Cree author David A. Robertson on writing everything from graphic novels to a memoir
I want to go to my trap line one last time he says. I cannot breathe. I know he hasn't been to his trap line for almost seven decades. We've been on a journey as father and son for thirty years, and for the first time, it feels like we've found our destination. And I think maybe we've been headed there all this time. Whatever choose exists between us. The end of our journeys in front of us. That's David Robertson reading from Blackwater, family legacy and blood memory. One of three books he has coming out this fall. To say, he's prolific is a bit of an understatement. The cree writer based in Winnipeg started writing in two thousand and nine and has already published more than twenty titles from the Governor General Award Winning Picture Book when we were alone to his graphic novel series the reckoner to his first novel, the evolution of Alice published in two thousand fourteen it seems like he can write in any genre for any age group. David Robertson is my guest on the show today. Thanks so much for being here, David All. Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure. So this month you published your most personal book to date a memoir called Blackwater family legacy and blood memory, which we just heard a bit from. And it chronicles the story of Your Dad's returned to the family trap line Norway House creed nation in northern. Manitoba. So first off most people wait until they're a lot older to write a memoir So why did you want to write now? Yeah. That's a great question and there's there's probably a bunch that goes into that answer. One of them is that you know I've been talking about my dad and I for the last eleven years ever since I was a published writer I found that when I was public speaking all of my talk somehow came back to my father and I and and he's played such a big role in. My own development my understanding of you know who I am as cree person. There's one time I was giving this lecture at University of Manitoba couple years ago where I was the same thing talking about my life in my father and our relationship, and then a professor came up to me after and said, you really have to write this down and so. Money as a writer I'd never thought about writing actually my own story and that really kind of jog something me were. I decided that that was something I. needed to do. The other part of it is that you know my father at the time was declining I mean he was still himself and he was still my dad but he we knew that our time with him a short it was getting shorter and I really wanted to start working on this because it was something I always wanted to do I wanted. To document his life and and our relationship the teachings he gave me for myself and for my family and so all of this kind of came together and made me feel this agency to write the story now, and certainly when we went to the trap line together two years ago, it felt like the framing for the story had happened because I think it was where we were journeying to. All these years together. That's that's where we were going to and so when we got there, it felt like the right time to document everything that had happened between us and in our own lives and teams like such a special trip to be able to go on. Yeah I mean it was I I. Don't know if I could even put it into words. I. Tried my best in the book but it was blackberries in the title of the book and I really did feel that blood member was something that played a big role into why Blackwater why this trap line my dad grew up on felt home to me as soon as I stepped off the boat onto the land. I just felt like I'd come home and I, know that watching dad, you know amble up the inclined towards this big boulder in the middle of this clearing I know he felt like he was home to it was incredibly emotional intensity emotional moment for us and it turned out that it was the only time it could have happened because you know dad passed away just this past December and it made me even more grateful for spending that time with him and being able to write. About that experience through his words in my own and did you learn anything you know anything about yourself while writing a memoir I know that you know when you when you go into material like this, you sort of have to dig back in sort of excavate your own life and sort of reexamine things maybe in a new perspective did you learn anything about yourself? Yeah. I think anytime you revisit your past and learn more about the people who came before you. You're inevitably going to learn more about who you. Are you know I've always said and I've learned from my dad, the process of you know understanding ourselves and who we are that journey starts well, before we were born starts with understanding who came before you and know certainly in this book, it talks about my grandmother and my dad and their lives before I was born and my dad's after I was born and all of that plays into forming a sense of identity. It helps to you to understand more about yourself and there's things in even researching this book that. I learned that kind of. Forced me to re contextualize my life in my identity. No. When I was a kid I, always believed that my parents drew grew up intentionally raising me to be non indigenous to protect me from. You know what they felt would have experienced growing up in the city in. Winnipeg. As a cre- kid and in the process of researching this book and a lot of that research was just sitting down with my dad spending hours with him talking he said that's not true. I. I never wanted to tell you what it meant to be original. But I never told you that I didn't want you to be my goal was to model that for you. But to give you the tools that you need to figure out for yourself and one of the things that always sticks with me as you said, how to teach you how to be crea- you are cre-. So nothing I can say can make you more or less cre-. Your journey is defined what that means. For Self and his role was to kind of guide me in a way to that understanding and I think he did that.