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Approaching Fire

by (author) Michelle Porter

Breakwater Books Ltd.
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
Creative Writing, English Language Arts, History, Social Studies
Grade Levels
9 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

Where to buy it

Descriptive Review

In Approaching Fire, Michelle Porter incorporates a mixture of genres to bring the readers along on her quest to learn more about her great-grandfather, Métis fiddler Léon Robert Goulet. Goulet was a key musical figure in traditional Métis music in Manitoba through the 1940s. The text weaves together historical documents, oral narratives, poetry, fire ecology, and family traditions to create a comprehensive picture of Porter’s own journey toward understanding herself and reclaiming an identity that had been lost due to absence and erasure. The intimate conversation that takes place between Porter and her Pépé explores a wider history of the Métis in Canada, touching on racial discrimination, stolen land rights (scrip), and the underlying values inherent to Métis identity. | Michelle Porter is a citizen of the Métis Nation and a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation. Longlisted for the 2020 BMO Winterset Award and winner of The Miramichi Reader’s 2020 Most Promising Author Award.

200 pp., 5.25 × 8.25", b&w primary resources

Michelle Porter (Métis)

Source: Association of Book Publishers of BC - Canadian Indigenous Books for Schools (2021-2022)

About the author

Michelle Porter's first novel will be published by Penguin Canada in 2023. Her first book of poetry, Inquiries, was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award in 2019 and was a finalist for the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award in 2021. Her previous non-fiction book, Approaching Fire (2020), in which she embarks on a quest to find her great-grandfather, the Métis fiddler and performer Léon Robert Goulet, was shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Awards 2021. She is a citizen of the Métis Nation and member of the Manitoba Métis Federation.


Michelle Porter's profile page


  • Runner-up, IPPY Awards: Best Regional Non-Fiction: Canada-West
  • Short-listed, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Regional Non-Fiction Category
  • Short-listed, Indigenous Voices Awards for Published Prose in English, Creative Non-Fiction and Life-Writing Category
  • Long-listed, First Nation Communities Read Awards
  • Winner, The Miramichi Reader's Most Promising Author Award
  • Long-listed, BMO Winterset Award

Editorial Reviews

Approaching Fire is an exploration of absence, erasure, and the irrepressible yearning to discover what has been suppressed… With little to go on, Porter creates something of a scrapbook of her hit-and-miss search: a patchwork of poems, semi-scholarly expositions on the science of controlled burnings and intergenerational traumas, and excerpts from an oral history going back to the dying days of the buffalo hunt… Porter’s poetry shines, especially as she focuses on the often anguished and frustrated experience of her quest. Some of the best poems employ metaphors of beadwork—negotiating the needle’s passage, the blood of a pricked finger, the tension of threads. Ultimately, Porter does not answer all of her questions, but merely posing them and letting them hang might be enough. It might also help mark this book as part of an emergent decolonizing literature, a kind of shadow companion to Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading. Think of it as an unreading of history: a reckoning with all that has been written off, written out, and written over.”

Literary Review of Canada

“I've never read a book quite like this before… Approaching Fire is a documentary you can hold in your hands, in which, rather than being a passive witness to scenes unfolding, you become immersed in a river of poetry. Author Michelle Porter uses a mixture of genres to create an account of her journey to uncover the history of her Métis roots, stretching from Newfoundland to British Columbia, Alberta to Saskatchewan, and finally digging deeply into Manitoba. Michelle travels through the stories she was raised on, using them as a base from which to understand the accounts of others, learning all she can about her Great Great Grandfather, Léon Robert (Bob) Goulet, renowned fiddler and performer. Her Pépé. In his story, her story, a wider history of the Métis people is told. A history of racial discrimination, stolen land rights, and the question of what truly unites and defines Métis identity. This book blazes with poetic beauty, and a voice Canada needs to hear.”

More Books Than Days

“And thus, by poetry and prose and the careful unearthing of the truth, is history rewritten. This beautiful work is both lyrical and powerful and worthy of several reads.”

The Minerva Reader

"Michelle Porter’s Approaching Fire is an incredible book - searching, finding and sharing the story of her great-grandfather, Métis fiddler Bob Goulet. Fittingly, there is such a music to this book: it moves in movements."

Atlantic Books Today