Click below for Leanne’s contribution to the Nations Rising blog’s #ItEndsHere series on gender based violence.
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“Bridging many worlds, storylines, generations, and forms of creativity with effortless poetics and heartbreaking, deceptive simplicity, Leanne Simpson was the only Anishinaabekwe that we know of who dropped a full-volume of published stories and poetry in tandem with a collaboratively composed album of the same, set to the expansive sonics of many of Indian Country’s rising stars (including Tara Williamson, Cris Derksen, A Tribe Called Red, and Melody McKiver). Halfway between story, song, and verse, Simpson’s poems flow through you like long-forgotten dreams suddenly remembered. Inspiring, strong and swift, these are the currents of sound that surround each island of decolonial love. All that, and it’s available digitally and as a beautifully bright orange analog cassette release. So go dig up that tape player from the basement and rewind into Simpson’s hypnotic spell. Listen/download: http://arpbooks.org/islands/
In her debut collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation. Found on reserves, in cities and small towns, in bars and curling rinks, canoes and community centres, doctors offices and pickup trucks, Simpson’s characters confront the often heartbreaking challenge of pairing the desire to live loving and observant lives with a constant struggle to simply survive the historical and ongoing injustices of racism and colonialism. Told with voices that are rarely recorded but need to be heard, and incorporating the language and history of her people, Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love is a profound, important, and beautiful book of fiction.
Leanne teamed up with Indigenous musicians including Tara Williamson, Nick Ferrio, Sean Conway, Sarah Decarlo, Melody McKiver, Cris Derksen & a Tribe Called Red, to record some of her writing as spoken word/musical performances. You can stream or download these tracks for free at ARP Books.
Advance Praise for Islands of Decolonial Love:
“Wasaeyaban– the first light, just before dawn. Lu’ma – the first light before dawn; wasaseyaban, same thing. I don’t think writers make up stories, stories run around looking for a writer to tell them (if they are any good) otherwise they tend to be trite in the telling. I am glad these stories found the delicate hand and steel-wired beautiful voice of Leanne Simpson to bring them alive. Leanne is a listener and she was fully awake when she listened at dawn to all these stories and committed them to these trees [right, that would be pages, even though pages are really trees] and birthed a marvelous collection of stories [ that are also poems] to illuminate the Anishinaabe experience in a way that turns the light on inside the reader – not just any light, but dawn’s first light, the light that counts, the light that stories our very lives, makes us plan something completely different from the sticky mud of same ol’, same ol’. Only a really good story can get you off your ass and pushing back on the real shit and this book is full of such stories even if they are all poems. Leanne’s new collection is the sort of book I have been looking for all my life – the kind of book that is going to make me a good writer, a good listener, a good citizen – it is going to wake up everything that is brilliant in everyone that reads it. ” Lee Maracle, author of The First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style
“Leanne Simpson is a masterful storyteller and an integral indigenous voice in modern literature. Her work over the years has eloquently and powerfully captured the unique experiences of the first peoples of Turtle Island, and Islands of Decolonial Love is no exception. With precise craft, this new collection explores the many complicated facets of the contemporary Indigenous struggle to maintain tradition in a rapidly changing environment. The use of Anishinaabe language and custom in the prose and poetry resonates loudly and invokes a great sense of pride. Meanwhile, the challenge of balancing urban and reserve life explored in the pieces is easily relatable and can provide a crucial window into the experience for non-Indigenous readers. The power of Simpson’s storytelling is already spectacular on the printed page, but her spoken word performance is stunningly monumental. The audio component of Islands of Decolonial Love is essential listening to truly experience the complexity and beauty of the many sentiments and ideas she expresses. Thanks to the work of some of the most cutting-edge musicians out there, her already crucial stories become audible masterpieces in song.” Waubgeshig Rice, author of Midnight Sweatlodge
“Leanne Simpson’s lovingly drawn characters work hard to preserve their innocence in a world where irony and cynicism would be easier. They spend a lot of time travelling: on land, on the water, through space and time—in cars, trucks, fishing boats, canoes, and in their minds; between bars, forests, reservations, curling rinks, kitchens, lakes and highways. These exquisitely rendered journeys become symbols for our desire to understand and never stop learning, no matter the cost. There is heartbreak here but also many moments of fleeting grace, and a wry humour that promises to keep us safe.” Ursula Pflug, author of The Alphabet Stones
Cover Art by Bonnie Devine.
Islands of Decolonial Love made the Guardian’s list of Best Holiday Reads 2013.