’t you be working?”

 

As soon as she called me “little mouse” again, I knew something was wrong. I cradled my tea, my eyes downcast as I took another hesitant sip.

 

“You must be one of the new nurses. You don’t know your schedule yet,” she reasoned.
The sounds of her assisted retirement home buzzed around us, from soft snore to cries of glee from who ever had won the Bingo. It struck me then that my Babushka, the woman who had helped raise me, didn’t know who I was.

Public Art Chicago (Post 2.1)

Prompt: post 5 photos with a consistent theme, and write a personal essay about them.

*Theme: Public Art Chicago. These are my photos.

Word count: 341

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If there is one thing that I’ll admit the Americans do better than us, it’s public art. On my family trip to Chicago this summer, I was blown away. Sure, I’ve been to Toronto, Montreal, Boston and New York before, but nothing prepared me for calibre of architecture that the Windy City had to offer. Everywhere I turned, the city offered a type of art to appreciate, despite the 21rst century’s penchant for minimalist style. Chicago is a city that had always taken pride in it’s appearance, starting with the World Fair nearly a hundred and fifty years ago. The most astounding, by far, was the public art.

 

Sure, there are famous monuments like the Bean, but I’m talking about the small details that encrust the surface every building and the statues that litter the parks and side walks. Starting with giant statues of heads that watch you as you explore the museum campus, to the jewel tiled mosaics that literally blanket every surface floor to ceiling of the Chicago Culture building. Inside the Shedd Aquarium hundreds upon thousands of bronze fish, mermaid, and crustaceans stand proud to greet the visitors as they visit the museum. Leaving the museum scene behind, we travelled up through Millennium Park. A mere block from the Institute was the most impressive interactive art display I have ever seen. At opposite ends of a stone tiled courtyard, twin monolithic glass brick structures stand facing each other. On the inward facing vertical plains two different faces are projected, as water fell in sheets off the tops in slaps against the tiles. The two projections alternately smile or frown, until one of the giant visages spits a powerful stream of water onto waiting children and adults wading in ankle deep liquid, from it’s mouth. Given the August temperatures reaching the mid forties, and the Park’s proximity to Lake Michigan, it must have seemed like a good idea, although it creates a rather affronting display.


Truly, Chicago offered a diverse and culturally appropriate vision of the city through it’s art alone.

My Choice: Journal Extract (1.5)

Note: this is purely fictional, and does not represent how I feel. 

Intended Audience: Teens with anger/aggression disorders.

September 26, 2012

If hope is a thing with feathers, anger is a thing of fish-hooks. Fish-hooks that pull my shoulders up, catching in the grainy notches of my vertebrae as they force my posture erect, prepare me to fight. Sprouting from my trachea, they tear through my lungs, lodging in the bronchioles, causing each breath to be drawn ragged. They nest their spurs in the gaps between my ribs, a constant reminder of their presence. They dance down the skin of my arms, bringing garish red welts to the surface. They curl my artist’s hands into knobby fighter’s fists. Leave crescents in the palms of my hand that fade faster than the anger does. They catch in the tip of my chin, tilting my face up to glare at my victim. The fish-hooks peel back my lips, leaving me baring my feral teeth and spitting my caustic thoughts. They barb my words and lash out not only at others, but lacerate me as well, leaving my mouth as torn and as bloodied as my mind. They convince me, with their sharp prodding fingers that I have no friends.

      Cut the world down, and burn it to the ground, they whisper, as their barbs dangle from my ears like jewellery.

I am not an angry person, I remind myself. I feel anger like everyone else, but I will not let it consume me.

 

Yet when I close my eyes like I’m supposed to, and count to ten slowly, like I was taught, the fish-hooks are still there.

One, pierces my eyelids, leaving trails of light.

Two, jabs under my fingernails.

Three, scraping down the sides of my throat.

Four, lodging in gaps between my teeth.

Five, catching in the snarls of my hair.

Six, tracing my cheekbones.

Seven, they stop advancing.

Eight, retreating, tearing my skin as extract themselves.

Nine, falling to the ground in little plinks.

Ten, they are gone.

I can breathe.