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Richard Wagamese (1955–2017)

Author of Indian Horse

21+ Works 2,597 Members 201 Reviews 10 Favorited

About the Author

Canadian author Richard Wagamese was one of the leading indigenous writers in North America. He began his writing career in 1979, first as a journalist and then as a radio and television broadcaster. In 1991, he became the first indigenous writer to win a National Newspaper Award for column show more writing. His debut novel, Keeper 'n Me, won the Alberta Writers Guild's Best Novel Award in 1994. His other books included A Quality of Light, Ragged Company, One Native Life, The Next Sure Thing, Indian Horse, Him Standing, and Medicine Walk. He also published an anthology of his newspaper columns entitled The Terrible Summer, a collection of poetry entitled Runaway Dreams, and a memoir entitled For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son. He won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction in 2007 for Dream Wheels and the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature in 2011 for his memoir One Story, One Song. He was also the 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communications and the 2013 recipient of the Canada Council on the Arts Molson Prize. He died on March 10, 2017 at the age of 61. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse (2012) 795 copies
Medicine Walk (2014) 471 copies
Ragged Company (2008) 189 copies
Keeper'n Me (1994) 179 copies
One Native Life (2008) 130 copies
Starlight (2018) 114 copies
Dream Wheels (2006) 103 copies
One Story, One Song (2011) 77 copies
Him Standing (Rapid Reads) (2013) 65 copies
One Drum (2019) 58 copies
The Next Sure Thing (2011) 57 copies
A Quality Of Light (1997) 34 copies

Associated Works

An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English (1992) — Contributor — 75 copies


Common Knowledge



An inspirational, spiritual and transformative collection of meditative wisdoms by beloved Indigenous author Richard Wagamese.

In this carefully curated selection of everyday reflections, Richard Wagamese finds lessons in both the mundane and sublime as he muses on the universe, drawing inspiration from working in the bush—sawing and cutting and stacking wood for winter—as well as the smudge ceremony to bring him closer to the Creator. Embers is perhaps Richard Wagamese's most personal volume to date. Honest, evocative and articulate, he explores the various manifestations of grief, joy, recovery, beauty, gratitude, physicality and spirituality—concepts many find hard to express. But for Wagamese, spirituality is multifaceted. Within these pages, readers will find hard-won and concrete wisdom on how to feel the joy in the everyday things. Wagamese does not seek to be a teacher or guru, but these observations made along his own journey to become, as he says, "a spiritual bad-ass," make inspiring reading.

"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 a good way to travel; eventually I will wear away all resistance until all there is left of me is light. I can live towards that end." —Richard Wagamese, Embers

-Amazon description
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CDJLibrary | 26 other reviews | Apr 3, 2024 |
This is such a good book although not one that is easy to get hold of. My copy came all the way from America, although the author is Canadian.

On one level it tells us the story of a father and son, Eldon and Franklin Starlight who do not know each other well but where the father has asked Frank for a favour. To take him deep into the woods and to bury him facing east like a warrior would have been buried as they are both Ojibway, an indiginous group in Canada. Eldon is dying so the journey is not an easy one but part of the reason for doing it is so that Frank can find out more about his father, and his mother who he never knew.

Eldon has three significant events in his life that he has not been able to deal with: leaving his mother with an abusive boyfriend, his role in the death of his best friend Jimmy and the death of his wife, Frank's mother. Eldon used alcohol to 'keep things away' such as dreams and memories and was dying of 'alcohol sickness' and sees the journey as an opportunity to ask for Frank's forgiveness.

There are so many wonderful elements in this book, one of them being the descriptions of the place, backcountry Canada and the love and ease with which Frank exists in it. Raised by 'the Old Man' who is not his father, he can hunt and live off the land on his own at the age of sixteen and has been able to do so for several years.

There were lodgepole pines, birch, aspen and larch. The kid rode easily, smoking and guiding the horse with his knees. They edged around blackberry thickets and stepped gingerly over stumps and stones and the sore-looking red of fallen pines. It was late fall. The dark green of fir leaned to a sullen greyness, and the sudden bursts of colour from the last clinging leaves struck him like the flare of lightning bugs in a darkened field.

This is where Frank is at home. Contrast this with the description of where his father lives.

The house leaned back toward the shore so that in the encroaching dark it seemed to hover there as though deciding whether to continue hugging land or to simply shrug and surrender itself to the steel-grey muscle of the river. It was as three-storey clapboard and there were pieces of shingle strewn about the yard amid shattered windowpanes and boots and odd bits of clothing and yellowed newspapers that the wind pressed to the chicken-wire fence at its perimeter.

His father had become distanced from the land and didn't learn the ways to live off it as his family had had to chase work to survive and that ended up being what he knew. Working in the timber mills, moving around for the work and it was hard, physical work guaranteed to ruin a body prematurely.

The walk becomes the medicine as does the time spent together in a place where they were surrounded by trees as they

. . . winked out of view as though the woods had folded itself around them, cocooned them, the chrysalis impermeable, whole, wound of time . . .

But there is also the medicine provided by the woman they meet in the shack where they wait for the rain to pass. Made from materials found in the woods, it numbs Eldon, reduces his pain and sends him into a more relaxed state of sleep. And then there is the medicine that is story. Stories abound everywhere. 'Tracks were story', there were the cave paintings telling stories that couldn't necessarily be read but were important enough for someone to record, there are the stories that Eldon tells to explain himself and it is these stories that enable Frank to start to understand his father. They are not easy stories to tell or hear and for Eldon, they are the first time he has told them.

This book can also be read as a journey to reconciliation between idiginous peoples, Frank, and settlers or those divorced from the land, Eldon. Eldon asks a couple of times for forgiveness from Frank who responds that forgiveness is not his to give. He refuses to absolve Eldon and at the end when asked again, Frank leaves the question unanswered. Here, the person who is asking for forgiveness has died and so is not even present, so who is forgiven now? I wondered if Wagamese was asking whether we can insist that survivors grant us forgiveness. I think he is saying that the journey is more important than the outcome, that the stories along the way are hard to tell and to listen to and there is no guarantee that forgiveness will be the outcome. Should we even be asking for it, we the colonialists? Through telling the stories we come to understand a little more about the reasons why things were as they were - we don't have to like them, but over time, the stories can bring us closer. It is also interesting whose stories we are listening to.

This book is a fantastic choice for a book club discussion - there is so much to talk about.
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allthegoodbooks | 41 other reviews | Feb 20, 2024 |
Profoundly moving and humble, this book makes me care more and feel more, the best I've read in ages.
lshinaver | 47 other reviews | Feb 20, 2024 |
I've read a number of Native Canadian stories before, so nothing in this book was new to me in that sense. However, I did appreciate the hockey angle and the discrimination the players felt. This aspect of the story may attract readers who may not have read other Native experinces but will come to understand something of the culture.
I also appreciate the framework of the story, of the alcoholic writing the memoir of his life to help him figure out and deal with his issues. In this sense, the book is universal because so many of us need to deal with buried issues.

It's a tough story to read, but the narrative is straight-forwardly written with very organic images. It's my first introduction to this author, but I would certainly read more.
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LDVoorberg | 47 other reviews | Dec 24, 2023 |



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