Author Profile: Eden Robinson

In 2018, we profiled some of the authors who participated in the 39th edition of the Festival. After this profile was published, Eden Robinson was longlisted for the 2019 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, shortlisted for the 2019 Sunburst Awards in Adult Fiction and won the 2019 BC Book Prize’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for Trickster Drift. She also curated a list of five emerging Indigenous writers to watch in June.

Eden Robinson burst onto the scene in major way with 1995’s Traplines, a relentlessly bleak collection of short stories focused on the violent and twisted relationships of their troubled narrators. The book would go on to win the the Winifred Holtby Prize for the best first work of fiction and in its darkness readers found a beating heart uniquely attuned to a set of experiences they couldn’t read about anywhere else. After all, Eden Robinson was one of the the first Haisla writers to have ever published a novel.

Born and raised near Kitamaat Village in British Columbia, Robinson is of mixed Indigenous descent. Her father, a member of the Haisla First Nation, met her mother, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, while on a fishing trip in Bella Bella. As a child, Robinson’s love of books was cultivated by her father. His passing during the writing process for Traplines deeply influenced the dark tone and voice of Robinson’s work at the time.

Her second book, Monkey Beach, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and Governor General’s Literary Award. After years of working odd jobs to support herself while moonlighting as an author, Monkey Beach cemented Robinson as one of the most important voices in the world of contemporary Canadian fiction.

Her books have long been celebrated for their authentic and nuanced portrayals of Indigenous youth and the numerous challenges they face today. This served as the thematic backbone for the “screwball Gothic” coming-of-age novel, Son of a Trickster, which Robinson worked on for eight years before its release in 2017. Originally conceived as a short story before becoming a novella and then finally as a novel, the book represented a return to the spotlight for Robinson, who again found herself nominated for the Giller Prize and earned the 2017 Writers’ Trust Fellowship.

The popularity of Son of a Trickster speaks for itself. Its sequel, Trickster Drift, was released this year to rave reviews and Son of a Trickster itself is set to receive a film adaptation with prominent Indigenous filmmakers Jennifer Kawaja and Michelle Latimer at the helm, the latter of whom was awarded with a Canadian Screen Award for her work on Viceland’s Rise.

Enjoyed this profile? You can now listen to second season of the TIFA Backlist featuring our 2018 event with Eden Robinson (Trickster Drift) in conversation with Cherie Dimaline (The Marrow Thieves)! Robinson reads from her latest novel before joining Dimaline for a lively conversation.