The Next Chapter

Why Canada Reads author Eden Robinson wrote a modern Trickster tale

Kaniehtiio Horn is defending Son of a Trickster on Canada Reads 2020. Eden Robinson spoke to Shelagh Rogers in 2017 about the novel.
Eden Robinson is the author of Son of a Trickster. (CBC)

This interview originally aired on March 20, 2017.

Eden Robinson grew up on the Haisla Nation Kitamaat reserve on British Columbia's central coast. She rose to literary prominence after her 2000 novel Monkey Beach was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. 

Her novel Son of a Trickster is a contemporary Trickster story told in the voice of Jared, a teenager who drinks and smokes too much and has a tumultuous relationship with his intimidating mother.

Actor Kaniehtiio Horn is defending Son of a Trickster on Canada Reads 2020.

The debates were scheduled to take place March 16-19, 2020. Given the ongoing developments with COVID-19 and the related travel concerns, Canada Reads has made the difficult decision to postpone next week's event until we can convene our stellar panel of advocates in front of a live audience. 

Canada Reads content will still be featured this week (March 16-20), in a series of one hour programs dedicated to this year's books and authors.

Robinson spoke with Shelagh Rogers in 2017 about how she wrote the novel. 

Bringing mythic characters into the present day

"There were multiple inspirations for this story. In its earliest incarnation, I was in a storytelling festival in Prince George, and I heard the novelist Richard Van Camp tell a story about the women at the All-Native Basketball Tournament. It just tickled me to see characters from our mythology in the present. That hung around in the back of my head for a long time.

"At the same time, I was writing a collection of short stories about a First Nations dance group forming and collapsing in East Vancouver. One of the stories I was writing involved a young man coming down on a Greyhound bus from a northern community and experiencing Vancouver for the first time. That image just stayed with me."

Living, breathing stories

"If you are invited to a potlatch, then you are there as a witness, and the redistribution is payment for your role as a witness. You're publicly acknowledging the event, and if you are asked about it, you are expected to recount truthfully and honestly what happened at that event. It's a way of keeping public accountability.

I think of a novel as something in amber, whereas the oral stories are still alive and flying around.- Eden Robinson

"The stories that I grew up with are fluid. They're living, breathing things that need tending, whereas a novel is its own little encased world. I think of a novel as something in amber, whereas the oral stories are still alive and flying around."

Eden Robinson's comments have been edited and condensed.

The Canada Reads 2020 contenders

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.