How Leanne Betasamosake Simpson finds moments of joy in hopelessness
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg musician, artist, author and member of Alderville First Nation. Her work often centres on the struggles of Indigenous Canadians. Her latest book, a collection of stories and poems called This Accident of Being Lost, was on the shortlist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
Below, Betasamosake Simpson takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight other writers.
1. Katherine Lawrence asks, "What aspect of being a writer do you enjoy the least?"
All the aspects that don't involve the actual writing part.
2. Eric Walters asks, "Oh I wish I'd written that — what book?"
I said that sentence yesterday reading "Futures of a Black radicalism," not because I wish I wrote it but because it is such a profound and brilliant collection and such beautiful tribute to the work of Cedric J. Robinson. Of course, I could have never written it, because I'm not from this intellectual tradition or from this community. But it made me think about how my community honours those writers and thinkers that come before us.
3. Eden Robinson asks, "Who was your most influential mentor?"
Doug Williams, an Elder from Curve Lake First Nation. He has taught me everything.
4. Andrew Kaufman asks, "What was your favorite band in high school?"
Jesus and Mary Chain. Obviously.
5. Vincent Lam asks, "At some point in the writing of a book, have you ever had a real low point? What did you hold on to in order to get out of that place?"
Yes. I didn't. My community held me.
6. Eliza Robertson asks, "Do you write for yourself or to be read? If no living soul could read your work again: would you keep going?"
No living soul reading my work ever again is my best case scenario.
7. Melanie Mah asks, "What are your daily rituals other than writing?"
Refusing colonialism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism.
8. Kate Cayley asks, "Are you hopeful?"
This is a really strange question to me that I get asked a lot. I know the answer is supposed to be "yes" because people need to feel hopeful. The alternative is pretty awful. But hopeful doesn't really play into it for me. Indigenous peoples in Canada still have to struggle to exist in as Indigenous peoples. Our freedom is struggle. We have to do it when we feel hopeful. We have to do it when we feel hopeless, hurt, betrayed, depressed. We have to find moments of joy and love in spite of helplessness.