The March 2009 issue of Alberta Views arrived today, and what gem should I find in its pages but this: A two-for-one review of Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese’s latest books—a novel titled Ragged Company and a collection of essays called One Native Life—courtesy of AV’s longtime books columnist Alex Rettie.
Now, Alberta Views is one of my favorite magazines in the Utne Reader library. I’ve never even been to Alberta—and yet there’s something undeniably engrossing about the smart, political-cultural mélange that AV serves up. My favorite regular feature: Eye on Alberta, a department filled with “dispatches”—reprinted excerpts of articles, letters, speeches, advertisements, scholarly papers, and more—from across the province. When I read Eye on Alberta, I feel submerged in the politics and culture of another place, and I emerge with refreshed perspective on my own political fixations.
But this isn’t a post about Alberta Views: It’s a post about finding Richard Wagamese’s books reviewed in Alberta Views, and the great happiness that ensued—because Richard Wagamese equally holds down our affections here at Utne Reader. (And encountering the two of them together was not unlike like discovering two old friends of yours have known one another all along.)
We first had the honor of reprinting Richard Wagamese’s writing in our Sept.-Oct. 2007 issue, when we excerpted a column of his from Canadian Dimension about meeting his biological, Ojibway grandfather for the first time at age 25. In “Becoming Indian,” Wagamese writes:
I’d been taken away in the Sixties Sweep when the Canadian government hauled off Indian kids and dumped them into families far away from their traditional territories, and I hadn't seen my family for more than 20 years. I’d never known I had a grandfather, just as I’d never known I had a history or a culture vibrant, compelling, and alive. But both were there for me if I would have them.
Then, in our July-August 2008 issue, we couldn’t resist reprinting another column: “Moan Those Particular Blues,” about the music’s resonance with Native people, also from the very fine Canadian Dimension.
Richard is a heck of a writer, and I’m excited to know that his columns and essays are now collected in a book. As Alex Rettie writes in Alberta Views: “Wagamese walks his territory in One Native Life, and it’s an honour to walk with him.”