NOTES ON NAV­I­GA­TION

Geist - - Endnotes -

This Ac­ci­dent of Be­ing Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simp­son (House of Anansi) is a sharp col­lec­tion of short sto­ries and po­etry that re­sists the colo­nial­ism of con­tem­po­rary Canada and ex­plores the strug­gle of ur­ban In­dige­nous peo­ple to pre­serve tra­di­tion in a con­tin­u­ously chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment. The in­ter­wo­ven sto­ries are stream-of-con­scious­ness first per­son, of­ten epis­to­lary, ad­dress­ing a chang­ing “you” to whom the speaker re­lates their insecurities of self, frus­tra­tions with an ev­er­en­croach­ing white so­ci­ety and loss of tra­di­tional cul­ture. Kwe is the cen­tral char­ac­ter of the sto­ries: in one, she is get­ting her firearm li­cence in ru­ral On­tario; in an­other, she’s coach­ing the nar­ra­tor into meet­ing their longdis­tance part­ner; in an­other, she steals a dis­used ca­noe. Simp­son’s anger is more force­ful in the po­ems. The most mem­o­rable for me was “i am graf­fiti,” in which she con­fronts the at­tempted era­sure of First Na­tions geno­cide. Sev­eral of the sto­ries de­pict the stress of nav­i­ga­tion: nav­i­gat­ing the ten­sions of race and colo­nial­ism, nav­i­gat­ing the an­ces­tral land de­spite con­tem­po­rary in­fra­struc­ture, and nav­i­gat­ing re­la­tion­ships via text mes­sag­ing. High­light­ing this are scenes of char­ac­ters fight­ing to prac­tice tra­di­tions in spa­ces they have been pushed out of: tap­ping for maple syrup in a white up­per mid­dle-class neigh­bour­hood; har­vest­ing wild rice in cot­tage coun­try;

drink­ing kom­bucha flavoured with maple and blue­berry (“some­times stolen Nish­naabeg things are bet­ter than no Nish­naabeg things at all!!”). My favourite story in the col­lec­tion is “Big Wa­ter,” which com­bines the stress of mod­ern text com­mu­ni­ca­tion (“I look at my beloved screen ev­ery four min­utes… We all do and we all lie about it”) and the ur­gency of en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age: the flood­ing Lake On­tario is per­son­i­fied as Ni­ibish, who de­mands at­ten­tion by tex­ting the nar­ra­tor in all caps as she re­shapes the earth. What I en­joyed most about Simp­son’s book was her quiet, lyri­cal sto­ry­telling and the col­lec­tive voice that swept me up in the read­ing. —Kelsea O’con­nor

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