Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman (Book Review)

How generations of injustice and a lifetime of abuse shapes one woman’s story

I finally got a few days off work where I could just read, and “Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman” was next on my bookshelf to read.

I picked it up the other night, and have finished the book quickly. The book was profound, disturbing and eye opening. I has definitely had an impact on me, and what kind of impact I can’t be sure.

My initial reason for reading the book was to gain a broader perspective of a prisoner’s life in jail. In this case, a Native American woman.

Yvonne Johnson was sentenced to life in prison in Canada, with parole at 25 years before she reached the age of 30. Floating between living with her Native family on reservations in Canada, and a cowboy lifestyle living with her white family in Montana, USA, Yvonne had a unique story to share.


From prison, she reached out to Canadian author, Rudy Wiebe, to help share her story. They communicated through letters, in court and prison visits for the next six years, writing this book together.

Yvonne’s life story details how abuse impacts her individual person’s life. She also ties this into how initial and ongoing abuse of Native people in the US and Canada is tied to cycles of violence, poverty, addiction, and incarceration. The connection of being trapped in one’s own body, and never being able to fully escape society’s plan for you. But trying.

Yvonne spells out trauma for those who don’t understand it, as well as for those who do. She shows how something that happens to you before you even begin really having memories can affect you for the rest of your life: your cogntiive, emotional and even physical development.

After publishing her book from prison, which soon became a bestseller, Johnson’s notoriety launched her into eligibility for early parole. Originally ordered a life sentence with a chance for parole at 25 years, she was able to get parole 9 years earlier than expected. The book is an insight into prison life, a Native woman’s life, an long term abuse victim’s story and a human trying to make sense of the world around her.

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