Books

Daniel Heath Justice recommends Writing as Witness by Beth Brant

In recognition of Indigenous Book Club Month, every day in June an Indigenous writer recommended a book they love by a First Nations, Métis or Inuit author from Canada.
Daniel Heath Justice is the author of Badger, a book about the global cultural history of the badger. (Daniel Heath Justice/Three O'Clock Press)

June was Indigenous Book Club Month. Every day in June, CBC Books published a recommendation from an Indigenous writer for a book by another Indigenous author.

Daniel Heath Justice recommends Writing as Witness by Beth Brant.

"I was a graduate student just coming out of the silence of cultural shame into a deeper sense of belonging when I first read Writing as Witness. This slim volume remains a touchstone text in my personal library. As a queer, working-class Mohawk woman of mixed heritage, Brant grounded her work in many significant personal contexts that were very much on the margins of polite CanLit conversation, and she insisted on a determined space for productive rage and transformative action through the written word. Originally published in 1994, it's still one of the most provocative arguments for the necessity of Indigenous literary expression in confronting the various bigotries in the Canadian mainstream as well as in our own communities. It was also a deeply compassionate reflection on how Indigenous healing can be realized in our writing as well as in our embodied and sensual relationships. I've taught the book many times and it's gratifying to see how it's inspired so many students to find a measure of courage to speak their own truths, especially the Indigenous women to whom Brant spoke with particular love and generosity. We lost Beth Brant in 2015, but her courage and vision are needed as much now as ever, and I remain very grateful for the gift of this book."

Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation) is the author of Badger and Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. He is the current Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture.

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