Monday, 20 March 2017

Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese died on March 10, at age 61, and it has been hard to write this blog.
I met him in 2013 when his book "Ragged Company" was chosen for One Book One Community. Read about it here.
As a library volunteer, I had a chance to chat with him.  So perhaps  I feel his loss more than I have felt the loss of other authors.
His writing is stunning and painfully honest.  He has written fiction and non-fiction, and the painful aspects of his life come through clearly in both.
His parents had experienced the residential schools that he writes about in "Indian Horse" and were damaged to the point that they were unable to provide a home for Richard, so he was placed in foster care.  Eventually he was adopted, but he was unable to keep his First Nations heritage and identity so he left home as a young teen to search for a connection with his indigenous culture.  He was always honest about his struggles with addiction, as he searched for answers in his culture.

In my opinion, his best book is "Indian Horse".  I think it is a perfect novel - characters, plot, setting, language.  It has everything that makes a great novel for me.  It was one of five books chosen for Canada Reads in 2013.  Check my blog from 2013 here, back when I really did put videos on my 'video blog'.
This book is being made into a movie.  Sadly, Richard didn't live to see the final production.

This novel, "Keeper 'N Me" is fictional but has many similarities to Richard's life.
Garnet Raven, at 3 years old, was taken from his home on an Ojibway Indian reserve and put in foster homes.  In his teens, he ran away and lived on the streets of a big city.  Eventually, he was able to reconnect with the reserve and was initiated into the ways of the Ojibway by Keeper, a friend of his grandfather. This novel shows the power of community and traditions.

This book, "Embers" was written this year.  It is a  book of meditations.  Here is a quote:
"Life sometimes is hard.  There are challenges.  There are difficulties.  There is pain.  As a younger man I sought to avoid them and only ever caused myself more of the same.  These days I choose to face life head on- and I have become a comet.  I arc across the sky of my life and the harder times are the friction that lets the worn and tired bits drop away.  It's resistance until all there is left of me is light.  I can live towards that end".

I like this picture of Richard because he writes so much about appreciation of nature.
He has written 12 books and has encouraged and supported many young indigenous writers.

A wonderful storyteller, excellent author, kind and gentle human being!


  1. I admired his work too, Betty. I was saddened to learn he had died and at a relatively young age. He will undoutably be a missing element in the world of Canadian authors.

  2. I loved Indian Horse, a friend lent it to me. I shed some tears while reading For Joshua, a book he wrote for his son.