Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
A tour-de-force debut novel about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess who must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve.
"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling debut novel by poet Joshua Whitehead.
Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez"--and his former life--to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages--and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.
Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of First Nations life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.
Jonny Appleseed breaks rocks and crafts them into good medicine for folks like Jonny, who might be looking to see themselves reflected somewhere, and for whom this visibility might even mean survival. As Whitehead weaves Jonny's resonant experiences and complex identity into a compelling journey, we might also consider why stories such as his are so rare when Jonny is so willing to bring us along for the ride. -Winnipeg Free Press
This is literary perfection. It's also the most beautiful quill and bead work that I've felt since discovering Chrystos and Gregory Scofield. I'm in awe, Jonny. I'm grateful, Joshua. I'm astounded at everything you've gathered here for us to honour and blush about and witness. You are my new hero. Don't you ever stop writing and sharing. Mahsi cho for your beauty. -Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed
If we're lucky, we'll find one or two books in a lifetime that change the language of story, that manage to illuminate new curves in the flat vessels of old letters and words. This is one of those books. Jonny Appleseed gifts us with clarity in the shape of sharp, and medicine in the guise of soft -- and a sexy, powerful, broken, beautiful hero who has enough capacity in the dent of a clavicle to hold all the tears of his family. This book gives us back the land of curb and field, trailer and ledge, and the community -- in all its rusted and complicated glory. Most importantly, this book gifts us with the opportunity to hear the innovative and the ancient in the prose of a new literary goddess, Joshua Whitehead. -Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves
Every so often, a book comes along that feels like a milestone, with revolution nestled beneath every sentence, every word. Oji-Cree/nehiyaw two-spirit/Indigiqueer writer Joshua Whitehead's Jonny Appleseed is one of those books ... With its fluid structure and timelines, Jonny Appleseed creates a dream-like reading experience -- and with a narrator as wise, funny and loveable as Jonny, it's the sort of dream you don't want to wake up from. -The Globe and Mail
With only seven days until he returns home for his stepfather's funeral, Appleseed spends a pyretic week attempting to reconcile the competing factions of his life: sex, friends, work, sex, family, identity, sex. Throughout, memories of his kokum (grandmother) intrude upon the chaos, and these unexpected moments of remembrance prove most striking. A radically original new voice. -Booklist
Jonny Appleseed weaponizes story to bring the rez (and urban rez) to life, shrouding its characters in luminous layers so they're neither good nor bad but immersed in worlds and words. Unflinching and intimate, Joshua Whitehead takes his readers on a journey to the heart of an NDN glitter princess with generous, swooning prose. Unforgettable. -Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster
Joshua Whitehead redefines what queer Indigenous writing can be in his powerful debut novel. Jonny Appleseed transcends genres of writing to blend the sacred and the sexual into a vital expression of Indigenous desire and love. Reading it is a coming home to bodies, stories, and experiences of queer Indigenous life that has never been so richly and honestly shown before. This book is an honour song to every queer NDN body who has ever lived and it will transform the universe with its beauty and magic. -Gwen Benaway, author of Passage
Jonny Appleseed is a miraculous achievement of a debut novel. -Canadian Art