A family tries to learn from the mistakes of past generations in this whirlwind memoir from a wholly original new voice.
The Caetano’s move into a doomed house in the highway village of Happyland before an inevitable divorce pulls Cody’s parents in separate directions. His mom, Mindimooye, having discovered her Anishinaabe birth family and Sixties Scoop origin story, embarks on a series of fraught relationships and fresh starts. His dad, O Touro, a Portuguese immigrant and drifter, falls back into “big do, little think” behavior, despite his best intentions.
Left alone at the house in Happyland, Cody and his siblings must fend for themselves, even as the pipes burst, and the lights go out. His protective big sister, Kris, finds inventive ways to put food on the table, and his stoic big brother, Julian, facilitates his regular escapes into the world of video games. As life yanks them from one temporary solution to the next, they steal moments of joy and resist buckling under “baddie” temptations aplenty.
Capturing the chaos and wonder of a precarious childhood, Cody Caetano delivers a fever dream coming-of-age garnished with a slang all his own. Half-Bads in White Regalia is an unforgettable debut that unspools a tangled family history with warmth, humor, and deep generosity.
“Memoirs are a difficult alchemy of testimony and confession, scene-making and character-building. They have to soften the hard things and show the way through at every turn–or at least they should–and that’s what Cody Caetano does in Half-Bads in White Regalia. No one gets off easy, but everyone is drawn with unflinching love and respect. Nothing seems wholly remarkable, yet everything is turned to see its beauty. Poetry permeates this prose, poetry and this wholly unique voice and style that somehow made me laugh and cry often, and in the oddest places. Read it. You won’t regret it. Telling you.”
—Katherena Vermette, author of The Strangers
“A brilliant and devastating debut. This book hurtles towards difficult understandings about love and violence and family. At times I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry, but Caetano fills each moment with such character and humanity that it’s impossible not to fall in love.”
—Jordan Abel, author of NISHGA
“It’s rare to meet a narrator who, from the very first page, is so clear in voice and personality. Half-Bads in White Regalia charts a remarkable life, filled with a constellation of kin-characters, but it’s really the outstandingly crafted speaker who makes this book a standout. At times soft and confessional, at times practically hardboiled, Caetano shows us his world but dares us to live up to the challenge of learning his life. Here is a book that sings the craft of memoir and life-telling.”
—Jenny Heijun Wills, author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related.
“Cody Caetano spins a tale much like other Ojibway storytellers. Rich in metaphor, plot, and some very serious comedy, he keeps the reader attending to the writing.”
—Lee Maracle, author of My Conversations with Canadians
“Reading Half-Bads in White Regalia feels like one of those rare and transcendent friendships that form in an evening and last for a lifetime, which is to me the mark of an exquisite storyteller. Caetano’s winsome, sparkler prose invites into a mind bearing witness to its own precocious development and wild inheritances. It is an absolute interstellar triumph of a debut and a worthy descendent of voices such as Maya Angelou and Mary Karr. I know I’ll carry its boyhood wonder and tender resilience with me for many years to come.”
—Liz Howard, author of Letters in a Bruised Cosmos
About the Author
Cody Caetano is a writer of Anishinaabe and Portuguese descent and an off-reserve member of Pinaymootang First Nation. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto, where he wrote this memoir under the mentorship of Lee Maracle. Excerpts of Half-Bads in White Regalia earned him a 2020 Indigenous Voices Award for Unpublished Prose.
Title: Half-Bads in White Regalia: A Memoir
Author: Cody Caetano
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Publication Date: May 31, 2022