A writer with Pouce Coupe and Peace region roots is up for the 2020 CBC Nonfiction prize this evening.
Joseph Kakwinokanasum of White Rock says growing up in Pouce in the 1970s has set the tone and for Ray Says, his nominated work about Ray House, local martial arts instructor.
Kakwinokanasum said the story touches on the affect of trauma on kids.
“Kids have little powers; they need to life that life gets better – there can be a wonderful life after a war,” he says.
Kakwinokanasum’s battle has been a hard and real one – drinking, drugs, and residential school affects.
“It was an isolated time sometimes with not a lot to do. Hiking, fishing the Bissette,” he says. And lots of drug use.
“While many of us suffered the same problem, Ray House was someone who helped many of us out,” says Kakwinokanasum.
“He taught me to meditate and breathe and more.”
When it comes to writing Kakwinokanasum says he started admiring handwriting at a young age, but when journaling his life experiences that more connections were made.
“I found it encouraging and the problems I was solving with alcohol and 8 ball of cocaine; I could now solve with writing.”
Ray Says was inspired by an experience that triggered anxiety for Joseph; the experience of meeting family after a long and unhappy familial hiatus was difficult.
Kakwinokanasum says he always has a few writing projects in the kitchen being worked on,so to speak
“I love cooking - 4/5 pots, over, broiler, microwave, doing what you want to do with the writing.”
Ray Says was selected from more than 1,700 entries received from across Canada.
I was encouraged to apply by others – and submitted to this on a dare almost. I didn’t expect to get this far,” he says.
“This is all pretty new to me and I’m not expecting to win. Let it all happen the way it is going to happen.”
The awards will be handed out tonight.
The jurors for this year’s CBC Nonfiction Prize are Yasuko Thanh, Bill Gaston and Robyn Doolittle. Kakwinokanasum lives in White Rock, BC, on the unceded territory of the Semiahmoo Nation. Born in Edmonton, Joseph was raised in the South Peace Country village of Pouce Coupe, B.C. His story, Ray Says, is set in Pouce Coupe.
In addition to a cash prize of $6000 from the Canada Council for the Arts,the Grand Prize winner will receive a two-week writing residency at Banff Centre for the Arts, and will be published on the CBC Books website. The four runners-up will each receive $1000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will be published on CBC Books.