Wenjack, by Joseph Boyden (2016)
Wenjack is a powerful story that sheds light on the mistreatment of First Nations children taken to residential schools.
I acquired this book through a book swap with my good friend Lauren. For the month of December we traded books by our favourite authors. I lent her The Heart Goes Last and Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and she lent me Wenjack and The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.
I chose to read Wenjack first to get used to Joseph Boyden’s writing – and needless to say based on this review, but I loved it. I strongly recommend this book to any Canadian with an hour to spare. The short and insightful read that touches on an overlooked history was very well written. The novel follows an Anishinaabe boy as he escapes his life at a residential school.
This beautiful, ninety-seven page, book is followed by an author’s note that covers the history of the real Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack who was forcibly removed from his home at the age of nine. Chanie was one of the many Indigenous children who were taken to residential schools only to never return. In 1966, his body was discovered and prompted an inquest of the mistreatment of First Nations children at residential schools. It was another 30 years until the last residential school was closed in 1996.
A portion of the proceeds of this book are donated to Camp Onakawana – a Northern Ontario camp for First Nations youth. This book is available for purchase here.