Surviving the City: From the Roots Up
Surviving the City Vol. 2: From the Roots Up, written by Tasha Spillett and illustrated by Natasha Donovan, is a graphic novel that explores the intersections of Indigenous culture and gender identity. It builds on the previous volume to show the struggles of an Indigenous teen growing up in Winnipeg and finding space in her Indigenous culture and community as a two-spirited person.
The previous volume focused on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, particularly centering on the character Miikwan and the loss of her mother. This volume shows main character Dez negotiating a colonial system as she encounters hostile police and social workers and adjusts to a new foster home after the death of her grandmother. At the same time, she has started to identify as two-spirited and has entered into a relationship with Kacey, a queer youth at her foster home. The representation of a two-spirited character in this book is significant, particularly given how the author explores various characters' journeys to understanding and accepting Dez's identity. After coming out to Miikwan, Dez receives acceptance both from her and from new student Riel. Also important is the way her Elder considers Dez's identity and makes changes to ensure everyone feels acceptance and belonging in their sacred circles and ceremonies.
Other subplots in the book echo real life events. Riel discusses the murder of his brother by a police officer. This event makes him question the colonialism that the government perpetuates, leading to small acts of defiance on his part. While the characters live and are impacted by a colonial system, they gain strength from each other and their culture. The book ends in a celebration as the main characters find love and belonging with each other and within their community.