Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

Title: Wenjack
Author: Joseph Boyden
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Publishing Date: October 18, 2016

Synopsis from the publisher's website:

An Ojibwe boy runs away from a North Ontario Indian School, not realizing just how far away home is. Along the way he's followed by Manitous, spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed from.

Written by Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden and beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Ken Monkman, Wenjack is a powerful and poignant look into the world of a residential school runaway trying to find his way home.


Like many Indigenous children, Chanie was plucked from his home and forced into a residential school. These schools had a single objective: influence the children to forget their heritage and assimilate into the dominant culture.

"I'm learning my English, me. But I won't lose my tongue." p2

Chanie and two of his friends mustered up the courage to run away from their school to escape the daily abuse and mistreatment. They retreated into the woods. Chanie eventually finds himself stranded and alone. Despite his strong will to see his family again, he was in no way prepared for the harsh Canadian winter.

Every Canadian should have the opportunity to read Wenjack. Chanie's story is heartbreaking and in no way a happy one, but it is extremely important. Canadians should be cognizant of our country's dark past and better understand years of struggles that our Indigenous people have suffered. Our country must now continue along the path of reconciliation for years of injustice.
 "It will take many more years before the intergenerational trauma left in the wake of the grotesque social experiment begins to abate. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission worked timelessly for many years to uncover the truth - and now the tougher part, the reconciliation, begins." p102


  1. This book is so powerful, and I love Joseph Boyden. I really need to make my way through all his books. I also love Richard Wagamese.

    1. Agreed. I picked up Secret Path by Gord Downie at the same time. I flipped through it shortly after finishing Wenjack and it made an even bigger impact. I have a few Richard Wagamese books on my to read list. Is there one that you'd recommend to read first?


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