Wab Kinew’s ‘The Reason You Walk’: A Must Read

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Julia Chambers, News and History

New Canadian author, Wab Kinew, published his first book, ‘The Reason You Walk’, October 2015. The book’s launch in Toronto lead to floods of photos on twitter showing fans clutching their copies of Kinew’s book. Previous to the release of his novel, Kinew spent many hours in the public eye, charismatically educating Canadians about life as an Anishinaabe. In ‘The Reason You Walk’, Kinew focuses on a still pressing issue in Canada: Reconciliation.

‘The Reason You Walk’ contains a combination of Wab Kinew’s convincing persona, and his willingness to share highly personal memories of his formerly deceased father’s past hardships. The book truly demonstrates the tremendous power of family and remission, channeling painful moments from the past as well as celebrating new hope for the future. While Kinew revisited his childhood on a reserve in Norther Ontario, he began to broaden his knowledge on his father’s traumatic experience from St. Mary’s residential school.

Wab Kinew has a foot in two cultures, being born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother. His father was both a respected elected leader and traditional chief who directly engaged with Ottawa. Tobasonakwut was divided between two religions as well, therefore he embraced both his traditional native religion and Catholicism. Catholicism was forcefully thrust upon him at residential school, where he was physically and sexually abused. Later on, Wab Kinew’s father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a traditional Sundance ceremony as a grand gesture of reconciliation. There, the bishop was adopted as a brother.

Wab Kinew made the decision to spend a year to reconnect with his father, Tobasonakwut, whom he had never been very close to, until he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Kinew also shares stories of his own childhood throughout the novel. He writes about his struggles in his twenties and of discovering the right path by eventually giving up his once self-destructive lifestyle to pursue his passions of martial arts and music. His vantage point offers an inside look on his life and what it really means to be an educated aboriginal living in Canada, a country that is just beginning to understand and wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence.

Craving healing, hope, chance, and forgiveness, ‘The Reason You Walk’ is a heartrending true story about a strong but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to recovery while refastening their broken family bond. At times, jovial and somber, Wab Kinew provides a vision of inspiration for cross-cultural and familial reconciliation, while also offering the possibility of a wider conversation about the future of the aboriginal community.