on home

For a man who's chosen to live in New Orleans, Joseph Boyden puts considerable weight in the salvation of returning home.

I'm still reading Born With A Tooth, and loving his short stories. But as I work through the seasons of a year -- each season gets three or four stories -- I'm struck by how "going home," often going back to reserves in northern Ontario, is seen as something of a happy ending.

This does not mean the collection is actually full of happy endings. Indeed, there's enough stark violence in some stories (and sweet childhood innocence in others) to make for tales that will surprise you. As usual, Boyden's way with language is beautiful, and something so very necessary in Canadian literature.

But like in his award-winning novels (and here's something of a spoiler alert), the stories he tells reach for home. Perhaps a romantic ideal of what home could be, or a remote reality many Canadians don't realize. He doesn't write the return as the answer to all problems, but for his characters, he seems to believe that going back to one's roots, culture and family is a start down a solid road.

It's an interesting idea to reflect on.

Something else to reflect on, from his story "Bearwalker:"

"Reporters and TV crews swarm around the reserve, eating up the tidbits about black magic, interviewing anyone they can.
One of the first is Old Lady Koostachin.... Her English isn't that good so her granddaughter stands beside her and translates. The reporter's a pretty, serious blonde woman who comes off as talking down to Mrs. Koostachin.
'So the belief,' the reporter says, 'among your people, among your tribe, is that Francis Killomonsett is a bearwalker, somebody who can physically transform himself into an animal of his choosing?'"
(p. 101)

A link to share -- Boyden answering questions from a high school class in Saskatchewan.

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