Cover image for For Joshua : an Ojibway father teaches his son
For Joshua : an Ojibway father teaches his son
First US edition.
Physical Description:
205 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
"First published by Doubleday Canada, 2002."
Personal Subject:
"Richard Wagamese's For Joshua is at once a deeply personal memoir, a search for peace amidst the chaos of human life, and an extended love letter to Wagamese's estranged son"--


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 813.54 WAG 0 1

On Order

R.H. Stafford Library (Woodbury)1On Order
Park Grove Library (Cottage Grove)1On Order



"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, For Joshua is an unforgettable journey.

Author Notes

Canadian author Richard Wagamese was one of the leading indigenous writers in North America. He began his writing career in 1979, first as a journalist and then as a radio and television broadcaster. In 1991, he became the first indigenous writer to win a National Newspaper Award for column writing. His debut novel, Keeper 'n Me, won the Alberta Writers Guild's Best Novel Award in 1994. His other books included A Quality of Light, Ragged Company, One Native Life, The Next Sure Thing, Indian Horse, Him Standing, and Medicine Walk. He also published an anthology of his newspaper columns entitled The Terrible Summer, a collection of poetry entitled Runaway Dreams, and a memoir entitled For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son. He won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction in 2007 for Dream Wheels and the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature in 2011 for his memoir One Story, One Song. He was also the 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communications and the 2013 recipient of the Canada Council on the Arts Molson Prize. He died on March 10, 2017 at the age of 61.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Kirkus Review

An Ojibwa author fulfills his obligation by passing down his life's wisdom to his son.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 he explains to the son who barely knew him, "drinking is why we are separated. That's the plain and simple truth of it. I was a drunk and never faced the truth about myselfthat I was a drunk. Booze owned me." The author then proceeds to revisit a childhood of foster homes and adoption, of feeling like he never fit in or belonged, and of running away to find comfort in transient street life and a community of sorts among others who lived a life of petty crime to subsidize their various addictions. He writes about his search for identity in Ojibwa traditions and what he later considered the misguided "influence of militant Native groups like the American Indian Movement." "I became racist in my thinking," he writes, "and it was easy to blame the white man and society for my ordeals. In fact, it made more sense than anything I'd thought of or heard before." Much of the narrative follows Wagamese's three days in the wilderness, with only a blanket, at the behest of a recovering alcoholic who thought Ojibwa teachings could help his friend in recovery. Only after he finished was the author told that this had been his "Vision Quest." The author mixes reflections on the course of his life with dreams he had during those three nights along with Native legends and traditions, illuminating the significance of the pipe and the drum. "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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. vii
For Joshua
For Joshuap. 1
Initiationp. 9
Innocencep. 25
Humilityp. 69
Introspectionp. 109
Wisdomp. 155
For Joshuap. 183
Acknowledgmentsp. 205