Walking the Ojibwe Path
“We may not relight the fires that used to burn in our villages, but we can carry the embers from those fires in our hearts and learn to light new fires in a new world.”
Ojibwe tradition calls for fathers to walk their children through the world, sharing the ancient understanding “that we are all, animate and inanimate alike, living on the one pure breath with which the Creator gave life to the Universe.” In this intimate series of letters to the six-year-old son from whom he was estranged, Richard Wagamese fulfills this traditional duty with grace and humility, describing his own path through life—separation from his family as a boy, substance abuse, incarceration, and ultimately the discovery of books and writing—and braiding this extraordinary story with the teachings of his people, in which animals were the teachers of human beings, until greed and a desire to control the more-than-human world led to anger, fear, and eventually profound alienation.
At once a deeply moving memoir and a fascinating elucidation of a rich indigenous cosmology, Walking the Ojibwe Path is an unforgettable journey.
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Praise and Prizes
"The crisp prose shines and readers will be moved by discussions of how the author’s separation from his parents resonated throughout his life, as when he suggests that his drinking 'always came back to... the fact that I was unlovable.' Affecting and unflinching, this tugs at the heartstrings."
“[For Joshua] is revealing, open, and tragic. It is also a remarkably touching and well-written journey.”
“Wagamese is a writer of rough grace and fathomless humanity who has given so much more to the world than it ever gave to him.”
“Told lyrically and unflinchingly, For Joshua is both a letter of apology and another attempt at self-identification for the writer. A must-read for Wagamese fans, and a good primer for his novels.”
“These affecting essays are beautifully written, and his experiences resonate on many levels, from the little boy who is experiencing loneliness to the young adult longing to find his place in the world to the adult he became before his death at age 61 . . . A well-written, introspective book on fatherhood and loss that will especially interest readers and students of First Nations life and literature.”
“Moving back and forth between the past and present, between struggle and insight, [Wagamese] weaves narrative and teaching into a powerful, inspiring whole.”
“With For Joshua, Wagamese wrote of internal and external struggles with substance abuse and trauma, and crafted an expansive work about healing, resilience, humanity, respect, inheritance, Indigenous teachings, and most of all, love. This book is a wonderful place to start if you’ve never read Wagamese, a must-read if you have, and an indispensable read for everyone.”
“Before his death in 2017, Wagamese (Starlight, 2018, etc.) had earned renown in his native Canada for his memoirs and novels. He had also completed this book for his son, then 6 years old . . . 'As Ojibway men, we are taught that it is the father’s responsibility to introduce our children to the world,' he writes to his son, and this posthumous publication is part of the legacy he passes along. A sturdy book of traditional wisdom and prescriptions for recovery.”
“Wagamese conveys important life lessons to his son and, vicariously, to us, lessons worth learning if we hope to rebalance ourselves and the world in this Anthropocene era.”
“A remarkable memoir . . . beautifully written: Wagamese was an amazing writer well deserving of the accolades and awards he accrued in his too-short life.”
“For Joshua is both beautiful and harsh, a guiding light for both Wagamese and his readers, a book that will stand the test of time.”
“The late Richard Wagamese’s For Joshua builds on the growing tradition of epistolary memoirs as a deeply spiritual letter to his son. In stark language, Wagamese somehow crafts scenes of memory, ritual, and narrative tradition so vivid they often made me pause to reread them three or four times over. By drawing on his truths as an Ojibwe man, recovering alcoholic, and father, this memoir walks the reader through a life journey as an example to call us back to our deepest purpose: to live in unity and become who we already are.”
“For Joshua is a tender and insightful letter to an estranged son. Richard Wagamese writes to Joshua and for himself to try to understand his journey, the challenges of his life and his estrangement from his son. The subjugation of Wagamese’s Indigenous heritage during his childhood and much of his adult life is heartbreaking. I’m not sure if Wagamese was able to repair his relationship with his son, but in publishing this For Joshua readers will be better off for having read it.”
“I hope that when Joshua does eventually read this book, he has the maturity to appreciate his father’s act of bravery, and to learn from it. For the rest of us, For Joshua is a fascinating and moving portrayal of one man’s search for his heritage, his true place in the world, and in the process, his discovery of himself.”
“This well-written and perceptive book shows that it is possible for aboriginal people—for any person—to get back from there to here.”
“Graceful and reverberating . . . A harrowing life story but also a ceremony, a gathering of traditional knowledge, and a love letter across the generations, For Joshua is a book we need, a book we can all treasure. Every page is infused with such tenderness and emotional intensity that I was shocked again and again with the thought: this is the true strength and reach and burden of love.”