By Ania Bessonov (RSJ ’18)
The blackout in 2003 was one of the first times many Canadians came face to face with a widespread power outage. It returned in a few days – nothing compared to what an Anishinaabe community experienced in Waubgeshig Rice’s new novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow.
Journalist, radio host and author, Rice (RSJ ‘02) describes a post-apocalyptic world from a First Nations perspective. He follows the path to survival for an Indigenous community in Northern Ontario and how they reconnect with the land in order to survive, without modern day luxuries.
Throughout his childhood, Rice was always a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, but never found stories within this genre that took place in communities like his. “I thought it would be interesting to see it from a First Nations lens.”
The book was inspired by the 2003 blackout that plunged parts of Canada and the eastern U.S. into darkness for four days. “That was the first time there was a widespread outage like that and it caused people to reflect on their capabilities in the middle of a crisis,” he said.
After graduating from the School of Journalism, Rice pursued a career in journalism, but he said creative writing has always been an important part of his life. “I wrote short stories for fun when I was a teenager and had them saved.”
Now, these saved stories have turned into Rice’s published works.
He began writing Moon of the Crusted Snow three years ago, in the fall of 2015, but Rice said he had been imagining and developing the story for a few years before that. At the time, he was working as a video-journalist for CBC Ottawa but took two leaves of absence in order to devote all his time the novel.
“I wouldn’t have been able to finish it in a timely manner without the time away from my day job,” he said. Rice was supported by grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
Prior to this novel, Rice also published Midnight Sweatlodge, a collection of short stories, and Legacy, his first novel that came out in 2014. The stories all centre around Anishinaabe or Indigenous communities and have allowed Rice to tell their stories.