A Bird on Every Tree
How does a person belong? Lots of talk in Canada lately about identity and home places, especially Indigenous and settler nations and cultures: how a person locates themselves spiritually and globally. How present-day life experiences mirror, or don't mirror, an individual's or a community's body and blood memories. How identity is, or isn't, something that runs far, far deeper than a person's here and now.
As writers we assume the right to cross certain boundaries as respect, empathy and humility would guide us. Creative freedom requires it--BUT this doesn't mean there aren't limits and exceptions.
To write another person's experience effectively you need to have--in profoundly real and metaphorical ways--walked their walk.
To some extent each of us has to determine for ourselves, maybe, what constitutes appropriation and what doesn't. But speaking as a white woman of settler background, I know the places where I have no "right" to overstep myself--places where the experiences of racism and its hideous ingrained consequences are experiences I have not been victim to.
Writing well means listening really, really well--and not just to our own voices!!
As individual writers, from whatever community or walk or homeplace we're coming from, don't we each have enough of our "own" territory to cover? Enough of our own material about our own identities?
For many if not most Maritimers, place plays a crucial part in how people in our region self-identify. How we talk about "belonging" and what it means: a temporary, ever shifting state despite our attachments. I say this with all respect to the Mik'maq and other First Nations communities whose un-ceded territories our white settler cultures occupy.
My newest book, A Bird on Every Tree, coming this fall from Nimbus Publishing's Vagrant Press, is a collection of stories that in various ways explore the problem of situating ourselves, physically and emotionally, between what's known and what's unknown, what feels safe and what feels dangerous. From a mostly but not exclusively white point of view, they focus on the push-pull between our human longing for a comfort zone and the restlessness of seeking more. ✈︎
- A writer, mother, teacher, friend, I love books, blizzards and beaches, music from Hildegard von Bingen to the Beatles to Bonnie Raitt to The Brood; I love medieval churches, red wine, creme caramel, and roasted beets, and walking the woods and coastlines of home.