The metaphor implicit in the title of Wab Kinew’s inaugural biography The Reason You Walk: A Memoir encompasses both the literal, as well as the spiritual aspects of one Aboriginal family’s journey towards healing.
The timing of the book’s release, within the context of the December 2015 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, illustrates the generational damage caused by the residential school system. This system that Kinew terms “a large-scale experiment in social engineering” designed to “kill the Indian in the child” has paradoxically given rise to his family’s activism and empowerment in ensuring that the Anishinaabeg language, customs, culture and voice are protected for generations to come. Kinew effectively accounts his father’s life before, during and after residential school, emphasizing his father’s process of healing and reconciliation both of his Aboriginal and Catholic identities.
This is a narrative of survival and forgiveness. It is hopeful and ripe with irony. Simultaneously, Kinew weaves his own journey through rebellion, addiction and empowerment into his father’s experiences, helping to depict for others how the generations grapple with, explore and move forward from their pasts.
This is an optimistic love story devoid of cynicism. Kinew helps us all feel more comfortable addressing the complexity of our shared history by inviting the reader into his culture and worldview, so that we may participate in evolving our shared society together with more understanding.