Christie Harris Critical Essays

Introduction

Christie Harris 1907–

Canadian novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, and editor. Harris has written historical fiction, novels about contemporary young adults, and several volumes of Indian legends retold for the modern reader. As a child, she lived with her homesteader parents in a log cabin in western Canada and credits this with her affinity for tales of that area. The West she depicts is a peaceful one, in contrast to the violence of the American West. Her interpretations of Indian myths are sensitive and stress universal concerns against the unfamiliar background of Indian life. She says, "I've found it a real challenge to take their tragic history, their magnificent culture, and their fascinating legends; and then make it all real and understandable to today's young people." Her research has not been confined to historic accounts and anthropological archives: she has also spent much time with the Indians themselves. Harris's historical fiction also deals with the Canadian West but is often criticized for lacking life-like dimensions: her facts are accurate and her research is painstaking but the characters often seem wooden and their actions implausible. In addition, she has written several works of fiction dealing with the lives of her children; however, these novels seem to lack the artistic distance necessary to develop convincing characterization. Harris seems to be at her weakest when attempting to present a moral. The Indian legends, which confine this didacticism best, are her most successful works. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 6.)