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Jonny Appleseed

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  5,651 ratings  ·  832 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 prin ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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cait That was my understanding of this story as well. So... I think it may have been an error in chronology on the author/editor's part. At first, I though…moreThat was my understanding of this story as well. So... I think it may have been an error in chronology on the author/editor's part. At first, I thought I misunderstood it, but your interpretation of the timeline is identical to my own.(less)

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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,651 ratings  ·  832 reviews

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Lala BooksandLala
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
This was just the slice of life narrative I really dig.

Book 15 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read, canada
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, 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 loved
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 ‘It’s Time to Drop the LGBT From LGBTQ’. Rauch’s basic argument is that we need a new term that effectively humanises all sexual minorities, as opposed
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, that’s me). 2.5.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, can-con, indigenous
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 save
Mar 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Jonny Appleseed is a two-sprit, full-metal indigiqueer, NDN glitter princess who leaves the Rez to make his way in the 'peg hustling as a cybersex worker. He's getting men off online, whether they're closeted and curious, or nourishing some connection to idealized Native sensibilities and the spiritual connection they believe Indigenous people have to the land, or simply want to explore some Village People Indian fetish, Jonny deals with them all. Even more so now as he tries to make enough mone ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stop everything you are doing and read this book. It’s everything I love about Indigenous storytelling. About a young Oji-Cree two spirit Indigequeer NDN in the week leading up to his stepfather’s funeral, this book is a gift. I appreciate the contemporary nature of this book, both in it’s sense of now (the technology, the terminology, what’s current in the world of pop culture), but also in it’s sense of place (it’s the world exactly now, it’s Winnipeg and Peguis exactly now). The other thing a ...more
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.
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 experie
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 prose—and notes published in haphazard order at that. Bailed 60% of the way in.
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. ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gad damn.

What the hell am I going to read after this book?
I read Jonny Appleseed written by Joshua Whitehead because this novel was shortlisted for Canada Reads 2021. Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree, two-spirit writer, poet and Indigiqueer scholar from Peguis First Nation. I listened to him being interviewed on CBC radio.
Jonny is a young man who has left the reserve for the city and the novel follows a painful, loving and powerful week in his life as he reflects on the brokenness and the beauty of his past.
I did not like the numerous raw and graphic
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 K. Ilsley
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.

Update March 11, 2021 — this book just won this year’s Canada Reads competition. Congrats to Joshua Whitehead and Arsenal Pulp Press!
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.
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wow! There is magic in this writing--where "ordinary" words are placed and combined in such a way that music appears.  I've just finished the book and I'm in awe at how language can be used in such extraordinary ways (see quotes below).  Ah, and I'm reminded that Whitehead is a poet.  The artistry is here and it is beautiful.

This story of Two-Spirit Jon as he grows up on a reservation in Canada and moves to the Big City is straight-forward, a coming-of-age arc. But this presentation has a subtle
Anne (ReadEatGameRepeat)
This fell a little flat for me. The writing was interesting and the concept behind it was very intriguing to me. That being said the execution was maybe a little too graphic for me, I will say I think if I read the book physically or rather than as an audiobook I might not have minded it as much just because the situation that kept happening was that I was at the grocery store or whatever and then I would listen to it and I would just end up feeling so awkward. I will say I did like the audioboo ...more
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Full of humour and pain and sex and no shame.

“Funny how an NDN ‘love you’ sounds more like ‘I’m in pain with you.’”

What I loved most was Jonny reflecting back on his relationships with his Mom and his especially his Ko’kum (Grandma). Their love and acceptance, even more than acceptance, embracing of Jonny are a balm to his often tough life outside of his home. They are his safe place to fall. When Jonny emotionally comes out to his kokum, she replies “You done, m’boy, or what? … Heck, like I di
Colleen Earle
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: canada-reads
I really liked the writing style this book uses.
Like the last book I read, this one combines a linear story that is interspersed with non-linear memory.
It is a sad and painful book. A book that I think would have a lot more meaning to someone who isn’t me.
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
CBC Books describes this book as "a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life," and while I agree that it is both unique and devastating, I struggled to stay engaged with the text. It was too crude and too non-linear for me to develop any strong attachment to the protagonist. ...more
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jonny, our narrator, is a two-spirited young man living in Winnipeg, where he moved after his youth on the Peguis Reservation in central Manitoba. He's also a self-styled NDN glitter princess, and he makes his money as a cam boy. The action of the book takes place over a few days, when Jonny finds out his stepfather has died, and he needs to make enough money to pay his rent and get back to the reservation for the funeral, but much of the book consists of flashbacks and memories of Jonny's exper ...more

“Funny how an NDN ‘love you’ sounds more like ‘I’m in pain with you.’” …
Jonny felt MANY different types of pain throughout the pages of this seemingly infinitely quotable book.

It’s definitely a non-linear book, that feels VERY MUCH like the way a person’s mind goes to and fro, from the past to the present and from topic to topic.

A lot of the novel focuses on the women in Jonny’s life and the impact they’ve had on him. Joshua Whitehead writes elegantly and exactingly about Jonny’s state of
Ashley Marie
There's something incredibly special about an author reading their own work.

This is a slice-of-life tale about an Oji-Cree 2SQ (Two-Spirit queer) femme boy named Jonny. Throughout the book, he gives us snapshots of his life, from where he is now and where he's been. We meet his family and the people he surrounds himself with, particularly his beloved kokum. I was utterly absorbed in the whole thing, and having Joshua's voice in my ears truly brought Jonny's story to life. I've never read anythin
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. ...more
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. ...more
This book could have been a lot of things that it's not, and the fact that it's doing so well despite that gives me some hope regarding the literary industry and the world at large at the turn of the second decade of the 21st century. It could have sacrificed being for accurate labels, interior wrestling between the heart and the soul for a side character white person savior complex, the messy business of living for the kind of climactic traumatic pathos that gets those who only have to witness ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Jonny Appleseed was a long-list nominee one high profile Canadian fiction award list and a shortlist nominee on another. Given the minimal number of nominations on these lists and the wealth of talented authors in Canada, this double nomination got my attention, especially since Jonny Appleseed is Joshua Whitehead’s debut novel.

The book is fiction but reads like a memoir - one of my favourite genres. Both the primary fictional character and the author are two-spirited indigenous individuals. Bas
We had nowhere to go, no one to turn to, so we stuck to ourselves. p89
I used to wonder if I might run out of tears. p125
None of us knew the words but we sang along anyways. p127

Brave, raw, sometimes tender sometimes sickening but always pushing up against the truth, this is a book that reads better if you are in love. I noticed the shift if not the exact moment that it happened, when I had stopped flinching and started empathizing. "I can't pray to a God I'm afraid of" states Jonny/Joshua on pag
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Diverse Canadian ...: Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead 5 14 May 15, 2021 09:25PM  

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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, h ...more

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