For Joshua: An Ojibwe Father Teaches His Son
By Richard Wagamese. (Milkweed Editions, 224 pages, $16.)
Richard Wagamese was one of Canada’s leading Indigenous writers until his death in 2017 at age 61, but he is largely unknown in the U.S. That he is known here at all is thanks to Milkweed, which has been the first American publisher of three of Wagamese’s novels.
In this memoir, Wagamese, an Ojibwe from Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in northwest Ontario, expresses sorrow to his son, Joshua, for not always being there as a dad, and for being a drunk and a criminal growing up.
Framed around a four-day vision quest atop a hill near Calgary, Wagamese weaves together a story of being handed from foster home to foster home among white people, each time thinking something was wrong with him for being given away again.
He turns to alcohol and petty crimes in retaliation before he wises up with the help of an older Ojibwe man, who leads him on his quest. John is seen as a savior who finally links Wagamese, a full-blooded Indian without any knowledge of his own tribe’s history or traditions, with his own heritage.
And although Wagamese eventually found salvation through writing, initially as a reporter for a Native newspaper, winning awards and traveling the country, he continued to struggle with alcohol throughout his life.
Told lyrically and unflinchingly, “For Joshua” is both a letter of apology and another attempt at self-identification for the writer. A must-read for Wagamese fans, and a good primer for his novels.
Strike Me Down
By Mindy Mejia. (Emily Bestler Books/Atria, 352 pages, $27.)
Leave it to Minneapolis author Mindy Mejia to make accounting exciting.
Of course, she’s thrown in a $20 million purse in a world kickboxing tournament — staged at U.S. Bank Stadium, the billion-dollar home of the Minnesota Vikings — and liberal references to the Twin Cities’ parks, skyway system and Mill City Ruins. That’s enough to hook any metro reader with familiar bait.
The $20 million purse goes missing days before the start of the world tournament. Nora Trier is the forensic accountant leading the urgent search for the prize money. She’s a great character, flawed and smart, an accomplished kickboxer herself, and she has an idol’s crush on the head of Strike, the urban gym sponsoring the tournament.
Logan Russo, on billboards all about town, is a fierce dark-haired fighter and the beautiful face of the franchise. Logan and her husband, Gregg, are instantly suspects, as a matter of protocol. Nora herself works out at Strike, so the initial meeting is something like hero worship mixed with CSI.
With Nora and her team, we follow the money through a maze of Caribbean bank accounts, more suspects and the obligatory violence that must come with forensic accounting (who knew?). Will she uncover the prize money in time for Logan Russo to bestow it on the winner, who will become the next face of Strike?
In Mindy Mejia fashion, she stays one step ahead of us until the final page.