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.
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Leanne Simpson is a researcher, writer, and educator of Mississauga and Scottish ancestry. She is a member of the gidigaa bzhiw dodem and a citizen of the Nishnaabeg nation. Leanne holds a PhD from the University of Manitoba and is the past director of Indigenous Environmental Studies at Trent University. Her research interests include Indigenist theory and methodology, Indigenous political cultures and traditional governance, Nishnaabeg women, Indigenous Knowledge, and Indigenous philosophies on land and the environment. Leanne currently teaches at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledgeat Athabasca University and has previously taught at Trent University, the University of Victoria, the University of Manitoba, and Tampere University in Finland.
Published: November 2019
Originally published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing (ARP Books)
As a lover of storytelling and literature, my tendency is to have deep emotional responses to whatever I am reading. Every so often, a book comes along that, as I delve deeper into the pages, is something like peering into a body of water and seeing the wonder of stars and ancestors reflected back in glorious undulation. Forgive the flowery simile, but that is exactly how I felt as I cradled Leanne Simpson's latest book Islands of Decolonial Love. I say cradled, because I felt something close to reverence as I was drawn into each short story and poem. — Jamaias DaCosta, Muskrat Magazine
wasaeyaban (Anishinaabe)—the first light, just before dawn. 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'. Islands of Decolonial Love 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
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
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
The reader is forced to bear witness to colonialism's centuries-old damage on Canada's First Nations people. Of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry, Simpson draws painful portraits of everyday life, many personal, which exhibit the hereditary nature of colonialism's scars. Simpson traces these scars with a delicate finger, writing with a fragility punctuated by moments of anger and sadness. Her raw prose spills across the page in a tumble of complex thoughts and emotions. — Natascia Lypny, Telegraph-Journal
How many lives, Leanne Simpson, have you lived to create this most incredible collection? Astounding storytelling. Wondrous prose. Islands of Decolonial Love is a constellation of galaxies that I never want to leave. Wow! — Richard Van Camp