Crazy Dave (Native Voices)

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Basil Johnston

Crazy Dave
Editions:Paperback: $ 17.95
ISBN: 0873514238
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 334

David, the last of Rosa's five sons, was born with Down syndrome. Unable to care for himself, he and the indomitable Rosa were to be forever bound together, joined by love and necessity in a life already defined by harsh, sometimes tragic circumstances.

And yet, David was remarkable. Strong, stubborn, and utterly determined, he aspired to learn, to be a part of a world in which he would never entirely belong. In that regard, he was and remains a poignant and unsettling reflection of his people, who had fled Wisconsin in the 1830s to seek sanctuary with the Ojibway farther north in what became Canada. With great resourcefulness and integrity, they struggled to sustain and preserve families, a language, and a way of life, while accommodating the increasingly intrusive demands of white society.

Woven of story and recollection—the author's own, his family's, and those of others who were there—Crazy Dave remembers and pays loving tribute to a family, a community, and a culture.

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Reviews:Heather Pearson on Amazon wrote:

None of us live in isolation. We live with our families and our communities. We also live in our wider country. At each level we need trust and respect, when we don't have that we end up with troubles. When we are different from our neighbours that can either present trouble or opportunities.

Basil Johnston's Uncle David was born around 1920 with Down's Syndrome. According to the book, he might have been the first member living at the Cape Croker reserve with this condition. No one knew for sure what David understood and what his capacity for learning was. His brothers taught him certain life skills including wood chopping. While his family had limited understanding of what he would try to convey to them, others on the reserve didn't.

His mother Rosa spent her life caring for her youngest son. she was always worried with how he would cope, how others on the reserve would treat him, and what would happen to him when she passed away.

Because he was different, David wasn't always treated well. The Priest and the Indian Agent wanted him sent away, yet they didn't attempt to meet and understand David. He was condemned on the basis of assumption and ignorance.

It's unfortunate that peoples and populations around the world are still treated in this same manner. If they are different, then they must be bad/sick/criminal/contagious/etc.

I hadn't intended to read this whole book. I thought I would skim it and move onto another book, but once I started reading and got past the first 50 or so pages I found that I couldn't put it down. I had to read more and learn about David and his family. I laughed when David was trying to lead the mother skunk and her kits to his house and I cried when he was mistaken for a Japanese soldier. I didn't want the story to end, I want to learn more about David and his too short life. Thank-you to Basil Johnston for sharing the story not only of his Uncle but of his family and his reserve.

geoff on Amazon wrote:

Crazy Dave struggles to live a normal life on a rural Indian Reservation in Ontario, Canada. Basil Johnston recalls his childhood and living with his grandmother and "Crazy" uncle Dave, who has downs syndrome. A fascinating, humorous and very realistic account of what it was like growing up on an Indian Reservation. Uncle Dave tries desperately to fit in with his community but is often misunderstood and never fully accepted. Uncle Dave is a metaphor for his people, the Native American Indian who is an outsider in is own country and anglo society. But once understood, the love, warmth and strong family values are seen through the Indian people. "Crazy Dave" often gets into trouble without knowing why. When he wants to play baseball with the children he hits the ball to far, he eats a wood cutter's lunch and is mistaken for a Japanese spy during the height of World War 11. This is an excellent read, don't be discouraged by the slow pace of the first two or three chapters, once started, you will not want to put the book down. I devoured the book in 3 days.


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