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Crazy Dave

Crazy Dave

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Author Basil Johnston

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 1, 2002)

The unflinching and marvelously humane story of a man born with Down syndrome in an Ojibway community.


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.

Author information

Basil Johnston is an Ojibway scholar who lives in Ontario, Canada, on the Cape Croker Indian Reserve. A recipient of the Order of Ontario and an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, he speaks and writes in both Ojibway and English, and is the author of numerous books, including The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway, Indian School Days, Ojibway Ceremonies, Ojibway Heritage, and Ojibway Tales.

Reviews and news

Praise for Crazy Dave:

"A gritty saga of his family's struggle through the first half of the twentieth century. . . . A lively and appealing memoir."
Kirkus Reviews

"Johnston accomplishes a daring literary feat in the book. He has made his uncle's poignant experience of life at Cape Croker a metaphor for the place of the Ojibwa in North American society. . . . That the book succeeds so well, stepping carefully as it does among hair-trigger sensitivities on issues of retardation and racism, credits the author's considerable skill and an attentive, attractive writing style filled with humour and reader-friendly detail."
Ottawa Sun Times

"One of my favorite books of all time. Elegantly written and deeply moving, a book to cherish and re-read."
K. Tsianina Lomawaima, author of They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School

"As Dave McLeod and his family struggle in the constant battle of assimilation, of maintaining a unique culture, of finding work outside the reserve, with language and inter-marriage at the focal points, Johnston holds true to his notion that Dave can be read as a symbol of larger problems in society. . . . Crazy Dave is an antidote to all those blockbuster titles about the rich and famous."
Toronto Star

  • 334 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873514231

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