Book Riot Does Canada Reads Week 1: INDIAN HORSE by Richard Wagamese

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

OMG YOU GUYS CANADA READS IS STARTING! ARE YOU PSYCHED? I AM SO PSYCHED!  This is like a Muppet Movie opening for CanLit nerds, dudes.  Seriously.  It is on like Donkey Kong.

So Canada Reads is a BOOK RIOT EVENT this year, y’alls — I laid out all the goodies in this post, and this is our first week of our seven-week mini-spectacular.  We’re starting with INDIAN HORSE by Richard Wagamese (2012).  Today you’ll read this intro post, I’ll be Tweeting my reading progress all week at #brcr1 (please please please read-a-long and tweet-a-long with me!), and then I’ll meet you on the Twitters for an hour-long chat at 7:30 EST (4:30 PST) to discuss the novel.

So who is Richard Wagamese, and what is INDIAN HORSE all about?

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, though he now makes his home outside Kamloops, British Columbia.  He’s been writing for about forty years and had had success in seemingly every genre, from work as a journalist to novels, memoir, and poetry.  He’s definitely one of the leading Aboriginal Canadian writers today.

INDIAN HORSE is the story of Saul Indian Horse, an alcoholic recovering in a rehab centre who much come to terms with his history (and, in turn, colonial history writ large) in order to heal.  So we learn of Saul’s experiences of Residential Schooling in Canada, his hockey career, and his connections to his family and to the land.  (This sounds like the most Canadian novel ever so far.)

It’s so interesting to me that we’re going to be reading INDIAN HORSE as the story of Idle No More continues to develop from coast-to-coast in Canada.  Idle No More is a rapidly unfolding Aboriginal (and Aboriginal ally) protest movement here that involves the hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and anger towards abuses of treaty rights and about the recent Bill C-45.  INDIAN HORSE is, to me, the kind of book that helps us all understand one another better, and understanding is in short supply judging by the vitriol (and racism) in the comment threads relating to stories about Idle No More.  I hope the mainstream popularity of INDIAN HORSE thanks to Canada Reads has a powerful impact on the level of discourse among Idle No More observers.

So it looks like it’s going to be savvy and thoughtful, timely and clever, moving and tragic. What I’ve perused so far is sparsely beautiful in its careful prose.  If you haven’t got your hands on it yet, it’s available in the Kindle and Kobo stores right now so go get it!

You ready to do this, Rioters?  See you on the Twitters — remember, follow #brcr1 for the discussion.