In 2005, award-winning writer Richard Wagamese moved with his partner to a cabin outside Kamloops, B.C. In the crisp mountain air Wagamese felt a peace he'd seldom known before. Abused and abandoned as a kid, he'd grown up feeling there was nowhere he belonged. For years, only alcohol and moves from town to town seemed to ease the pain.
In One Native Life, Wagamese looks back down the road he has travelled in reclaiming his identity and talks about the things he has learned as a human being, a man and an Ojibway in his fifty-two years. Whether he's writing about playing baseball, running away with the circus, attending a sacred bundle ceremony or meeting Pierre Trudeau, he tells these stories in a healing spirit. Through them, Wagamese celebrates the learning journey his life has been.
Free of rhetoric and anger despite the horrors he has faced, Wagamese's prose resonates with a peace that has come from acceptance. Acceptance is an Aboriginal principle, and he has come to see that we are all neighbours here. One Native Life is his tribute to the people, the places and the events that have allowed him to stand in the sunshine and celebrate being alive.close this panel
"Wagamese wrote movingly -- and with applauded bravery for his openness -- about his abuse and booze-damaged past in the 2002 memoir For Joshua, addressed to his son. In what reads as almost a continuation of that earlier book, One Native Life describes the author's continued emotional healing, a recovery with his Anishnabeg roots at the core."
"The power of...One Native Life lies in its ability to explain how the residential school system affected not only the generations of natives who attended, but those who followed, and what needs to be done to rebuild families. Yet what has the potential to be a depressing and difficult read is instead an incredibly inspiring book, on that should be read by all Canadians."
"I have been touched deeply by Richard Wagamese's reflections on life, adversity, and healing...His message of hope and belonging urges every Canadian to set out each dawn to find meaning in ourselves, figure out where we belong, and nurture our humanity."
"Delicate and strangely beautiful, each vignette (written in early dawn) seems to radiate from point to luminous point...This is the language of trauma and its miraculous recovery, a beautiful and important Canadian work."
"[Richard Wagamese's] latest book of nonfiction showcases him as a writer of insight and eloquence, as it recounts episodes of his life from childhood onward. Whether about growing up in foster care or about reuniting with his Ojibway heritage, the dozens of original essays that comprise One Native Life extol the virtues of reclaiming displaced identity and healing through a sense of belonging."
"Each story -- almost without exception -- is positive and uplifting, meaningful and supportive of his new, well-anchored life. All of his memories are formed from the vantage point of where he is now, a tribute to the qualities of memoir...Grounded as he now appears to be, and secure in his identity, Richard Wagamese in his 50s may be just hitting his stride."
"One Native Life is a journey, snapshots of events as Wagamese moves through a life of loneliness, forever searching for that place to belong as he travels to reclaim an identity denied him as a child. Within these vignettes, we see the joyous spirit Wagamese has become."
"[Wagamese's] memoir is an insightful look at his search for his roots and the traditions binding him not only to his people but the 'great, grand circle' of humanity."
"Writing with appealing warmth and gentle humour, he is frank about his insecurities and failings. Rather than play the blame game, [Wagamese] concentrates on appreciating the people who nurtured and helped him when he needed it most."
"This design is perfect in its simplicity: it captures the personal content and informal tone of Wagamese's writing in a quiet, inviting, and unassuming way. There's a sense of both narrative and history in the birch-bark background."
"In quiet tones and luminous language, Wagamese shares his hurts and insights and joys, inviting readers to find the ways in which they are joined to him and to consider how they might be joined to others."