Eden Robinson speaks about the wonder and danger of stories

A book is fanned open
A book is fanned open

This year’s Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series featured author Eden Robinson, who visited York University on Oct. 23 to talk about her Trickster trilogyYork University Teaching Assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Eden Robinson’s book Trickster Drift

A member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations, Eden Robinson grew up with Trickster stories. “A lot of the supernatural creatures in our mythology are quite scary. They are not a Disney version of magic. The stories I grew up with had wonder, but they also had danger,” she said.

Readers of her acclaimed Trickster triology get a sense of this combination from her writing, which weaves together stories of abuse, violence and dysfunctional families, with humour and Indigenous mythology.

Her new novels, Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift, tell contemporary stories of suffering and resilience. “The most powerful people in our culture went through the worst and came through with their family,” said Robinson. “They went through terrible suffering and then became human again.”

The author is very careful about the ways in which she uses storytelling. She explains, “I come from a potlatch culture, in which there are three kinds of stories: formal, informal, and casual. I avoid the creatures associated with the formal stories because they are covered by Haisla copyright … I tell stories that are in the Haisla public domain.”

She told the audience that her Trickster trilogy started out as a very, very short story about the Trickster and it kept expanding. It turned out that she had quite a lot to tell us about the Trickster. Now it’s a trilogy, with the second book (Trickster Drift) having just come out.

On her visit to York University as part of the Canadian Writers in Person Series, Robinson read from Trickster Drift, and said that, although this is the second novel in the trilogy, she wrote it first. The book kept growing and growing, and it included flashbacks to the Kitamaat scenes that have then become Son of a Trickster. She hasn’t written the third book in the trilogy yet, but she knows the general direction of it.

After the Trickster trilogy, she is working on what she describes as a “trashy band council romance,” which is a different genre from what she is used to. “In the next few books, my challenge for myself is to use multiple narrators and less dialogue… Once you break through and start to use those skills you don’t normally use, you start to tell new stories.”

Readings are free and open to any member of the public. For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at leslie@yorku.ca or Professor Gail Vanstone at gailv@yorku.ca. All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9pm in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele campus.