A dark shadow fills the doorway, and Irene’s life is changed forever.
One minute her family is living life on Nipissing First Nation, her father the chief, and the next minute Irene and two of her brothers become “wards of the government” and are taken from their home and sent to a residential school without their parents’ consent.
The school, run by nuns, does everything to strip Irene and the other children of their cultural identity. She is no longer Irene; she is number 759.
During her time at the boarding school, Irene suffers terrible abuses and misses her home and culture desperately.
When Irene goes home for summer vacation, her only hope is that her parents will find a way to keep her home. But what consequences might they face for doing so?
Based on the story of the author’s own grandmother, this is a heartbreaking tale of the lengths nations will go to to control and destroy other cultures.
The afterward includes a few facts about residential schools in Canada and information about Irene’s life.
Books like I Am Not a Number are a difficult but necessary read to help students understand that not all atrocities take place far from home and that cultural discrimination, injustice, and exploitation continue today.