Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is nominated for the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for her collection of poetry, stories and lyrics, This Accident of Being Lost. The winner will be announced at the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony in Toronto on November 14. The winner of the newly enriched award receives $50,000. Each nominee receives $5,000. During the weeks leading up to the event, Maclean’s will publish an excerpt from each shortlisted writer, along with their answer to this one question: Do you consider yourself a politically engaged writer? How does that affect your work? Here is Simpson’s response.
The fact that I exist as Nishnaabe in 2017 is a miracle given that it means my family, like all Indigenous families, had to fight incredibly hard to survive and find ways to thrive four centuries of colonial violence. The fact that I exist as an Indigenous writer in 2017 is a direct result of the sacrifices, persistence, artistic genius and sheer brilliance of the Indigenous writers that came before me and sought to build the artistic community I am now enmeshed in. Black writers, Indigenous writers, Two Spirit, Queer and Trans writers—we don’t get the privilege of choosing to be political or not. Our freedom is political. Every breath is political. Our writing is relegated to the margins of Canadian literature, because our people, our brilliance are relegated to the margins of Canada. All of my work is born out of my culture and my lived experience, and so no, I don’t think my work is political to Indigenous audiences or communities with similar experiences with colonialism and genocide. It is a merely one mirroring of this reality.
This excerpt is taken from This Accident of Being Lost, copyright © 2017 by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press, Toronto. www.houseofanansi.com
We are collecting sap from this Maple Tree from March 21—23. We will be by to collect it once a day, and we will pick up the bucket, lid and spigot on March 23. Thank you for your support in our urban sugar-making adventure.
The Fourth World Problems Collective is us three Nishnaabekwewag, plus baby Ninaatig, plus Sabe, but Lucy and Kwe don’t know Sabe is here. I’m the only one that can see him and only sometimes.
We’re meeting in my backyard to build a fire, smudge, and make some offerings before we begin. We’ve had several meetings about the forty-eight words on the flyer in order to get the proper balance of telling, not asking, while side-stepping suspicion. No one feels good about hiding the fact that we are Mississaugas and that this is us acting on our land, but no one wants to end up a dinner-party conversation either. I fought hard for the word “adventure” because it is such a signifier with these people. It makes them part of it; they can be part of the solution without doing anything. Their only job is to file the flyer on top of the fridge with the bills and the permission slips and forget about it. This is the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card. Feel liberal in all its glory. No need to call the cops or the city; it’s sustainable. Help the Indians and their plight.