Woman tells important stories in 2 books

Melissa Calliou holds her book Wishing You Well. Jason Eaglespeaker edited the book, which was published Oct. 18, 2019.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Never let it be said that writer Melissa Calliou doesn’t tackle the tough issues.

Her two recent books deal with the cycle of abuse among First Nations people stemming from residential schools.

Calliou was born and raised, and now resides in Edmonton. She has local roots in Sucker Creek, just east of High Prairie. Calliou writes from the heart and with first-hand knowledge.

Calliou’s first book Wishing You Well is set in the 1960s and took 2-3 months to write.

“I knew the topic,” she says.

The book was inspired by her grandparents, parents and herself. She expertly weaves the life experiences of all three into a book designed to help and educate others.

“It talks about the cycle of domestic abuse,” she says.

“I personally have gone through the cycle of abuse; thankfully, I was able to leave, some women don’t,” she says.

“In today’s world, the cycle of abuse born in these schools continues within our own families,” she says.

She hopes her story will give strength to help those who need strength to leave abusive situations and, of course, raise awareness to the issue.

“Wishing You Well was originally written as a screenplay for a short film,” she says.

Her second book In the Eyes of Peyak [Cree word for one] she describes as fiction but based on true events.

Inspired by a friend of hers – a knowledge keeper – it is about a boy who escapes a residential school where he was growing up and survives. He has a spirit guide leading him; however, when he is caught the spirit guide disappears. In the end, his estranged grandfather rescues him. He is taken to the mountains, where he has his first taste of freedom and paradise.

Calliou says writing the books also gives the victims “the opportunity to share their stories.”

“I think these stories are very special,” she says. “I want to make sure they’re said in the right way to honour their stories.”

And what better endorsement could Wishing You Well receive than with the stamp of “Elder Approved?”

In addition to writing films, Calliou also directs them. As an emerging filmmaker, her goal is to create a positive image that breaks stigmas within generations today, to help First Nations people through sharing stories, and to better education the youth and generation to come.

Besides writing, Calliou also paints. She continues to work on other projects.

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