Legacy by Waubgeshig Rice
Next week there will be a full house at the Charles W. Stockey Centre with an enthusiastic crowd listening to Waubgeshig Rice and Joseph Boyden read from their most recent novels.
Waubgeshig “Waub” Rice grew up in Parry Sound, attending Parry Sound High School and Rosseau Lake College. After studying Journalism at Ryerson in Toronto he went on to work for the CBC, first in Winnipeg, and then in Ottawa where he now lives.
Waub’s first book Midnight Sweatlodge, a volume of linked short stories, was published in 2011. His first novel Legacy published early this fall brings us the work of a writer who has grown in confidence and skill.
Legacy tells the story of the Gibson family, five siblings, growing up on the Birchbark Reserve, on the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior. These young people are struggling to find their place in the world after suffering the loss of their parents, William and Clara, their deaths caused by illness and accident.
Legacy begins with Eva, a first year student at the University of Toronto. Sometimes missing her home and family but doing well, determined to get an education, to become a lawyer and then work to help her people.
This book does not hide from the tough issues – there are friends, and cousins, abused by parents, or other relatives - some falling into the abyss of substance abuse. Many have left the reserve for good – a few for higher education, most never to return. A few do return to contribute to the community where they grew up. Most, however, do not, nor do they complete their education, defeated by the outside world. Eva, though, is determined to succeed.
Legacy is a book about loss and how each one of these siblings, who we meet as young adults, Eva, Stanley, Maria, Norman and Edgar, are affected by the profound loss they experience. As they each tell their own story, the novel moves forward, and with each voice we learn a little more about the history of this family. Some are determined to get on with life in spite of the deaths and the grief they have experienced, refusing to be victims to the past. Others are unable to overcome the weight of the past and cannot find a way to see any hope in the future – only despair.
Waub Rice writes about the experience of Eva’s great aunt who was taken to the residential school in Spanish, and the legacy of the damage done, the abuse, the loss of language and identity – the shame, the destruction of the family unit. William and Clara Gibson attempted to restore their own family, to raise children who would know about their heritage, their language and find their way in the world. It is a tragedy that they could not, and their children are left to find their own way with the help of friends and relatives.
There is profound sadness in this novel but there is also hope no doubt that there is hope. Waub brings to this story not only his own experience, but also a keen observation of his culture, and the challenges facing young people leaving home and to make one’s way in the outside world.
Waubgeshig Rice will read from Legacy at the Charles W. Stockey Centre on Sunday 28 September 2014 at 7:30pm with special guest Joseph Boyden.