cover image Thunder Song: Essays

Thunder Song: Essays

Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe. Counterpoint, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64009-635-6

In this affecting collection, Coast Salish poet LaPointe (Red Paint) explores how she has navigated colonized spaces as a light-skinned Indigenous woman, and the strength she draws from ancestral knowledge. In “Tulips,” LaPointe laments how she felt compelled to hide her Native American heritage from white classmates in grade school and likens her ruse to how white settlers drained the waterways on which her Skagit Valley ancestors depended: “I changed the landscape of my own identity the same way settlers changed the land they took from us.” LaPointe suggests in “Reservation Riot Grrrl” that though making punk music offers her an outlet for her rage, the scene often assumes whiteness as the norm, as exemplified by an incident in which two white women attempted to get LaPointe’s gig canceled after spotting her wearing face paint and, assuming she was white, accusing her of cultural appropriation. The poignant “First Salmon Ceremony” recounts how LaPointe followed the example set by her white punk friends and became a vegan, only for them to judge her for longing for salmon, a fish with profound cultural significance in Coast Salish tribes: “I grieved for the girl who fell in love with anarchists and tethered herself to their values, for the silence she let herself learn.” Lyrical prose elevates LaPointe’s incisive and heartfelt personal reflections. The result is a beautifully rendered snapshot of contemporary American Indigenous life. (Mar.)