We met at Shirley’s home to discuss Jane’s choice, The Reason You Walk, by Wab Kinew. Present were Jane, Shirley, Linda, Beth, Betty, Colette, Carla, and Jolene. Shirley served a wonderful selection of cold cuts, cheese, quacamole and dip, as well as meatballs, mini wild rice and mushroom quiche followed up with a delicious berry crumble and ice cream, all gluten-free.
Jane introduced the author as a rapper, chief, father, journalist, politician and university administrator. He defended The Orenda on Canada Reads. He holds a master’s degree in Indigenous Governance.
The Reason You Walk follows the lives of Wab and his father Tobasonakwut, himself a survivor of residential schools. Tobasonakwut faces death with strength, courage, grace and forgiveness. Reconciliation between father and son is also a large part of the story.
Reaction to the book was fairly uniform. While the book was informative and interesting, the writing style was not very appealing. Since the author is a good speaker on CBC, some wondered if an audio book would have been more effective. We appreciated details about indigenous culture and the background to Truth and Reconciliation. The ending, with Wab’s sons singing and telling their dying grandfather that they loved him, was moving and appreciated by all. However, it would have been helpful to have more explanation about how Wab managed to manoeuvre so well between the indigenous world and outside culture.
We had a good discussion about spirituality in the book. The focus on fasting and prayer in native culture was gripping; however, the Sundance dances were hard to fathom, with flesh tearing so foreign to our group. At one point, Wab’s father offered a feather to church leaders, a momentous gesture. In answer to the criticism that Christ seemed absent from much of the depiction of Christianity, some pointed out that “the reason you walk” embodies Christian values—understanding of the Creator, His motivation, love, and our ultimate destination.
Because many in the group work daily with indigenous peoples, or have done so in the past, the educational value of the book compensated for its literary shortcomings. One final comment was “the more you find out, the less afraid you are—on both sides.”