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One Native Life [Hardcover]

Richard Wagamese
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 22 2008

In 2005, award-winning writer Richard Wagamese moved with his partner to a cabin outside Kamloops, B.C. In the crisp mountain air Wagamese felt a peace he'd seldom known before. Abused and abandoned as a kid, he'd grown up feeling there was nowhere he belonged. For years, only alcohol and moves from town to town seemed to ease the pain.

In One Native Life, Wagamese looks back down the road he has travelled in reclaiming his identity and talks about the things he has learned as a human being, a man and an Ojibway in his fifty-two years. Whether he's writing about playing baseball, running away with the circus, attending a sacred bundle ceremony or meeting Pierre Trudeau, he tells these stories in a healing spirit. Through them, Wagamese celebrates the learning journey his life has been.

Free of rhetoric and anger despite the horrors he has faced, Wagamese's prose resonates with a peace that has come from acceptance. Acceptance is an Aboriginal principle, and he has come to see that we are all neighbours here. One Native Life is his tribute to the people, the places and the events that have allowed him to stand in the sunshine and celebrate being alive.

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"[Richard Wagamese's] latest book of nonfiction showcases him as a writer of insight and eloquence, as it recounts episodes of his life from childhood onward. Whether about growing up in foster care or about reuniting with his Ojibway heritage, the dozens of original essays that comprise One Native Life extol the virtues of reclaiming displaced identity and healing through a sense of belonging." (Georgia Straight 2008-08-11)

"The power of...One Native Life lies in its ability to explain how the residential school system affected not only the generations of natives who attended, but those who followed, and what needs to be done to rebuild families. Yet what has the potential to be a depressing and difficult read is instead an incredibly inspiring book, on that should be read by all Canadians." (Calgary Herald 2008-08-24)

"Wagamese wrote movingly -- and with applauded bravery for his openness -- about his abuse and booze-damaged past in the 2002 memoir For Joshua, addressed to his son. In what reads as almost a continuation of that earlier book, One Native Life describes the author's continued emotional healing, a recovery with his Anishnabeg roots at the core." (Toronto Star 2008-08-24)

"Delicate and strangely beautiful, each vignette (written in early dawn) seems to radiate from point to luminous point...This is the language of trauma and its miraculous recovery, a beautiful and important Canadian work." (Globe & Mail 2008-08-26)

"Each story -- almost without exception -- is positive and uplifting, meaningful and supportive of his new, well-anchored life. All of his memories are formed from the vantage point of where he is now, a tribute to the qualities of memoir...Grounded as he now appears to be, and secure in his identity, Richard Wagamese in his 50s may be just hitting his stride." (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix 2008-09-13)

"In quiet tones and luminous language, Wagamese shares his hurts and insights and joys, inviting readers to find the ways in which they are joined to him and to consider how they might be joined to others." (Winnipeg Free Press 2008-09-21)

"[Wagamese's] memoir is an insightful look at his search for his roots and the traditions binding him not only to his people but the 'great, grand circle' of humanity." (Book List 2008-10-01)

"One Native Life is a journey, snapshots of events as Wagamese moves through a life of loneliness, forever searching for that place to belong as he travels to reclaim an identity denied him as a child. Within these vignettes, we see the joyous spirit Wagamese has become." (Chronicle Herald 2008-10-05)

"Writing with appealing warmth and gentle humour, he is frank about his insecurities and failings. Rather than play the blame game, [Wagamese] concentrates on appreciating the people who nurtured and helped him when he needed it most." (Vancouver Sun 2008-10-25)

"This design is perfect in its simplicity: it captures the personal content and informal tone of Wagamese's writing in a quiet, inviting, and unassuming way. There's a sense of both narrative and history in the birch-bark background." (Quill & Quire 2008-11-04)

"I have been touched deeply by Richard Wagamese's reflections on life, adversity, and healing...His message of hope and belonging urges every Canadian to set out each dawn to find meaning in ourselves, figure out where we belong, and nurture our humanity." (Waterloo Region Record 2009-09-18)


"...a beautiful and important Canadian work" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book Is Better Than The Title March 13 2011
By Daisy
The title isn't that catchy, but it is a worth while purchase! Each chapter is a mini story of an event that happened in his life. If you know Ontario, then you'll enjoy reading about the different places where he lived. Each story has a message on it's own, and I would recommend this for any teacher incorporating Native studies into their curriculum. Or even a story with a lesson about how to treat each other. It is written with humour, so the laughs are no stop and memorable!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved Every Word. Didn't want it to end March 3 2013
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
"That's what this journey is all about - to learn to express yourself as whom you were created to be."
Mr. Wagamese
was raised in foster homes and by his adoptive family till he struck out on his own at 16. He was rootless and searching for a sense of belonging.

During his life so far, he has met a wide variety of people who have had significant impacts upon him. This book shares these glimpses into his life and the significance of these people.
A pivotal point seems to occur when he meets John Thunder Rock, who teaches him that first you have to be a good human being. Through that he will learn to be a good man. Only then can he be the good Indian that he has always wanted to be. That it isn't the wearing of Indian clothing that makes him into a good Indian.

There are dozens of shaping moments/messages contained within these covers. Many brought tears to my eyes and a catch in my throat. Particularly the passage when Richard meets his grandfather for the first time. I can't even imagine the impact that would have had on him. It did cause me to reflect on my relationship with my grandparents and the varying roles they have played in my life and my development.

This book is best read in little bits, each section savoured and enjoyed. Meditate of them if you chose. I had to rush through as I borrowed it from the library, but I will be ordering my own copy to which I plan to add my own comments and a few photos that were brought to mind by the reminiscences.
There is so much wisdom contained within the pages of "One Native Life" that I know I will be coming back to various passages again and again. With a lot of help and guidance, Mr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and hopeful March 17 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book inspiring and beautifully written. The gentleness and beauty of spirit of the author shine through all the stories. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have Jan. 20 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everyone should read and have a copy of this book. Beautiful, down to earth, and stories that needed sharing. Amazing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Native Life Nov. 5 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Richard Wagamese has a gift to tell a story bringing the reader into the "skin" of the characters he describes,
His writing evokes deep emotional reaction and identifies the reader with parts of him or herself.
A Native Life describes the injustice and judgements of being Native. It addresses social and economic conditions that should not be for anyone in a country like Canada.
But what this book does even more is speak to our human fragility whether we are native or non native.
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