Well Read: Waubgeshig Rice, author of “Moon of the Turning Leaves”

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      Welcome to Well Read: our new bookish Q&A series in which we probe the minds of our favourite local-ish and visiting literary people.

      Waubgeshig Rice first introduced the world to Evan Whitesky, a courageous member of a small northern Anishinaabe community, in 2018. In Rice’s breakout post-apocalyptic novel Moon of the Crusted Snow, Whitesky’s community suddenly goes dark—no power, no cell service, nothing—and he must lead his people in figuring out how to cope. And in figuring out how to move on.

      Five years later, Rice is back with a gripping sequel. In Moon of the Turning Leaves, we find Whitesky’s community living happily in the bush—but resources are starting to dwindle. In search of a more permanent home post-blackout, Whitesky, his daughter, and a few others from their group embark on a treacherous, hardening, and at times dangerous journey on foot. Brimming with rich action scenes and moments of extreme tenderness, Moon of the Turning Leaves is a story of survival, of strength. But more than that, it’s a story of togetherness. (And while it is a sequel, it can certainly stand being read on its own.) Here, Rice discusses his favourite book to gift, his favourite book stores in Vancouver, and more.

      Tell us about yourself.

      My name is Waubgeshig Rice and I’m an author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay. I currently live in Sudbury, Ontario with my wife and three sons. I’m the author of a short story collection and three novels, most recently Moon of the Turning Leaves published by Random House Canada. I’m a former broadcast journalist, having spent most of my career at CBC. I got my journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2002. I’m proud of my Anishinaabe heritage and I love sharing it with my kids.

      What’s something you want everyone to know about you?

      I have a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I’m very passionate about martial arts. I’m a member of Sudbury MMA and I’m proud to be part of a club that promotes healthy living in an inclusive, community-oriented way.

      What’s one book that changed the way you think? 

      I recently read Empty Spaces by Jordan Abel and it changed the way I think about writing and talking about the land. I’ve never read anything like it. It’s a story that puts the natural world instead of people at the centre of the narrative, which is a perspective that I think is especially crucial nowadays.

      What are you currently reading? 

      I’m travelling lots this fall to promote my new book, so all that time on planes and trains is a great opportunity to get to some of the longstanding books in my to-be-read pile. Right now, I’m finally reading An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim and it’s tremendous.

      What’s your favourite book to give as a gift? 

      Five Little Indians by Michelle Good is one of the most unique and important novels ever, so I like to give that one to people in my circles. It’s a comprehensive and conscientious look at the residential school experience in fiction.

      How would you describe your book tastes? 

      My tastes lean heavily towards stories about Indigenous communities and realities, because books by Indigenous authors are what originally inspired me to write when I was a teen. I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy since then as well, so I enjoy and appreciate speculative fiction in general. And I also like to stay on top of contemporary Canadian literary fiction.

      What’s one book you can’t wait to read? 

      I just received Ted Nolan’s memoir called Life in Two Worlds and I’m really looking forward to reading it. He’s from Garden River First Nation, where my wife’s family is also from. So it’s neat to have that connection to a hockey legend!

      What’s one book you thought you’d love but didn’t (or vice versa)? 

      I read Dracula by Bram Stoker in university and was pleasantly surprised. I was only familiar with the character because of popular culture and the 1992 movie, so I was pretty indifferent to the book at first—but ended up really enjoying it in the end.

      Favourite book store in Vancouver? 

      It’s a tie between Massy Books and Iron Dog Books. Always gotta support any business that’s owned and operated by Indigenous women!

      Favourite local author? 

      Impossible to pick just one! I’m inspired by all the great writers in Vancouver.

      Controversial: are you someone who has to finish every book you start, or can you abandon ones that aren’t working for you?

      I do a lot of reading for both work and pleasure, and I’m a dad of three with a busy home life, so my reading time is kind of precious. If I’m not fully invested in a book by about page 100, then I’m out.

      What’s one book you wish you wrote? 

      I don’t necessarily wish I wrote it, but I definitely wish I had read Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler earlier. It would have been ideal to read it in high school instead of some of the other speculative fiction novels in the so-called canon that we studied. It might have inspired me to write my own stories in that way at a younger age.

      Where’s your favourite place in Vancouver to read?

      English Bay beach is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen, so I love taking a book down there whenever I have time. The sights and energy of the place are perfectly suited to chilling and reading. 

      Waubgeshig Rice will be in conversation with Darrel J. McLeod at the WISE Hall on November 6 at 7pm. For tickets, contact Iron Dog Books.