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This Accident

Editor’s Pick: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s “This Accident of Being Lost”

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, artist and member of Alderville First Nation. Her writing extends from scholarly work grounded in twenty years of Indigenous land-based education, and extends to genre-bending creative forms of poetry, song, and short stories. Her debut collection of stories and songs, Islands of Decolonial Love, was chosen by Thomas King for the 2013 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. This Accident of Being Lost was released by House of Anansi Press in April 2017 and has just been shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It is a spell-binding collection that shifts between lyric poetry and short stories using a fragmented, weaving narrative. From PRISM’s Executive Editor, Jessica Johns, are six reasons why reading This Accident of Being Lost will have you openly weeping in coffee shops and ignoring cute dogs at the farmers market.

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Next Year For Sure

Loneliness, Polyamory, and Possibility in Zoey Leigh Peterson’s “Next Year, For Sure”

Review by Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt

Next Year, For Sure

Zoey Leigh Peterson

Doubleday Canada

It’s tempting to call Next Year, For Sure, a novel about a millennial couple that happens upon polyamory, a “light” read. Because in many ways, it is a light read. Award-winning short story writer and debut novelist Zoey Leigh Peterson’s prose is deceptively addictive, the kind of writing that can easily keep a reader up until two or three in the morning. (I read it twice; I stayed up late finishing it both times.) Her main characters, nine-years-and-still-going-strong couple Chris and Kathryn, are sensitive and self-aware yuppie Vancouverites who verge on being likeable to a fault. The novel opens with Chris telling Kathryn he has a crush on Emily, a woman he met at the laundromat. Kathryn suggests he take her out on a date, the plot takes off at a brisk pace, alternating between Chris and Kathryn’s point of view as they navigate opening their relationship up to a third person over the course of the year that follows.

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White Tears

The Suffering You Didn’t Have: On Hari Kunzru’s “White Tears”

White Tears
Hari Kunzru
Penguin Random House, 2017

Review by Will Preston

On a dark night in 1920s Mississippi, the story goes, the bluesman Robert Johnson walked out to the crossroads and sold his soul to the Devil. He was gifted with a preternatural ability to play the guitar in return: the strings bending beneath his fingers, his voice filled with what sounded like the anguish of generations. When he died mysteriously at 27, he left behind almost nothing, just a scattering of records and a swirling fog of myths. Johnson’s songs feel bracingly authentic to this day, filled with the violence and repression facing blacks in the Depression-era South. But the stories told of his life are anything but authentic. Johnson’s identity was hijacked in the decades after his death, largely by white fans eager to spread legends and half-truths about the voice in their record player. This was not an unusual legacy for black, pre-war blues musicians. “White urbanites reshaped the music to fit their own tastes and desires,” the historian Elijah Wald has written, “creating a rich mythology that often bears little resemblance to the reality of the musicians they admired.”

There is a Johnson-esque character at the heart of Hari Kunzru’s new novel, White Tears, a 1920s bluesman named Charlie Shaw. Like Johnson, Shaw is a ghost, a shadowy figure who made a single recording in 1928—an eerie, haunted song called “Graveyard Blues”—and then vanished without a trace. When the record is unearthed in present-day New York and posted on the Internet, it sparks a frenzy among record collectors who are captivated by Shaw’s voice, “ancient and bloody and violent,” rising up from the crackle. It’s the kind of voice that burrows inside the listener, straight to “the guiltiest of his secrets.” (166)

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