Toni Jensen’s recent book, Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land jars the audience out of its comfort zone in a way that is at first difficult to read. As the reader nears the end of the journey it becomes difficult to put down as the audience turns page after page, reading chapter after chapter until there is nothing left to read. It is important to note that while Jensen mentions the Bible belt, Sunday school, and that she enjoys going to church, this is not a theological work, nor is it a story of a journey toward Christ.
The rocky road Jensen takes recognizes the long-term effects living on stolen land has had on both the dominant society and American Indians. She invites the audience to travel with her across the nation through the attempted annihilation of the First Peoples of America. Recounting American Indian massacres as the nation ‘settled the land,’ she makes a comparison of then and now, of rich and poor, and between white people and people of color. She weaves her personal story with the stories of loved ones and the violence that has been imprinted on the land. She relays the reality of women who are trafficked to satisfy the uses of men, of people who are trying to make a good life for themselves but are side-tracked by having to live within the confines of racism.
It is a story of police violence as a result of fear, ignorance, and post-traumatic stress. Ultimately, it is a story of survival and resilience, but is also a story of a people that has been broken down, a people that has given into surviving on the scraps of dominant American society. It is a story that takes us from her childhood years toward midlife in which she experiences more violence than most of us can watch on television in a similar course of time. It is also a story that traces the reality of gun violence throughout America and highlights its root causes.
While this book draws the reader to turn page after page, to read chapter after chapter, I encourage those who choose to pick up this nonfiction piece to break often and practice self-care, as the content is not for the faint of heart and can be difficult to digest. (Ballantine Books)