The memoir Arts & Science alum and author Cody Caetano worked on as part of his master’s degree at U of T has been longlisted for one of Canada’s biggest literary honours.
Half-Bads in White Regalia tells the story of Caetano’s upbringing after his parents divorced and left him and his two older siblings on their own. Caetano’s father was absent, and his mother sought to reconnect with herself and her Anishinaabe roots after getting separated from her biological family — a result of the Sixties Scoop.
“It’s exciting to get recognition for this book, but writers don't write for prizes,” says Caetano, who double majored in English and professional writing and communication, earning his honours bachelor of arts from U of T Mississauga in 2017. He graduated from U of T’s Master of Arts in English in the Field of Creative Writing program in 2019.
Caetano, who is an off-reserve member of Pinaymootang First Nation, began conceptualizing Half-Bads in a journal entry when he was just 16. He continued working on the manuscript throughout his undergraduate degree, but found the right mentors to help him finish and publish the book during his master’s program at U of T. He worked with revered authors including George Elliott Clarke and the late Lee Maracle.
“She was like my Plato or Yoda,” says Caetano of Maracle. “She got tough with me in a loving way, and she was someone who challenged me to think strongly and carefully about the kind of story I was going to tell.”
In 2020, excerpts from Caetano’s book won the Indigenous Voices Award for best unpublished prose in English.
The five panellists for this year’s Canada Reads competition and the five books they choose to champion will be revealed on Jan. 25 and the debates will take place from March 27 to 30.
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