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Leanne Simpson

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As a girl who grew up in Quebec visiting the cabane à sucre, and admiring the tubing hung between maple trees to catch the sap, I’ll never look at tapping trees the same way after reading “Plight,” the first story in Leanne Simpson’s award-winning collection of stories, This Accident of Being Lost. The story follows three young people as they put up flyers around a gentrified Toronto neighbourhood, informing residents that they will be tapping their maple trees for syrup. There is much pride in the process of claiming a small part of traditional Mississauga resources, and traditions, but there is also much humour, as the young people try to navigate their place in the modern world, and anticipate the potential responses of neighbourhood residents. As one protagonist comments, “I debated framing this as performance art because white people love that and if it were the fall and this was Nuit Blanche we’d be NDN art heroes.”

If this made you laugh out loud, albeit maybe a bit ruefully, then you will definitely enjoy This Accident of Being Lost, which was on the shortlist for the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. “Plight” shows us all one way forward, together, to decolonise spaces and acknowledge our own limitations and prejudices.

In a recent review in The Globe and Mail, Phoebe Wang described how Simpson’s writing in This Accident of Being Lost “educates the reader even as it admits to not having all the answers. In fact, it is the uneasiness and emotional uncertainty of her characters that makes the book strangely addictive. I was stunned by Simpson's generosity in sharing these experiences and inviting us to be challenged and to be lost. I welcomed having my assumptions about urban Indigenous people upended, and this is accomplished with the nourishing humour, wisdom and poetic, loose-limbed lines that have been sewn through the stories.”

This gem of a book is a great introduction to Simpson’s writings; she has several other books of fiction, poetry, and short stories. Simpson is also a musician, and her second record f(l)light was released in 2016; a video from this album is also featured on the OPL website. Leanne is Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg and a member of Alderville First Nation.

A complete list of Leanne Simpson’s publications in the OPL collection is below.

For more great Indigenous fiction, a topic guide is also linked below.

Works by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson by OttawaGoodReads

Writings by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist. #staffpicks #indigenous