Each of us processes our life’s joys and sorrows, loves and losses in distinct ways. Cody Caetano (BA 2017 UTM, MA 2019) wrote a memoir. In Half-Bads in White Regalia, the 28-year-old Toronto resident recounts growing up with his siblings and often without his parents – a mother who learned she was Anishinaabe and a Sixties Scoop survivor, and a Portuguese father who came to Canada in the 1960s. Published in 2022, Caetano’s debut book became a bestseller and critical success, earning two Indigenous Voices Awards.
What compelled you to put your life story into words?
It felt pretty intuitive and instinctual. I was naturally inclined to write as a way of being productive and creative – and to compartmentalize and organize my memories. The writing of the book was also tied up with learning how to write and my education as a writer at U of T. Also, thanks to the tools we have today, telling one’s story has never been simpler. Because of the internet, it can be easier for people to pursue their art and share it with the world.
As you mined your childhood memories, what was your process for fleshing out your experiences and crafting them into a narrative?
I was incredibly fortunate to have a family who understood what I was seeking to do and were supportive. I was able to interview them, and had access to journals by family members. In the first stage, I started writing in the present tense and the first-person, writing down my memory. Then, as time passed and I sat longer with these stories, I was able to turn them into scenes in the book.
As a U of T student, you served as editor-in-chief of Echolocation, the university’s literary magazine, and as co-editor of Mindwaves, UTM’s creative non-fiction journal. How did your writing education shape you?
Those six years were really life-changing and I owe a lot to the U of T community. The creative writing master’s program was my dream program. It made me feel like my memoir could be a real book – or at least a real manuscript. When I graduated, I had such an intuitive understanding of writing.
What was it like to have the late author Lee Maracle as an advisor?
Lee was a singular person. She set me up to think about myself as a writer and storyteller and what that would mean long term. She helped me pick the title for the book. Working with her was incredibly formative.
What’s next for you professionally?
I’m working on a novel – a revenge story involving two best friends.
Favourite travel spot?
Visiting family up north
How do you relax?
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre