The Book That Changed Your Life: Darrel McLeod

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      The Word Vancouver festival is preparing its 2018 edition with another genre-hopping and inclusive roster of authors, set to appear at venues around the city from September 24 to 30.

      The Straight has asked a group of these writers to describe their most memorable and momentous reading experiences. Which books lit up their imaginations? Which ones struck a chord at a crucial time?

      Here’s what Sooke-based Cree author Darrel J. McLeod told us. His new memoir is titled Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. He’ll be reading from his work at 11 a.m. on September 30, in the Alma VanDusen Room at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      The opening line of The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence—The river flowed both ways—captured my imagination as a young university student. With that one phrase, Laurence instilled a dream in me—of being a writer one day—composing beautiful prose while gazing out over a dynamic river. Her raw and vivid description of life in Canada made me realize that a novel about Canadians could be worth telling, and be artistically conveyed.

      A year later, Marie-Clair Blais’s Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel enhanced this dream and helped it to morph into a vision. Blais’s depiction of life in Quebec was vivid and edgy. While Laurence skillfully depicted the life of working-class Canadians in the ’60s, Blais recounted beautifully the historic French-Canadian experience of a slightly earlier era, but stories about the Indigenous experience were still missing. Somehow, I knew that it was incumbent on me, and others like me, to recount the experience of Indigenous Canadians.

      The Strait of Juan de Fuca flows both ways even though it isn’t a river as such. But then my books haven’t been novels quite like much of Margaret Laurence’s work either. So far, they’ve been memoirs with one work of fiction under way.