Richard Van Camp's picks for what to watch and read over the holidays
Grab a blanket and settle in on the couch with these television shows and books
Originally published on December 17, 2021.
Dene author Richard Van Camp has written 26 books in 26 years. As a busy writer, Van Camp knows the holiday break is a great time to curl up in a comfy seat and watch a good show or movie, or dive into an excellent book.
As the resident pop culture uncle of CBC Radio's Unreserved, Van Camp shared with host Rosanna Deerchild his picks of shows and books to dig into over the holidays.
What to watch
Yellowstone is a drama series starring Kevin Costner as John Dutton, a cattle ranch owner in Montana who, along with his family, try to prevent neighbouring interests – an Indigenous reservation and landowners – from encroaching on the land. The show is available to stream in Canada on Amazon Prime.
"Yellowstone is for the world what North of 60 used to be for northerners and Native people. Remember how when North of 60 would come on and … the whole northern world would come to a standstill," Van Camp said. "It's a little over the top, but it's so riveting and I am so excited to see the Native Americans. I'm so excited to see the cowboys. I'm so excited to see the horses. And I know everybody has a crush on Rip [played by Cole Hauser]."
Reservation Dogs is a comedy/drama that follows four Indigenous teenagers (played by Devery Jacobs, D'Pharoah Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor and Paulina Alexis) who live on a reservation in Oklahoma. The four friends use any means necessary to save up enough money to escape to California. It's streaming in Canada on Disney Plus.
Although Van Camp wishes there was less swearing on the show, so that his seven-year-old could watch it with him, he called Reservation Dogs "phenomenal."
"They're using humour to deal with a lot of really difficult situations," Van Camp told Rosanna Deerchild. "I am so happy for the cast and crew and the writers. You know, Disney only has season one. I don't know when we're going to get to watch season two, but I'm really excited about it. I think it's a game changer [because] Disney is a huge platform."
What to read
All the Quiet Places by Brian Thomas Isaac
All the Quiet Places is Brian Thomas Isaac's debut novel. It's a coming-of-age story about Eddie Toma, a Syilx boy who lives on the Okanagan Indian Reserve in British Columbia with his mother and younger brother in the 1950s. Tragedy, grief and confusion surround Eddie's life, as the adults around him navigate the effects of colonialism, disconnection from their culture, residential schools, bullies and drinking.
"I feel that Brian Thomas Isaac has earned every single word, every single sentence, every single line. There's so much hilarity in here. There's so much wisdom … My goodness, what a journey this book takes you on," Van Camp said. "I think the best literature haunts you. Years later, I'm going to be thinking about this book."
The King of Jam Sandwiches by Eric Walters
The King of Jam Sandwiches is the latest young adult novel by Eric Walters and his most vulnerable to date. The story focuses on 13-year-old Robbie, whose father isn't like most parents – he talks about dying and disappears without telling Robbie. The young teenager doesn't want to tell anyone about his dad because he's afraid of being put in foster care.
Robbie befriends a new girl at school, Harmony, who herself survived the foster care system. "He does not like knowing that somebody knows that everything he is putting on the world is a gigantic lie. And she imparts a lot of wisdom to him about being real, being real with yourself, and [that] it's OK to ask for help," Van Camp explained.
"I think this is going to be the one book that when youth and teens are done reading it, they're going to put the book down and pick up the phone and call for help and say, 'I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do this anymore. I'm in real trouble. We're in trouble here at the house. You gotta help us."
Four Faces of the Moon by Amanda Strong
Four Faces of the Moon is a graphic novel that was adapted from a stop-motion animated film, also by Amanda Strong. It's the story of Spotted Fawn, a photographer who travels through time and witnesses, through the lens of her family history, the darkness of Canada's colonial past. As she travels, Spotted Fawn also reignites her connection to her Michif, Cree, Nakoda and Anishinaabe ancestors and to the land.
"What I love about it is the visuals of the book. It's basically [like] you're holding a screenplay in your hands, the actual screenshots from the movie," Van Camp said. "But [Strong] also honours her grandmother and her grandmother's name … so this is really a tribute to her grandmother and her grandmother's way in the world, and the knowledge that her grandmother shared with her."
Written by Laura Beaulne-Stuebing. Produced by Erin Noel, Kim Kaschor, Laura Beaulne-Stuebing and Rosanna Deerchild.