Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Native Life

I got “One Native Life” when I wasn’t even expecting it. I didn’t even remember requesting for it. But the cover somehow looked appealing enough and I thought I’d just open the book and read a couple of pages that night before going to sleep. Two hours later, I was still awake, reading the book, loving it and totally unable to put it down!

Richard Wagamese is a native Indian living in Canada – he is an Ojibway from the Wabasseemoong First Nation in Ontario. This book “One Native Life” comprises of autobiographical snippets from his life. Wagamese is 53 years old now and this book is his way of reminiscing about his life. His life has been a struggle – a struggle to give himself an identity and find out more about himself and in the process, his people – the native Ojibway people. Abused and abandoned as a kid, Wagamese spent his adolescence moving from home to home amidst non-native people. At one point, he leaves his foster home and takes to the streets. He does odd jobs, drives aimlessly around the country, and survives. He later reconnects with his family, with his own people, goes on to become a successful journalist, and in the process finds himself.

The book is divided into 4 parts to demarcate the four stages in his life. Each part consists of many chapters is an incident – a snippet – written in short story format. These stories were originally published in the newspaper columns he wrote as “One Native Life”.  And somehow, the chapters flow together, the parts flow together and we have the well written story of one man’s life.

Here is the description of his book in his own words (from his blog):
My collected memoir, One Native Life, is exactly what it says. It's a series of pieces originally written for newspaper and radio that look back at the road I travelled in 52 years of life as a native person in Canada. you'll meet Muhammad Ali, Johnny Cash and a lot of other people who touched my life in good, healing ways. It's about the fact that we are, in truth, all neighbours and we need to learn to talk to each other more and share the stories of our time here. The reaction to the newspaper columns has been tremendous so I'm sure you'll enjoy the book.

I loved the Wagamese’s style of writing and I loved the content of his book even more! As Wagamese looks back on his life, what is amazing is not how much he has learnt/ done. What is amazing is the way he has learnt it and his teachers. Wagamese shows us the importance of simple living and the importance of bonding with nature. There is so much to learn from everything around us – even animals (“animal-people”, as the Ojibway referred to them). We drift from day to day without really observing things and people around us. Wagamese’s book showed me the importance of relishing every living moment. There’s a message from every “seemingly-mundane” incident -  so much to observe and so much to learn.

I know for a fact that I am not doing justice to this review. I totally enjoyed the book and I wish you would pick it up sometime and enjoy it as much as I did as well. I had never heard of Wagamese until I found this book in my mail box and now I suddenly want to read every book of his ( I think, he’s written 4 novels and a memoir in addition to  “One Native Life”).

To know more about Wagamese, you can visit his website –

I found a link to my favorite chapter in the whole book – one about making bannock. Something about this chapter totally appealed to me. I think it was the sense of belonging that he got when he baked bannock for the first time after getting the recipe from his mom. The sense that he was actually someone in this world – someone who belonged to a community, had something more than just a body and a name. Here is a link to this article. I am sure that’ll give a taste of the book:


bermudaonion said...

Wow! I'd never heard of this one. It sounds like a must read.

bethany said...

That was a great review, and it sounds like a really amazing book. I hadn't heard of it either!

The cover is amazing for sure!

Dar said...

This sounds great Ramya-awesome review by the way. I loved the article on making bannock-his writing style is wonderful. This is definitely going on the tbr list.

Nymeth said...

I once took a course on First Nations writing, and it really made me want to read and learn more. This book sounds amazing, and it's going on my wishlist straight away. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention, Ramya.

Ramya said...

i'm glad my review's making you even consider putting it on your wishlists..:) it is an amazing book.. there's so much you can learn from this book! and it is so well written! that's the best part!

Veens said...

Awesome review Ramya! And I really think you did fair justice t the review - it really makes me feel that you loved ti :) and I m sure to pick it up - if i can get it of course!
take care!

Ramya said...

hey veens.. if you follow the link i have posted, you can find some more columns that were compiled to form the book. you can read those until you actually manage to get hold of the book!:)

Anna said...

Sounds interesting. I like the cover, too.

Diary of an Eccentric