Why Indigenous Literatures Matter

Daniel Heath Justice. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. (IPS, U.S dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $19.99 trade paper (260p) ISBN 978-1-77112-177-4
Indigenous literature scholar and fantasy novelist Justice (Our Fire Survives the Storm) assembles a vital history and defense of First Nations writing. Centered around four key questions—“How do we learn to be human? How do we behave as good relatives? How do we become good ancestors? And how do we learn to live together?”—this book is a cross between an academic reader and a polemic on indigenous literatures, with a focus on voices often left out of the canon, such as those of women and queer/two-spirit individuals. Justice makes strong, well-reasoned arguments that indigenous liberation is essential for indigenous peoples to survive and recover from colonialism, structuring his thesis around issues of racism and cultural appropriation, such as when white authors attempt to tell indigenous stories as if they were their own. He also addresses Western literature’s tendency toward a unified standard of “realism” that dismisses or downplays indigenous fantasy, surrealism, and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic works as genre works or escapism not worthy of the same merit as similar work by non-indigenous writers. By embracing a wider canon of indigenous authors, Justice explores personhood, queer identities, ancestry, and speculative works (dubbed “wonderworks”), and offers erudite, passionate analysis of and paths toward discovering new material. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2018
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