Surviving the City

Vol. 1, Surviving the City series
by Tasha Spillett | illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Grade: for grades 7–12
(1 customer review)
SKU: 978-1-55379-756-2 Categories: , ,


  • Softcover
  • eBook

Tasha Spillett’s graphic-novel debut tells a story of kinship, resilience, cultural resurgence, 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 Indigenous 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?

Surviving the City is one book in The Debwe Series.

Lexile 550L

Among ALA’s The 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project’s Top Ten list

Among Winnipeg Public Library’s Most Popular Books for 2019
—Winnipeg Free Press

Listed among Best Canadian Comics of 2018 by CBC Books

Tasha Spillett tells the story through the girls’ dialogue and text messages—allowing readers to be continually immersed in their world. Métis artist Natasha Donovan’s full-colour illustrations stand out.
—Quill & Quire

In this haunting graphic novel, debut author Spillett and [illlustrator] Donovan (The Sockeye Mother) present a story of girls growing up with the historical legacy of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people, particularly women and girls.
—Publishers Weekly

The “engrossing” story “remains a tribute to the missing and murdered and a clarion call to everyone else”…
––Kirkus Review

Recommended by The 49th Shelf for The BFF List. A list for new books for teens and young readers about the challenges and rewards of friendship. And yes, the drama too, which always makes for good reading.
—49th Shelf

The importance of community, especially a community of women, is a running theme throughout the book. [This book] would be [a] welcome addition to a secondary school library or classroom, or to an Indigenous Studies or Indigenous Literature curriculum.
—Bev Bellrose for Professionally Speaking

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 courage from our Ancestors.
—Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost

A startling, timely, and beautifully illustrated account of the plight of indigenous girls, women, and two-children in Canada. Not to be missed.
—NetGalley reviewer

Surviving the City is available as an ebook in .epub and .pdf formats. Select a format using the drop-down menu to the left and checkout as usual. You will be sent an email with instructions to download the file.

Nominated for The Dragon Award (Comics for a Younger Reader)

Among MYRCA Northern Lights Nominees

An In the Margins Top Fiction Novel for 2020

An AIYL Honor Book

Shortlisted for the Forest of Reading 2020 Red Maple Fiction program

Among YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels List

Finalist for the Cybils Award, Young Adult Graphic Novels

Winner Indigenous Voices Award, alternate format

Co-winner of the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book by a Manitoba Author 

Winner of the Manuela Dias Design and Illustration Award, Graphic Novel category

Selected for CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens list


1 review for Surviving the City

  1. M

    This is the most impactful, moving graphic novel I have ever read. The illustrations were breathtaking and haunting, and absolutely LAYERED. So, so much depth and complexity and heart to this story.

    This story matters.

    It was beautiful to see Anishinaabe and Inninew rep (and language rep!) on page. I teared up the first time I saw “kokum” on page. Just. I don’t even know where to begin. This book dives deep into inter-generational trauma and the way our past and our families and their wounds haunt us. I could go on about both of those books for days, but I just want to say this: this will be a re-read, re-read, re-read. Native kids deserve to see themselves represented in a story like this. I’m so very grateful.

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