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Athabasca University

Biography

Joseph Boyden is a novelist, short story writer and teacher of creative writing. His novel Three Day Road (2005), a nominee for the Governor General’s Award in 2005,  won the Rogers Writers’ Trust fiction prize, the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year award and the Amazon/Books in Canada first novel award. His second novel, Through Black Spruce (2008) won the Scotia Bank Giller prize. These novels deal with First Nations history and culture.

Born in 1966 in Willowdale, Ontario Joseph Boyden is of Irish, Scottish and Métis descent and currently resides in both Louisiana and Ontario. He teaches creative writing at the University of New Orleans and frequently travels back to Ontario to spend time with his extended family. He has a son named Jacob who resides in Toronto with his mother. Boyden attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School in Toronto while growing up. Afterwards he worked on his creative writing degree at both York University and at the University of New Orleans. He has spent time teaching in the Aboriginal Student Program at Northern College. He and his wife, Amanda Boyden, are writers-in-residence at the University of New Orleans.  Joseph met Amanda while teaching in the Southern U.S.  As well as being an author Amanda is a contortionist and a trapeze artist. She has published a novel entitled Pretty Little Dirty (2006).

Joseph Boyden’s father was a medical doctor who participated in WWII. Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was the highest decorated medical doctor of the Second World War and was a war hero. He received the Distinguished Service Order and died when Joseph was only eight years old. This was an incredibly traumatic experience for Joseph who seemed to constantly search for his father’s identity throughout his life. Joseph was also greatly influenced by his father’s brother Erl, who lived a more traditional native lifestyle in the forests of Ontario. Erl made his own clothing and travelled around the world during the months of winter. His strong Ojibwa traditions, such as living in a teepee, were very influential on Joseph and combined with the war stories of his father, he had the groundwork for his first novel Three Day Road. In this book, two young Cree men,  Xavier and Elijah, enroll in World War I and become snipers. It is also influenced by the war stories of the native war hero Francis Pegahmagabow. This book is to be part of a trilogy, with the second novel, Through Black Spruce, which tells the story of Will, son of one of the characters in Three Day Road.  The third novel to complete the trilogy is promised  soon.  Boyden has also written a book of short stories called Born with a Tooth (2001).
(J. McKay)

Awards

Three Day Road

  • Won the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award
  • Won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
  • Nominee for the 2005 Governor General’s Award
  • Won the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award
  • Was included in Canada Reads 2006

Through Black Spruce

  • Won the Scotia Bank Giller Prize for 2008

Updated October 16 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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