Sundancer, academic, musician, chief, activist, journalist. In the public sphere, Wab Kinew carries many different titles. In his private life, he also carries many titles, and one of those is son. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-Native mother, he grew up on a reserve in Northern Ontario and in urban Winnipeg. His father was a traditional chief, a respected leader engaged in politics at every level, and a residential schools survivor. But to Wab, he was a man who found difficulties connecting with his children which put a lot of distance between them.
When his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Wab decided to put his career on hold and spend a year reconnecting with his father. As Wab learned about his father’s experiences at the residential school, his activism, and his role in reconciliation, they grew close. They confronted their pasts and together looked to the future.
The Reason You Walk, by Wab Kinew, was born out of that year they spent together, but it is so much more than that. The story of a father and son, residential school survivors, reconciliation, activism, this book brings readers of all walks of life a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of Aboriginal people in Canada.
My first introduction to Wab Kinew was through Canada Reads. I came to know him as a journalist and media personality and was very impressed by him but I never knew his story. So when I heard he was writing this book, I knew that I would have to read it as soon as it came out.
Despite my studying history throughout the my school career, I always felt as though I had barely scratched the surface when it came to the history of Aboriginal people in Canada. And I’m pretty ashamed by that. I wanted to read this book because I wanted to get to know Wab but with it came more understanding of that history and culture than I ever thought I would get.
I am amazed that Wab managed to fit so much material into a book of this size (less than 300 pages.) He shares his own life - the stories of his childhood, cultural experiences, wife and children, education and career. He shares his father’s life - his childhood, experiences at a residential school, relationships, determination, and traditions. And he shares Aboriginal life - the history, struggles, pain, triumphs, activism, and future. Page after page, this book teaches readers about their shared history, one that is filled with pain and shame but is not completely unredeemable. Kinew’s hopes and dreams for his people are moving and inspiring. I hope that this book will be read by all and that from it we won’t shy away from the conversations we need to have in our country.
I won a copy of this book from the publisher through a GoodReads giveaway. The opinions expressed above are my own.