cover image Walking the Ojibwe Path: A Memoir in Letters to Joshua

Walking the Ojibwe Path: A Memoir in Letters to Joshua

Richard Wagamese. Milkweed, $18 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-57131-394-2

Originally published in Canada in 2002, this harrowing memoir from Ojibwe novelist Wagamese (1955–2017) reflects on his turbulent childhood and struggle with alcoholism. In a series of dispatches to his estranged son, Joshua, who was six at the time of writing, Wagamese recounts growing up in a “traditional” Ojibwe family in Ontario—“hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering berries, smoking fish, and living as Ojibwe people had for generations”—until, for reasons unknown to the author, he was moved into foster care when he was a toddler. He cycled through different homes, living with well-meaning white couples with whom he felt unable to discuss his anxiety about being “the only Indian kid around.” After his first year of high school he struck out on his own, ending up homeless and taking to drinking. Wagamese captures the painful intractability of alcoholism and laments that even an enlightening four-day ceremonial “vision quest” failed to translate into sobriety. The crisp prose shines and readers will be moved by discussions of how the author’s separation from his parents resonated throughout his life, as when he suggests that his drinking “always came back to... the fact that I was unlovable.” Affecting and unflinching, this tugs at the heartstrings. (July)