The Next Chapter

Richard Van Camp discusses highlighting the humour and hope within Indigenous communities

The celebrated fiction writer talks to Shelagh Rogers about his new short story collection, Moccasin Square Gardens.
Moccasin Square Gardens is a short story collection by Richard Van Camp. (Douglas & McIntyre, Laughing Dog Photography)

This interview originally aired on April 27, 2019.

For Richard Van Camp, humour is the potential cure for what ails Indigenous communities.

The celebrated fiction writer — and a member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, N.W.T. —  has written over 20 books across multiple genres. 

His latest book, Moccasin Square Gardens, is a humourous collection of short stories based on his hometown. The stories feature an assortment of flawed characters, from shamans and time-travelling goddess warriors to pop culture-obsessed pencil pushers and con artists, who are all seeking human connections and their purpose in life. 

Van Camp spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing Moccasin Square Gardens.

Calling to account

"Moccasin Square Gardens is years in the making. It brings together my other short story collections, including Angel Wing Splash Pattern and Night Moves.

"This latest book is about humour, celebration and a calling of account to take more responsibility for ourselves. When you think about Indigenous literature, a lot of it is pain soaked — and they have to be because we're still in the shadow of so many things. But what I wanted with this book was a dance; I wanted to celebrate. We've done the pain, the sorrow and the grief, now it's time for celebration."

All about hope

"It is a time of incredible sorrow and incredible grief. But I think that the world is going to look to Indigenous people to help them with their own healing. So let's make fun of everybody and let's make fun of ourselves. Let's show our beauty, our dignity and our resilience. They say that those who have health, have hope — and those who have hope have everything. Moccasin Square Gardens is all about the hope.

"This was a lot of fun to write. It was a lot of fun to put together."

Richard Van Camp's comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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