Why Canada Reads author Eden Robinson wrote a modern Trickster tale
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.
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.
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