Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Drew Taylor

Posted on: June 11, 2015

DrewTaylorBorn in Curve Lake, Ontario, Drew Hayden Taylor is part Ojibwa and part Caucasian. About this mixed background, his biography offers this quote from Taylor: “I plan to start my own nation. Because I am half Ojibway half Caucasian, we will be called the occasions. And of course, since I’m founding the new nation, I will be a special occasion.”

In his career, Taylor has worn many hats. For example, he has performed stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and served as Artistic Director of Canada’s premiere Native theatre company. Also, in 2004 he was appointed to the Ontario Ministry of Culture Advisory Committee.

As for writing kudos, he has been an award-winning playwright (receiving over 70 productions of his work), documentarian (having worked on over 17 documentaries exploring the Native experience, a journalist/columnist (appearing regularly in several Canadian newspapers and magazines), television scriptwriter (including writing for notable shows such as The Beachcombers, Street Legal and North of 60), short-story writer, and novelist.

Although based in Toronto, Taylor has also traveled to seventeen countries around the world, trying to educate the world about the lives of Canada’s First Nations and spreading the gospel of Native literature. He was even invited to Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute in California, where he taught a series of seminars on the depiction of Native characters in fiction, drama and film.

ALLISON: What are your earliest memories?

DREW: Half remembered memories of playing inside a lilac bush out in front of my old house. Watching my uncle or mother put wood in a stove. Lying down on the grass with my dog and watching the rain fall directly onto my face.

ALLISON: You are half Ojibway and half Caucasian. How does this give you a unique perspective?

DREW: It gives me a special ability to deal with topics like identity. A lot of my work deals with that topic, from many of my plays i.e. IN A WORLD CREATED BY A DRUNKEN GOD, THE BOY IN THE TREEHOUSE, TORONTO AT DREAMER’S ROCK, THE SOMEDAY TRILOGY, alterNATIVES, and many more. I find myself always investigating what being Native means….. Same with many of my essays like PRETTY LIKE A WHITE BOY which was the corner stone of my four part series of creative non-fiction books, FUNNY, YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE ONE.

ALLISON: Why did you write about a Ojibway vampire?

DREW: For a number of reasons, I wanted to culturally appropriate a European legend and indigenize it. Also, may successful writers harbour a secret wish to write genre. Tom King has a murder mystery series he writes. And at the time, vampire tales were quite popular. It could be more basic than that…. I wanted to do something new and to the best of my knowledge, untried before. A new genre…. aboriginal gothic.

ALLISON: What inspires you to spread the “gospel of Native literature”?

DREW: I think part of our responsibility as writers, and more importantly Native writers, is to tell the world about our stories – what we write and why we write it. I am just one warrior in the battle for literary recognition. We all must let the world know about all the great things we have written and will write. Also, when you are on tour, you sometimes get tired of just talking about yourself and your work, and want to include the writing other people are contributing to the cause.

ALLISON: What is your proudest moment?

DREW: Tough question. I don’t know if I have one yet. It could have been when I was nominated twice for the Governor General’s award, or when my first book came out or when my mother said she was proud of me.

In 2007, Annick Press published Taylor’s first novel, The Night Wanderer. I’ll review The Night Wanderer tomorrow. Save the date: June 12!

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