Monday June 05, 2017

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson explores what it means to be an Indigenous woman in her latest book

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson blends elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction and contemporary realism through her collection of stories and songs.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson blends elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction and contemporary realism through her collection of stories and songs. (Zahra Siddiqui/House Of Anansi Press)

Listen 12:58

Activist, musician and author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is one of the most compelling Indigenous voices writing today. In her latest book, This Accident of Being Lost, Simpson explores her Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry and what it means to be Indigenous woman in Canada through poetry, story and song.

Accidently lost 

I was thinking a lot about what it means to be an Indigenous woman in 2017 and what are the core experiences of my life. One of the reoccurring feelings for me was feeling lost. The antidote to feeling lost was to turn inside myself and inside my Indigenous story and continually find home. You never set out to be lost. It's always an accident to become lost. I think I wanted to explore that as a thread interwoven through the poetry and the stories.

Empowering Anishinaabe culture

Writing this book is an act of decolonizing. I wanted to privilege the aesthetics and the processes of Anishinaabe storytelling. I wanted to make some interventions into the stereotypes that are so popular in pop culture around Indigenous people. I wanted to come at these stories from this place of grounded strength, that for me comes from this close relationship with the land. I wanted to do that in a gentle but unapologetic way.

Fragmented reflection

I think that my experience of colonialism is like I'm looking into a mirror and that mirror has been smashed and all the pieces are on the floor. The work of my generation of Indigenous people is to pick up those pieces and put that reflection back together. I wanted to have these short, incisive, interventions or fragments and then have that feeling of a fragmented nature reflected in the tone and structure of the book. 

A celebration of love

I wanted the book to have a really intimate feel. I wanted it to have a feeling of vulnerability and honesty. I was thinking about my ancestors a lot as I was writing this book. The good things in their life that propelled them to endure through colonialism and through the things that they had to face. The thing that I kept coming back to was love, an uninhibited love of land, of culture and of family. I wanted to celebrate that in this book.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's comments have been edited and condensed.