Malignant Memory, a new novel that not only tells the tale of the Canadian residential school system and its aftermath, but of trauma, suffering and the redemptive power of forgiveness. The novel was written by Manitoba nurse and researcher Dr. Barbara Paterson. All the stories of abuse at the residential schools and orphanages featured in Malignant Memory are based on real-life experiences patients had shared with Dr. Paterson during her career. Dr. Paterson generously offered to share the source of her inspiration for the novel on this blog.
How the Canadian Residential School System Inspired a Story Full of History, Heart and Forgiveness
These traumatic memories remain hidden, repressed, until some trigger makes them visible again. When those traumatic memories are triggered by events, anniversaries, or other things, survivors of trauma experience the memory in a flight, freeze, or fight response. They may seek ways of escaping the memory of the trauma. They may be abusive to themselves or others. I believe that Nana’s fits of rage were the result of her trauma in the orphanage.
Barbara Paterson, Ph.D., has an interdisciplinary doctorate in nursing, psychology and education, as well as a master’s degree in post-secondary education. She served as a professor at the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, the University of New Brunswick, and Thompson River University until her retirement in 2013. Dr. Paterson is the recipient of several prestigious awards, such as the 3M Teaching Excellence Award, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and Canada’s Most Powerful Women Award for her work as a university educator and her research on chronic illness. Dr. Paterson speaks frequently on topics of education, health and Canada’s aboriginal people, and has been featured on top media outlets like CBC Radio and in more than one hundred scholarly journals. She lives outside Winnipeg, Manitoba.