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Surviving the City

By Tasha Spillett
Illustrated by Natasha Donovan & Donovan Yaciuk
Series: Surviving the City
Imprint: HighWater Press

Categories: Young Adult Fiction, Coming of Age, Girls & Women, Canada
Big Ideas: Aspects of Indigenous Cultures, Spirituality and Ceremony, Contemporary Setting, Social Emotional Learning, Death, Grief, and Bereavement, Social Justice, Family Separation, Foster Care and the Child Welfare System, MMIWG2S
Cultures & Peoples: Anishinaabeg, Cree
Indigenous Languages: Anishinaabemowin, Words or Phrases

Interest Age: 12+
Grade: 8–12
Reading Level: Fountas & Pinnell Z, Lexile® Framework for Reading: HL550L
Paperback : 9781553797562, 56 pages, November 2018
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781553797845, 56 pages, December 2018
Ebook (PDF) : 9781553797852, 56 pages, December 2018

Tasha Spillett’s graphic novel debut, Surviving the City, is a story about womanhood, friendship, colonialism, and the anguish of a missing loved one.


Miikwan and Dez are best friends. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up in an urban landscape—they’re so close, they even completed their Berry Fast together. However, when Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick, Dez is told she can’t stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t?


Selected for 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers

American Library Association (ALA)

Selected as an AIYLA Young Adult Honor Book

American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA)

Nominated for the Forest of Reading's Red Maple Award

Ontario Library Association

[A] haunting graphic novel. .. debut author Spillett and Donovan. .. present a story of girls growing up with the historical legacy of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people, particularly women and girls.

Publishers Weekly

Engrossing. .. [this story] remains a tribute to the missing and murdered and a clarion call to everyone else.

Kirkus Reviews

Centering the strong hearts of Indigenous women and girls and shattering racist assumptions, Surviving the City is a beautiful, uncompromising honour song to those of us that not only survive the urban, but navigate through it with the courage of our Ancestors.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost