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Jonny Appleseed

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,551 ratings  ·  226 reviews
"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  1,551 ratings  ·  226 reviews

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Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canada, 2018-read
I've never read anything like this, and I just loved it: Joshua Whitehead wrote a coming-of-age story about Jonny, a young 2SQ (Two-Spirit, queer Indigenous) person who leaves the rez to make a life for himself in the city. There, Jonny is supporting himself as a sex worker and gets caught up in a love triangle with Tias and Jordan who are also Native American (if you want to know their gender, just read the book! :-)). When Jonny's stepfather dies, he has to make enough money to travel back to ...more
What a beautiful, sad, funny book. It's the most poignant reminder I've had in a while about how powerful and effecting a first person narrative can be. Jonny, the two-spirit main character, carries the book with his raw, hilarious, and insightful voice. The story meanders through his memories, mostly of his kokum, mom, and his great first love Tias, while in the present Jonny prepares to go back to the rez for his mom's boyfriend's funeral.

Favourite quotes:
"Humility is just a humiliation you
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am so chuffed that Joshua Whitehead won the Gay Fiction category in the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards! Hugely deserved. And kudos to Arsenal Pulp Press for bagging additional awards for Lesbian Fiction (The Tiger Flu) and Transgender Fiction (Little Fish).

I recently read an article by Jonathan Rauch, Contributing Editor at The Atlantic, entitled Its Time to Drop the LGBT From LGBTQ. Rauchs basic argument is that we need a new term that effectively humanises all sexual minorities, as opposed to
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-con, indigenous, 2018
It turns out that Johnny Appleseed is some American folk legend who became famous by planting apple trees in West Virginia. I didn't understand why we'd sung about him in camp I wanted to know about Louis Riel, Chief Peguis, and Buffy St. Marie, but instead we were honouring some white man throwing apple seeds in frontier America. Apparently he was this moral martyr figure who remained a virgin in exchange for the promise of two wives in heaven. Oh, and he loved animals, and I heard he saved
The story of a young, gay, First Nations Canadian man who works as a prostitute, and what it was like growing up gay on a reservation. I think it was pretty forgettable.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stop everything you are doing and read this book. Its everything I love about Indigenous storytelling. About a young Oji-Cree two spirit Indigequeer NDN in the week leading up to his stepfathers funeral, this book is a gift. I appreciate the contemporary nature of this book, both in its sense of now (the technology, the terminology, whats current in the world of pop culture), but also in its sense of place (its the world exactly now, its Winnipeg and Peguis exactly now). The other thing about ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are so many things in this novel that make it beautifully queer. Its 2-spirit protagonist; its nonlinear timeline that intentionally meanders through past stories of family and tradition, trauma and survival; its descriptions of eroticism and the discovery and exploration of sexuality ... I could go on.

Joshua Whitehead is a master of words. There were at least a dozen killer sentences that I felt compelled to highlight as I was reading, particularly because I felt they captured the
Some beautiful and poignant writing, and also some very funny lines, in this story about a two-spirited young indigenous man in Winnipeg, trying to earn enough money webcamming to catch a ride back to the rez for a funeral. It felt kind of like a one-man Fringe show in its tone and its focus on the protagonist - I would have appreciated more narrative momentum (and maybe fewer bodily fluids and smells, but hey, thats me). 2.5. ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
This read like a shitty first draft, alas. There were enough tender, raw sentences scattered throughout the first several chapters to keep me going, mesmerized by a wee bit of evidence of an exciting new voice. But after that, unfortunately, it read like slapdash notes toward a novel rather than fully realized fictional proseand notes published in haphazard order at that. Bailed 60% of the way in. ...more
31st Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalist

It was like reading a poem. Heartbreaking storytelling, a colorful mosaic of beautiful prose and raw reality, fragments of touching memories and tender spirituality, funny and sad at once.

A very impressive debut novel.
George Ilsley
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful fiction debut. I first met Jonny in the pages of Malahat, and was very pleased to see he was going to be able to roam through his own book. Jonny's voice is strong and visceral, and there is a lot going on in this novel. Worth reading and re-reading. Strong debut novel from a new voice.
Alanna Why
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Like most queer lit, this book is SAD but also GOOD. I really liked the non-linear way it was told and how you really got to know the characters through the vignettes of Jonny's memory. The best part of this book is any scene with Jonny and his kokum because they LOVE EACH OTHER SO MUCH and it is VERY NICE.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5* rounded up.

I had been dragging my heels to read this as part of Read Harder 2019 task #18. Instead I found a book I loved and a character that was unique, real, a little too raw at times and an NDN glitter princess.
Daniel Justice
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal work--raw, unflinching, poignant, hilarious, and deeply moving. I enjoyed it as a reader and as a teacher of Indigenous literature, and it's one of my students' favourite reads. Highly recommended.
Kat Rogue
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
At times I wanted to throw this book across the room. For good reason! Times when the world was cruel and Joshua Whitehead lays just the right train of thought to make you feel it in your gut. Or times when the throbbing horniness of it makes me feel like the last thing I wanna be holding in my hands at that moment is a book.

Whitehead has a gift for turning pain into pleasure, twisting the bullied moments our glitterprincess survives and making it an integral part of his self awakening. It is
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was immediately charmed by Jonny, and while I sometimes struggled to keep the intertwined present and past storylines in order, I was so interested in his journey and immersed in the reading experience. One of my favorite aspects was the description of intimacy between family, as well as friends/lovers. Seeing people show physical love to reach other was done so beautifully in this book again and again. ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
I read to page 30 and found the book too raw and graphic to persist with.
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gad damn.

What the hell am I going to read after this book?
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: qtbipoc, mid-twenties
Wily, tenacious, erotic. Generous and ripped open. Gratitude to Joshua Whitehead for writing such a momentous, excavating, intimate, humourous, and hungry novel.

There were several scenes that seared themselves into my memory: Kokum's porcupine lesson, night swimming with Tias, Jordan slamming down an expired coupon on the McDonalds counter with that look on her face. The prose in these scenes clicked perfectly. In general, I though Whiteheads writing was beautiful and raw, though I felt that a
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Who the hell gonna love me now, Kokum? Whose gonna suck the pain from my skin, teach me to love it into humility? Who, Kokum, who?

This is a powerful book about a Two-Spirit/Indiqueer individual finding his way in a modern world, both on and off the reserve. It is a story of family, love and traditions, as well as a story of sexuality, trauma and survival. It is beautiful and heart wrenching.

Sometimes I dont like how life goes on. And sometimes I dont think it should.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Oh boy, this is a bit of a stream of consciousness doozy. No real plot, no real story, just a brief foray into somebody's life. In a very good way, though.
Laurie Burns
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
Jonny Appleseed is written by Joshua Whitehouse and is on the long list for the Giller Prize at this time. The short list will be announced tomorrow, September 30th, 2018. I have only read three of the long listed books, but I am rooting for Whitehouse. This book is important. 

I just finished reading it and almost started reading it again right away. 

I really like books that are written in this sort of free-verse writtentimeline. I love feeling the emotion of characters and it seeming like I was
Kelsey Hlavaty (readingwithkelsey)
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
I really enjoyed this novel because it brought forth a narrative that I have never read before. Jonny is a two-spirit queer Native who leaves his reservation and moves to the city to make a different life for himself. I really enjoyed Jonny as a character and although he didn't have a very glamorous lifestyle when he moved, it was a very raw and real life. While Jonny comes to terms with who he is as an individual, he questions different moments and aspects of his development. His relationship ...more
Ai Miller
This book was just INCREDIBLE. It's like a book that is truly about love at the end of the day, but also very specific kinds of love, love that is painful but we can't turn away from. And it does it from this very specific position; this book is so deeply rooted in Two Spirit-edness and being Two Spirit in the present, and its veneration of Native women is powerful. There are so many beautiful moments, beautiful sentences, and explorations of what it means to live, and I feel so grateful to get ...more
Adored it. Full video review to come!
Kurt Ostrow
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
"I am my own best medicine.

Truth be told, I did need a lot of healing throughout my teen years...They'd cuddle me at night and then kick me out in the morning, denying any closeness and blaming it all on the drink. Truth be told, I think I was more of a leech than they were. I loved the burning hot flesh of brown skin turning red from tension and friction. I loved seeing the blood throb in their veins, popping like earthworms on their forearms and wristsblood that said I'm surviving and you can
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit, lgbtqi2s
A superb spitfire of a book that will surely be a keystone in both Joshua Whitehead's career, Indigenous literature, and two spirit expression. Accessible via the myriad of pop culture allusions included -- we millennials can tune into this perhaps unfamiliar social location through these recognizable shows, songs, characters, foods, etc. in order to get a glimpse at Jonny Appleseed's quest for understanding. Jonny Appleseed is ragged, puncturing, and true to its main character and community.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Id like to give this three and a half, almost 4. Not quite.

I enjoyed the voice of Jonny; I felt his story. I did not always love the way he told it. Style more than anything. It meandered so much, that when I read the back synopsis again halfway through saw that his goal was to get home for a funeral I was surprised. Id forgotten all about that.

But I think theres something special about the book as a series of vignettes. There is something very genuine here. It had palpable authenticity,
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
one of the most perfect novels ive ever read. whiteheads writing is poetic, propulsive, so full of love and queerness. cheeky too!! the feelings they encapsulate are ones ive felt so many times but have never seen on a page so perfectly messy. also one of the most real, humane descriptions of sex work i think ive ever read. this book hurts but its more of a salve than anything. left me a blubbery mess and i turned right back to the first page to go through it all again. so so so beautiful. so ...more
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Parts of this book were beautiful and much of the writing was superb but it lacked structure and I often felt like, as a reader, I was being tossed around among a number of different storylines without any landmarks or clues to help knit together the chronology of the events. Portions of this book were likely difficult and harsh on purpose but I felt the work as a whole would have been more powerful if it had been more coherent. It read as a stream of conscious self-reflection piece.
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Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit storyteller and academic from Peguis First Nation on Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Indigenous literatures and cultures at the University of Calgary on Treaty 7 territory. His most recent book of poetry, Full-Metal Indigiqueer, was shortlisted for the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry. In 2016, ...more

News & Interviews

As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young ...
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“... humility is just a humiliation you loved so much it transformed.” 1 likes
“Funny how an NDN "love you" sounds more like, "I'm in pain with you".” 1 likes
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