Boyden is a Toronto boy, raised in Willowdale, and he's also the first aboriginal person to win the award. He has been described as Canadian, with Scottish, Irish and Métis heritage.
But he tends to write only about aboriginal people. His latest book, Through Black Spruce—for which he won the acclaimed prize—centers on characters who have a toehold in the big city and in a northern aboriginal community. It's hard to say how much of the novel is based on his own experiences, of perhaps crossing the divide between the world of his aboriginal roots and his big city reality.
But his writings seem to indicate an intimate knowledge of having lived in both worlds. Boyden has professed a strong identification with his aboriginal heritage, vowing at the awards ceremony to always write about and celebrate the First Nations of Canada.