Stories as good medicine: Moe Clark makes the case for This Accident of Being Lost

At times awkward and hilarious, at other times, sacred and serene, Leanne Simpson’s stories remind Métis poet, musician and educator Moe Clark of the deep ancestral knowledge that's a living compass for connection. Clark champions Simpson's latest book in the 2017 edition of Turtle Island Reads.

Leanne Simpson's stories speak 'from the raw and raging process of finding belonging,' Métis poet says

Métis poet, musician, educator and activist Moe Clark says the inspirational power of poetry and storytelling led her to champion Leanne Simpson's collection of poems and short stories, This Accident of Being Lost. (Marilla Steuter-Martin/CBC)

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, CBC co-hosts Turtle Island Reads — a live public event at  McGill University's Tanna Schulich Hall, highlighting stories written by and about Indigenous Canadians.

It's an opportunity to talk about and celebrate Indigenous Canadian writers and connect readers with their stories.

Three advocates will each champion one book of fiction written by an Indigenous Canadian author and try to persuade you to make that book the next one on your reading list.

Moe Clark, a Montreal-based Métis poet, touring musician, educator and activist, will make the case for Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's This Accident of Being Lost (House of Anansi).

This Accident of Being Lost speaks from the raw and raging process of finding belonging, as an Indigenous person and as a survivor of colonialism in 2017.

At times awkward and hilarious and, at others, sacred and serene, Leanne Simpson's stories remind me of the deep ancestral knowledge that is and has always been a living compass for connection.

As a Métis spoken-word artist, I chose to champion Simpson's book because I'm inspired by her creative force as a Nishnaabeg Kwe.

I value her capacity to dance between different forms of expression: she tells stories through the written word but never veers far from oral tradition.

Her refusal of rules of grammar and her use of her Native language, Nishnaabemowin, are ultimately her rebellion against colonial conventions.

She doesn't translate, she asks the reader to do the work.

As a Nêhiyawêwin (Plains Cree) language learner myself, this defiance is empowerment, because it invites readers into a non-hierarchical Indigenous world view.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is the author of This Accident of Being Lost: Songs and Stories, published by House of Anansi in April 2017. (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

​My own belonging has not always been clear.

It wasn't until my teenage years that I learned about my Métis lineage and ancestry, after the death of my Métis grandfather.

He had not shared his stories, so I sought out Métis elders to further my connection to Métis ways of being and knowing. Their stories helped me end the silence and repair my Métis family line, fractured by colonial violence.

Sacred and subversive manifestos

The humour in This Accident of Being Lost is at times fierce, but mixed with an honest vulnerability. It loosens the damming of historical trauma, both personal and collective, while offering up a space for reflection.

The story Doing the Right Thing reframes toxic masculinity through the lens of a Nishnaabeg Kwe who takes a gun course class and ends up with the highest mark in the class, in spite of having to deal with an overtly sexist and racist instructor.

In Plight, a group of friends embark on a guerilla operation to tap the sugar maples in their urban neighbourhood. Their reappropriation of a traditional process turns into a backyard bonfire gathering with a mission. I like that nobody asks for permission here: they just state their actions and go forth, unapologetically.

It was hard for me to put down Simpson's book, because the stories became part of me and I, part of them. They speak to me and to my experience as an urban Kwe.

This both captivates and frightens me.  But I like it when stories feel like good medicine.

In This Accident of Being Lost, these sacred and subversive manifestos call me home.

Turtle Island Reads takes place at Tanna Schulich Hall at McGill University, 527 Sherbrooke Street West, on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Find out more about CBC Montreal's special event: Turtle Island Reads.

Co-hosted by CBC's Nantali Indongo and Waubgeshig Rice, the event is a CBC collaboration with the Quebec Writers' Federation and McGill University's Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas.

Let us know you're coming by visiting our CBC Montreal Facebook Events page