Canadian

The Reason You Walk

Wab Kinew's memoir is a moving tale of father-son reconciliation.

Wab Kinew

When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant Aboriginal man who'd raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father's traumatic childhood at residential school.

An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew's father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. 

Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and a wider conversation about the future of Aboriginal peoples. (From Penguin Canada)

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

The Sundance leader drew a treaty medallion from a box and placed it in my hands. He reminded me of the significance of the treaty relationship — the commitment to share the land with newcomers. I nodded and thanked him, surprised at how heavy the medal was in my hands.

My gaze turned to the earth. It had been two years since I was last here. I had strayed off the red road I had been taught to walk as a boy. I had turned my back on my father. I had hurt many people, including those closest to me.

As the son of a hereditary Chief, I had always known that I would someday rise to this rank. However, I assumed this day would come far in the future. Perhaps, after I had achieved something great. Instead, it came as I was at one of my lowest ebbs.

My community, my family and my father responded by giving me a second chance. That which was broken, they tried to make whole once again.


From The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew ©2015. Published by Penguin Canada.

Author interviews

Wab Kinew talks about his memoir, an account of the year he spent with his dying father. 17:49
Wab Kinew is known to many CBC fans for his work as a journalist, a panellist and host of Canada Reads. He has just released his first book; The Reason You Walk is a story of reconciliation between a father and son. 11:05