Joseph grew up in Willowdale, Ontario. He is a Canadian of Irish, Scottish and Nipmuc roots.
As a young child, he was a voracious early reader. When he was six years old, he was making his way through the family’s Encyclopedia Britannica. A few years later he discovered fiction and started to think about a career in writing after reading a book about a group of teenage outcasts.
He grew up with history and myth surrounding him, stories of his father’s war exploits. Joseph’s father goes by the name of Raymond Boyden and he was awarded the highest-decorated medical officer of the war. Joseph loved hearing his father telling him stories about his experience as a Second World War military hero. In the most devastating event that occurred in his early life, his father died when he was only eight years old. This had a profound impact on the trajectory of his life. Joseph’s maternal grandfather as well as an uncle on his father’s side served in the First World War. This has also inspired Joseph to write his first novel Three Day Road.
Most of Joseph’s stories unfold on reserves and examine the joys and tribulations of native life. Over the years Boyden has been absorbing native experience through a kind of osmosis, through physical surroundings, his friendships, and his Anishnabe faith. This immersion in native life may be responsible for the development of the novel’s characters. The common theme in most of his literary works is the inequality of the Native people. He has a passion to help those Aboriginals who struggle against respect and equality. Joseph has received several awards with the success of his works including the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers Trust Prize, the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and France’s Prix Literaire du Monde. He is a teacher of literature and creative writing.