Does fiction have the power to redeem?




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First aired on The Next Chapter (29/4/13)

Fiction plays an important role in telling stories that are often left out of history. When aboriginal narratives are left out of the Canadian history books, aboriginal people find redemption in other forms of storytelling -- people like writers Joseph Boyden and Richard Wagamese.

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Richard Wagamese is an Ojibway writer. His latest novel, Indian Horse -- a Canada Reads 2013 finalist -- is the story of a young Native boy who is taken away from his family. He's put into residential school, where he becomes a gifted hockey player. Wagamese began telling aboriginal stories first as a journalist, and later told them through fiction. "I feel privileged to carry the stories of what it means to be a First Nations person in Canada for parts of six decades," he told The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers. "The stories that come out of that experience are magnificent, because I've seen the nature and the state of equality of my people change so immensely in that time." 

He felt telling these stories was important for another reason: many of them hadn't been shared outside the aboriginal community before. "As a journalist I had the privilege of covering some of those stories and bringing them to the attention of the Canadian population -- sometimes for the first time."

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Joseph Boyden has a mixed heritage of Irish and Anishinaabe. His novel Three Day Road tells the story of two young Cree men who are snipers during the First World War. Boyden is dedicated to changing aboriginal narratives through fiction and activism. Just recently he used his status as a writer to change the popular narrative of the Attawapiskat crisis in Quebec. 

"We read about Attawapiskat and picture something that I think is very different from the real place...[the story in the media] was all what's wrong with these people that they can live in poverty and isolation like this and tarpaper shacks and not take care of themselves and this is a place that I taught," he said. "I was like what, wait, these are the people that took me in and gave me meals and when I had nothing to do, they brought me to their house. It's a place that gave me my writing, so much of my writing...It's the opposite of what you hear in the media about all these places like Fort Albany and Attawapiskat with people with their hands out begging."

Wagamese and Boyden use fiction to explore the truth and to share this truth with readers everywhere. You can listen to their entire conversation with Shelagh Rogers in the audio player above.


Photo of Joseph Boyden by Bryan McBurney






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