We all have one or two among us: the hard to please—borderline, but adorably, pretentious—friend, colleague or family member. For those with only the most discerning tastes, look no further than Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill and Sophie McCall’s co-edited 2015 collection, The Land We Are. The Land We Are is that cool, underground of the underground kind of texts (which is to say the underground of Indigenous thought). Indigenous relationships to (and epistemologies of) the land have been a constant focus of Indigenous resistance across generations and disciplines. But The Land We Are focuses on artists and community-engaged cultural workers. The immediacy of art makes it a space for radical knowledge production that is grounded in the zeitgeist. Cultural connoisseurs will appreciate the canonic nature of this text encompassing contemporary artists, literary writers, and thinkers at the height of their fields, offering loveable armchair critic types trending ideas and art to discuss during cocktail hours and art openings.
If you’re looking for a gift to obsess over with your best friend, Tenille K. Campbell’s #IndianLovePoems is a top contender. #IndianLovePoems is a sex-positive bible that you’ll want to pore over with your closest kin. Concise, witty, and metaphor-ridden, Campbell’s book of poetry unabashedly tackles love and sex with a cutting honesty. You and your friend will surely gush over relatable experiences ranging from getting dumped to one-night stands. Campbell opens up the space for peer-support and education about sex and sexuality. Tackling a variety of sexual counters and intimate non-sexual relationships, Campbell animates her own life and kinship webs to develop a genuinely relatable and belly-laugh inducing text. #IndianLovePoems is rife with Indigenous in-humor, but made accessible to all audiences, from bannock bums to hickeys. Having grown up in a time when the only forms of Indigenous eroticism I encountered were fetishistic voyeurism in Eurocentric cultures, and the few representations of Indigenous-made eroticism I did encounter were often from the perspective of men, #IndianLovePoems is an Indigenous sexual revolution on the page.
The intergenerational conversations held within pages of Renaltta Arluk’s Thoughts and Other Human Tendencies makes it the perfect poetry collection to gift your mom. Grounding Indigenous knowledge systems about life cycles, Arluk makes reflect upon movement through life, from childhood into late life, in a way that is universally approachable and laced with feminine intimacies. The tender care taken to describe each life cycle is endearing and relatable, so much so that it might just open up a space for cross-generational understanding and sharing between you and your mother. The poetry in Arluk’s collection are passionate and deal with touching accounts of grief, intimacy, and outrage that will certainly spark moments of bonding. But, ultimately, Arluk’s celebration of pivotal moments through storying will be tender medicine for your mother’s spirit.
For your secret Santa, get the poetry book that is so beautifully composed it will be loved by anyone. Abel really knows how to work a page. His poetry collection The Place of Scraps won awards for its inventive poetry forms and page designs, which can only be described as art. Abel defies genre and medium. Drawing from Marius Barbeau’s ethnographic research about West Coast Indigenous peoples, Abel subverts the museological gaze that steals, deadens, and imprisons totem poles, thereby disappearing the Indigenous peoples who consider totem poles an integral part of their knowledge systems and cultures. Abel enlivens totems poles within the pages of his book using his own experiences and embodiment as a canvas to once more animate the knowledge held they hold.
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Thanks to Lindsay Nixon for these brilliant book recommendations!