Indigenous author who changed his name to John A. McDonald finds recent success after years of rejection
A Saskatchewan author who legally changed his name to one who looks like a former prime minister sees his books published after 15 years of rejection.
After more than 200 rejection letters from editors, John Brady McDonald has published three of his books in the past two years.
This includes his most recent book, Electricity Slides, its first under its new name.
McDonald, a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation of Paddockwood, Saskatchewan, was named John A. McDonald for the first 40 years of his life – but legally changed his middle name to Adrian last year after the charges name changes were canceled for the surviving school residences.
Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, played a key role in establishing the residential school system.
“Not only as a residential school survivor, but as a Native, carrying that name for so long was an albatross around my neck. It was a painful name to wear, ”he said.
“It’s like a thousand pounds weight on my shoulders.”
McDonald was forced to attend Prince Albert’s Indian student residence from 1984 to 1989.
He told CBC The morning edition host Stefani Langenegger said his name was a stumbling block when trying to share stories about what happened to him at residential school, or advocate for those who are no longer alive to tell their stories.
“People would assume I was sort of a smart-alec and say, ‘Oh, are you an aboriginal survivor with that name? “Or it was causing pain to people, especially me,” he said.
He said that while it has been very empowering to see his new name printed, there are those who have told him that they will continue to use his dead name.
“The hardest part has always been those people who say, ‘Well, you know, I’ve always known you like that, I’m just going to keep calling you that,'” he said.
McDonald said he chose his new middle name to honor his grandfather, the late Métis leader Jim Brady.
As for his recent success as a writer, McDonald said he has benefited from a resurgence in Indigenous storytelling.
He said publishers have understood over the past five to ten years that Indigenous stories need to be told and that there is a demand for those stories.
“For a long time when indigenous books were published we were a niche,” he said. “I hate to say it, but there were some publishers who published indigenous books purely on the basis of symbolic meaning or to tick a public relations box.”
12:35Sask. author and residential school survivor publishes three new books under new legal name
McDonald’s has actually published four books, the first – a book of poetry – coming out in 2004 before the years of rejection.
These 15 years of trying to get a second book published have had many disappointments, with many visits to the post office with bound manuscripts sent to publishers and “a small fortune” spent on postage, he said. .
McDonald said there were a lot of times he wanted to give up but didn’t allow it.
“I think the main reason is if I gave up I would have proven a lot of people in my past the right who told me this because I was an urban Aboriginal child from West Flat in Prince Albert who grew up in a residential school, that I wasn’t going to do anything, that I wasn’t going anywhere, that there was no future for me, “he said.
He said he also wanted to set an example for all the young people watching.
“If I were to give up, what lesson would it teach them about pursuing their goals, achieving their dreams, and attempting to overcome the limitations placed on them by certain members of society? “