Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6 based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation located in Northern Manitoba. He has campaigned on behalf of Indigenous peoples around the world for more than 20 years, working with numerous organizations for social and environmental justice. Life in the City of Dirty Water is his first book.
Life in the City of Dirty Water covers Thomas-Müller’s entire life: from playing with toy planes as a way to escape from domestic and sexual abuse and enduring intergenerational trauma to becoming a committed environmental activist. Along the way, Thomas-Müller remained tied to his Cree heritage and spirituality and the memoir is a vision of healing and responsibility.
Suzanne Simard is defending Life in the City of Dirty Water on Canada Reads 2022.
Canada Reads will take place March 28-31. The debates will be hosted by ali hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem and on CBCBooks.
Here are some of the books and authors Thomas-Müller has loved reading over the years.
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
“I read the Dark Tower series when I was like 12 years old and it really impacted me in a very big way — deep into my core, right into the marrow of my bones. I revisit the whole seven-volume series almost every year and I read them from cover to cover.It’s a very powerful fantasy story about love, loss, tragedy, triumph and deep, deep spirituality.
It’s a very powerful fantasy story about love, loss, tragedy, triumph and deep, deep spirituality.
“The book series itself was just incredible because as I went through my life, I felt aspects and elements of the characters’ personalities — the way they dealt with tragedy and triumph, the way they dealt with death and with birth and the cyclical nature of life and creation. It was a very profound book for me.”
18:49Clayton Thomas-Müller on Life in the City of Dirty Water
Imajica by Clive Barker
“Imajica was this book of doorways to other dimensions and very complex characters. That book explored the deep themes of sexuality and just the blurred lines between the gender spectrum. And it’s not just gender like in a human context, but because the story takes place in multiple universes and there are characters that pass between those universes, there’s inter-dimensional gender-bending kind of stuff.
It’s hard to explain, but that book really opened my eyes up to just how big the universe is and how limitless possibilities are in this very beautiful life that I’ve been given.
“I read Imajica when I was a teenager and it just blew me away. It’s this beautiful epic story about saving the universe and this day of reckoning that comes every couple of centuries. It’s hard to explain, but that book really opened my eyes up to just how big the universe is and how limitless possibilities are in this very beautiful life that I’ve been given.”
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
“Another really important book to me was The Autobiography of Malcolm X. My mother gave me that book when I was just a teenager getting into trouble, and I read it back to front in like three hours. I couldn’t put it down. Growing up, my mother always referred to three civil rights leaders and would tell me their quotes — Dr. Martin Luther King and of course, Malcolm X and Chief Dan George.
really got me through that whole experience and I really appreciated it.
“I had gotten into trouble and went to a juvenile detention center and I turned 17 when I was in there. There is a copy of this book in the library. And I must have read that 80 times while I was locked up. The Autobiography of Malcolm X really got me through that whole experience and I really appreciated it.”
TheCurrent23:17Clayton Thomas-Müller on his fight for Indigenous rights and the environment
The Nanabush series by Daphne Odjig
“Daphne Odjig illustrated a series of children’s books that were a collection of their original stories of Nanabush, which is the Ojibwe version of Wisakedjak the trickster. And I bought those stories for my sons — all the books — and every night before bed, I I would read those books to my sons.
Some of them are harsh because Nanabush gets burned to death and he drowns in some of the stories. They’re quite deep archetypal stories that when you read them to children, especially, it implants lifelong teachings around morality and that sort of thing.”
Clayton Thomas-Müller’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.