Just as a basket’s purpose determines its materials, weave, and shape, so too is the purpose of the essay related to its material, weave, and shape. Editors Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton ground this anthology of essays by Native writers in the formal art of basket weaving. Using weaving techniques such as coiling and plaiting as organizing themes, the editors have curated an exciting collection of imaginative, world-making lyric essays by twenty-seven contemporary Native writers from tribal nations across Turtle Island into a well-crafted basket.
Shapes of Native Nonfiction features a dynamic combination of established and emerging Native writers, including Stephen Graham Jones, Deborah Miranda, Terese Marie Mailhot, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Eden Robinson, and Kim Tallbear. Their ambitious, creative, and visionary work with genre and form demonstrate the slippery, shape-changing possibilities of Native stories. Considered together, they offer responses to broader questions of materiality, orality, spatiality, and temporality that continue to animate the study and practice of distinct Native literary traditions in North America.
The first collection of Native nonfiction organized with the explicit intent of highlighting Native writing as world-making. This book offers us nonfiction that reflects, interrogates, critiques, imagines, prays, screams, and complicates simplistic notions about Native peoples and Native lives.
Shapes of Native Nonfiction is exciting, fresh, and profound. It provides the space for native nonfiction to be indigenous, without the pressure to "perform" indigeneity. The writing gets to be weird, joyful, wounded, flip, deep, unflinching, terrified, and secure. Expression over cultural expectation. I turn to it and return to it, delighted each time.
In this anthology, shape matters. It turns the essay into a resistant form, pushing against the myth of the ‘disappearing Native’ and asserting a new narrative, one that isn’t subject to colonizing. . . . Shapes of Native Nonfiction is full of cognitive and emotional work. It turns the essay into something alive and breathing.
The medium is the message in this formally daring anthology of essays from Native writers, organized into basket-weaving themes such as ‘coiling’ and ‘plaiting.’ In these 27 essays by writers hailing from multiple tribal nations, some established and some newcomers, the Native experience is interrogated, elucidated, and celebrated.
I love essay collections, and those that in some way address the essay form itself are my favorite. . . . There is tremendous variety on offer here, both in terms of subject and tone.
It’s not hard to imagine this work as a staple of creative writing course syllabi for years to come. A must for any library.
Introduction: Exquisite Vessels / Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton
Contemporary Creative Writing and Ancient Oral Tradition / Ernestine Hayes
Letter to a Just-Starting-Out Indian Writer—and Maybe to Myself / Stephen Graham Jones
Funny, You Don't Look Like (My Preconceived Ideas of) an Essay / Chip Livingston
Nizhoní dóó ‘a’ani’ dóó até’él’í dóó ayoo’o’oni (Beauty & Memory & Abuse & Love) / Bojan Louis
Fairy Tales, Trauma, Writing into Dissociation / Sasha Lapointe
Tuolumne / Deborah A. Miranda
I Know I'll Go / Terese Marie Mailhot
Fear to Forget & Fear to Forgive: Or an Attempt at Writing a Travel Essay / Bojan Louis
Fertility Rites / Tiffany Midge
AND SO I ANAL DOUCHE WHILE KESHA’S “PRAYING” PLAYS FROM MY IPHONE ON REPEAT / Billy-Ray Belcourt
The Great Elk / Ruby Hansen Murray
Real Romantic / Eden Robinson
The Trickster Surfs the Floods / Natanya Ann Pulley
The Way of Wounds / Natanya and Pulley
To the Man Who Gave Me Cancer / Adrienne Keene
Self-Portrait with Parts Missing and/or Smeared / Michael Wasson
Critical Poly 100s / Kim Tallbear
Pain Scale Treaties / Lara Da'
Caribou People / Siku Allooloo
Part One: Redeeming the English Language (Acquisition) Series / Tiffany Midge 183
Apocalypse Logic / Elissa Washuta
Women in the Fracklands: On Water. Land. Bodies, and Standing Rock / Toni Jensen
Goodbye Once Upon a Time / Byron F. Aspaas
I Am Chopping Ivory or Bone / Joan Naviyuk Kane
Blood Running / Sasha Lapointe
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground / Alicia Elliott
List of Contributors
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