Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Mashkawaji (they/them) lies frozen in the ice, remembering a long-ago time of hopeless connection and now finding freedom and solace in isolated suspension. They introduce us to the seven main characters: Akiwenzii, the old man who represents the narrator's will; Ninaatig, the maple tree who represents their lungs; Mindimooyenh, the old woman who represents their conscience; Sabe, the giant who represents their marrow; Adik, the caribou who represents their nervous system; Asin, the human who represents their eyes and ears; and Lucy, the human who represents their brain.
Each attempts to commune with the unnatural urban-settler world, a world of SpongeBob Band-Aids, Ziploc baggies, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks and coffee mugs emblazoned with institutional logos. And each searches out the natural world, only to discover those pockets that still exist are owned, contained, counted and consumed. Cut off from nature, the characters are cut off from their natural selves.
Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for "in the bush," and the title is a response to English Canadian settler and author Susanna Moodie's 1852 memoir Roughing It in the Bush. (From House of Anansi Press)
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, activist, musician, artist, author and member of Alderville First Nation. Her other books include Islands of Decolonial Love, This Accident of Being Lost, Dancing on Our Turtle's Back and As We Have Always Done. Simpson was chosen by Thomas King for the 2014 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award.
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"For the narrator, the lake is a place of solace. The beginning part of the book gestures towards this trauma that so many of us as Indigenous people have experienced.
'But the book doesn't really speak directly to the trauma — it's about this character who is frozen in the lake in response to that trauma. The lake becomes a warm blanket and a safe place to heal, to think, to reconnect. It's not necessarily a feeling of groundedness, but it's still a feeling of being held and of being OK.
I wanted to elevate that idea of water as some place that we can go for for healing.
"The lake is a character and also a setting in the book. I wanted to play a little bit with that. For Anishinaabe people, we think of the lake as a relative with a spirit. Oftentimes the lakes in our territory — including Lake Ontario — is talked about in terms of contamination and in terms of the destruction that the lake has experienced. I wanted to elevate that idea of water as some place that we can go for for healing."