Waubgeshig Rice on why you should read The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp
June is Indigenous Book Club Month. CBC Books will publish a recommendation each day from an Indigenous writer for a book written by another Indigenous author.
Waubgeshig Rice recommends The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp.
"When I first read it, Richard Van Camp's The Lesser Blessed struck me as a quintessential telling of the young Indigenous experience. All these years later, I still believe that. The protagonist, Larry, is one of the richest and most genuine characters I've ever read in fiction. His dreams and desires compel you to adore him, while the struggles he's endured in his short life invoke deep empathy. He lives in a fictional town in the Northwest Territories where survival and resilience tiptoe around the sharp lines that exist between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who live there. It profoundly resonated with me, as someone from a reserve in the Anishinaabe territory known as rural central Ontario. Larry is aware of the paradoxes he embodies, and the burden of stereotypes he must carry as a young Tlicho, and Van Camp expertly crafts him as a teen who enjoys rock and roll music and hanging out with friends, just like many youth everywhere else.
The Lesser Blessed inspired me to keep writing my own stories about young Anishinaabeg. The diverse, compelling characters are humanised in a way that was largely unseen in mainstream media and literature at the time this short but very potent book was published two decades ago. Van Camp showed me that it's okay to go to dark places and write about harsh truths when depicting the young Indigenous experience in fiction, all the while ensuring hope and joy have space to triumph."
Waubgeshig Rice is a journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. He is the author of Legacy and his forthcoming novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, will be published in 2018. He currently works as a multiplatform journalist for CBC Ottawa and CBC Indigenous.