BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — On Saturday, November 23, nearly 100 people attended A Story to Tell, an author reading of Waubgeshig Rice's Moon of the Crusted Snow at the Durham Community Centre. Journalist and CBC Radio personality, Rice gave his insights into the writing process and signed copies of the book, while a boisterous crowd could occasionally be heard, cheering on the Durham Thundercats next door.
Steven Morel MC'd the event and conducted an deep-dive interview with the author who also read a few key passages from his popular dystopian novel. Morel had successfully advocated for Moon of the Crusted Snow in the 2019 Grey County Reads contest and expressed the book's impact on him, personally.
It was during the widespread power outage of 2003, when Rice first had the idea to write a dystopian novel. Although a student of journalism at Ryerson at the time, Waubgeshig actually found himself at the Wasauksing First Nation when the blackout occurred. When the electricity went out, he travelled into Parry Sound, only to learn about the bigger, more serious situation gripping the northeastern US and Ontario. Concerned but somewhat underwhelmed, he and his friends went fishing. The power came back on sometime the next day, but the germ of an idea was born. What would happen in a remote community already isolated by it's location, if such an end-of-the-world scenario took place?
An allegory for the arrival of Europeans to native communities in North America, the story of Moon of the Crusted Snow follows the disruption that occurs when a group of outsiders seek refuge in a self-sufficient northern Anishinaabe community. Distrust looms large, as residents, the chief and band council wrestle with their decision to either welcome or turn away these visitors.
In one passage read by the author, Aileen, a respected elder, explains that for her, the apocalypse happened many years ago when her people were forced from their traditional lands to take up residence further north.
“They say that this is the end of the world. The power’s out and we’ve run out of gas and no one’s come up from down south. They say the food is running out and that we’re in danger. There’s a word they say too — ah . . . pock . . . ah . . .”
“Yes, apocalypse! What a silly word. I can tell you there’s no word like that in Ojibwe. Well, I never heard a word like that from my elders anyway.”
...“The world isn’t ending,” she went on. “Our world isn’t ending. It
already ended. It ended when the Zhaagnaash came into our original home
down south on that bay and took it from us. That was our world.”
Waubgeshig Rice signs copies of Moon of the Crusted Snow.
As far as the title of the book goes, Rice admitted that he had no idea what to call his novel once it was finished. It was an innocent search through a book of Anishinaabe terms that turned up the phrase Moon of the Crusted Snow as a moniker for the month of March. His wife Sarah mused, "You should use that for the name of your book." The rest was history.
Rice's first novel, Midnight Sweatlodge, pulled together a collection of
short stories exploring the unique challenges faced by young Aboriginal
people in contemporary Canada. By Rice's own admission, his writing style had evolved for his second publication.
Entertaining and informative, Waubgeshig spoke freely about the work and his experiences growing up in a Parry Sound eastern-shore native community. Although he wouldn't rule out a sequel to his latest novel, he thought it would require a great deal more research to follow the characters he created into a more far-future fictional adventure. He expressed delight with the popularity of his book and the success of this event.
The evening concluded with a book signing by the author. Door prizes were awarded from SouthGrey.ca, West Grey Public Library, The Bookstore, Chicory Common, The Colour Jar, Eckhardt's Shell and Lunch Room, and Garafraxa Café.
For a more detailed advocation of Moon of the Crusted Snow, visit Steven Morel's Grey County Reads analysis.
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