Books·Canada Reads 2019

This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's collection of stories and songs blends elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction and contemporary realism.
This Accident of Being Lost is a collection of stories and songs from Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. (House of Anansi/Zahra Siddiqui)

This Accident of Being Lost is on the Canada Reads 2019 longlistCanada Reads 2019 is about finding one book to move you. The final five books and the panellists defending them will be revealed on Jan. 31, 2019.

The 2019 debates will take place March 25-28, 2019 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan

About This Accident of Being Lost 

This Accident of Being Lost is a knife-sharp collection of stories and songs from award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

These visionary pieces build upon Simpson's powerful use of the fragment as a tool for intervention in her critically acclaimed collection Islands of Decolonial Love. Provocateur and poet, she continually rebirths a decolonized reality, one that circles in and out of time and resists dominant narratives or comfortable categorization.

A crow watches over a deer addicted to road salt; Lake Ontario floods Toronto to remake the world while texting "ARE THEY GETTING IT?"; lovers visit the last remaining corner of the boreal forest; three comrades guerrilla-tap maples in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood; and Kwe gets her firearms license in rural Ontario.

Blending elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction, contemporary realism and the lyric voice, This Accident of Being Lost burns with a quiet intensity, like a campfire in your backyard, challenging you to reconsider the world you thought you knew. (From House of Anansi Press)

These are shimmering stories etched with humour, anger, and above all, love and kindness.- 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize jury

This Accident of Being Lost was a finalist for the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Why Leanne Betasamosake Simpson wrote This Accident of Being Lost

"I have been asked over the years from a number of different people to write a creative response to this phenomenon of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people. I always struggled with that because I think it's one of those things that I'm just too close to. The emotional and traumatic load on Indigenous women can make it hard sometimes, for me anyway, to write creatively. I had written political interventions and blog posts on that topic, but I hadn't been able to write anything that was poetry or short story. I started to think about traditional stories, storytelling practices and aesthetics that come from within Indigenous nations.

I wanted it not to be a victim narrative. I wanted it to be a taking stock of sort of all the things that had been erased and stolen from me as an Indigenous woman...- Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

"My nation has a lot of escape narratives. So do the Cree and the Dene and lots of other nations. I started thinking about that feeling of escape and fugitivity. Not just escaping from the violence of colonialism, but escaping into the beautiful things that make my nation. I wanted it to not be a victim narrative. I wanted it to be a taking stock of sort of all of the things that had been erased and stolen from me as an Indigenous woman in 2017, so things like land, culture, language, a sense of well-being, a feeling of safety and freedom."

Read more in Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's interview with CBC Books.

From the book

Lucy, Kwe, and I walked through the neighbourhood last fall, when all the trees looked like the time Nanabush hid his Kokum in there — like the maples were being swallowed by flame-arms of red and orange. We marked each one with a spray-painted purple thunderbird so that when their leaves were gone we would know which ones were the sugar maples the following spring. Really we should be able to tell by looking at the bark and the way the branches hold themselves, but we're still too new at it. Kwe was so pregnant I made her stand back from the pain fumes. Lucy made a stencil so the thunderbird would look like a thunderbird and not the death mark the city puts on the trees when they are about to cut them down for safety reasons. 

Now it's March, and we have thirty tin buckets, thirty new spigots, tobacco, a drill with two charged batteries, a three-eighths-of-an-inch drill bit, and thirty flyers. The neighbourhood we're going to mostly votes NDP or Liberal in provincial and federal elections, and they feel relief when they do. They have perennials instead of grass. They get organic, local vegetables delivered to their doors twice weekly, in addition to going to the farmers' market on Saturday. They're also trying to make our neighbourhood into an Ontario heritage designation; I think that mostly means you can't do renovations that make your house look like it isn't from the 1800s or rent your extra floors to the lower class. 

We know how to do this so they'll be into it. Hand out the flyers first. Have a community meeting. Ask permission. Listen to their paternalistic bullshit and feedback. Let them have influence. Let them bask in the plight of the Native people so they can feel self-righteous. Make them feel better, and when reconciliation comes up at the next dinner party, they can hold us up as the solution and brag to their real friends about our plight. I proofread the flyer one more time because everyone knows white people hate typos. 

From This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson ©2017. Published by House of Anansi.

Interviews with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a weath of stories, and ways to tell them. What she doesn't have is a lot of down time. Leanne is a professor, award-winning writer, musician, activist and a mom. Her second album (f)light just came out.

More books by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson