Joseph Boyden

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Joseph Boyden
Born (1966-10-31) October 31, 1966 (age 49)
Willowdale, North York, Ontario
Occupation professor, novelist and short story writer
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater Brebeuf College School; York University, University of New Orleans
Genre historical fiction, First Nations heritage and culture
Notable works Three Day Road, Through Black Spruce, The Orenda

Joseph Boyden CM (born October 31, 1966) is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. His first novel, Three Day Road won the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and his third book, The Orenda was named the winner of the 2014 edition of Canada Reads.

Life and career[edit]

Boyden grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School. Boyden experienced depression in his teenage years, and has admitted that he attempted suicide at sixteen. Boyden's father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was a medical officer renowned for his bravery, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the most highly decorated medical officer of World War II.[1]

Of Irish, Scottish and Anishinaabe heritage, Boyden writes about First Nations heritage and culture. Three Day Road, a novel about two Cree soldiers serving in the Canadian military during World War I, is inspired by Ojibwa Francis Pegahmagabow, the legendary First World War sniper. Boyden's second novel, Through Black Spruce follows the story of Will, son of one of the characters in Three Day Road. He has indicated in interviews that the titles are part of a planned trilogy[2] The third novel in the Bird family trilogy was published in 2013 as The Orenda.

In 2014 Boyden accepted a commission from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to write a ballet about residential schools in Canada. Boyden's ballet Going Home Star — Truth and Reconciliation premiered in 2014.[3]

Boyden studied creative writing at York University and the University of New Orleans, and subsequently taught in the Aboriginal Student Program at Northern College. He is currently a Lecturer with the University of British Columbia's Creative Writing Program.[4] He divides his time between Louisiana, where he and his wife, Amanda Boyden, are writers in residence,[5] and Northern Ontario.


In 2015 Boyden condemned Stephen Harper during the 2015 Canadian federal election calling his politics "race-baiting" and "fear-mongering".[6]


His debut novel, Three Day Road, won the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2006, and was a nominee for the 2005 Governor General's Awards. It previously won the inaugural McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award. Three Day Road was chosen for inclusion in Canada Reads 2006, where it was championed by filmmaker Nelofer Pazira.

His second novel, Through Black Spruce, won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize.[7][8]

His third novel, The Orenda, was on the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013, and won the 2014 edition of Canada Reads on 6 March 2014.

In 2009, Boyden was awarded an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters, honoris causa) from Nipissing University.[9] In 2013, Boyden was awarded an honorary degree from Algoma University.[10]

On December 30, 2015, it was announced that Boyden was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions as an author, who tells stories of our common heritage, and for his social engagement, notably in support of First Nations.[11]



Short stories[edit]

  • Born With a Tooth Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2001.


  • From Mushkegowuk to New Orleans: A Mixed Blood Highway. Edmonton: NeWest, 2008.
  • Extraordinary Canadians: Louis Riel And Gabriel Dumont. Penguin, 2010.