Reviews

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt

shelleyanderson4127's review against another edition

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challenging dark reflective medium-paced

3.25

 

What can you say about a collection of essays that cite Judith Butler or Foucault or Barthes in one sentence, and in the next describe hooking up for anonymous sex on Grindr? 
Billy-Ray Belcourt, of the Driftpile Cree Nation, is an award-winning poet and queer NDN activist. I found these essays deeply insightful, heart breakingly honest, and obtuse in turn. He writes about the brutality of settler-colonialism, about desire, and about the search for joy and liberation in a country that denies queers and NDNs the right to live on their own terms--and, too often, the right to live at all.

The last three essays, especially "To Hang Our Grief Up to Dry", are very, very powerful, as they deal with the subject of suicide. Some First Nation communities in Canada have experienced an epidemic of youth suicides. "What determines ours lives as NDNs and/or queers are pain and trauma, love and hope. Death looms at all scales, individual to planetary. But there is also an ecology of creativity, one indivisible from our futurity. In the face of an antagonistic relation to the past, let us start anew in the haven of a world in the image of our radical art." 

rachel_pck's review against another edition

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4.0

“The political climate in which art is made will determine whether poetry is a unit of accusation or revelation. I’m writing a literature of blame, for the record.”

A fragmented memoir(ish?) discussing colonialism and queerness. About 90% of the prose is astonishingly beautiful and poignant, but the remainder veers sharply into obscure and impenetrable territory.

hanawulu's review against another edition

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reflective

3.5

lsparrow's review against another edition

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4.0

"love of this sort, however, isn't about making a roadmap to another who then becomes your compass. It is a proposition to nest in the unrepayable and ever-mounting debt of care that stands in opposition to the careless and transactional practices of state power."

I can't say I liked this as a book/memoir but I find myself mulling over the ideas and words that seem to create a structure/genre of their own. I am left how I feel after having a long deep conversation - where I feel challenged and left with more questions that I am eager to ask of myself and the world. I also enjoyed how Belcourt references books and authors who have influenced his writing.

nicholesreadingnook's review against another edition

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dark emotional reflective medium-paced

5.0


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kattra's review against another edition

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medium-paced

3.0

therkive's review against another edition

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5.0

I have so rarely bought a book in the middle of my reading the ebook version because my online annotations were not enough. I needed to be able to pour myself into every line, every word Belcourt has written in this otherwise "short" essay collection. I think every non-Indigenous non-queer person, of all of the essay collections I have read thus far, should read this. Each line makes my lungs ache in expansion, ribs cracking with understanding of the loneliness Belcourt describes. The tragedies that befall Indigenous folk at the hands of heinous white people, especially the ideas passed down by colonization, are a noose that Belcourt so readily describes - the massacres in which governments dealt to expand their land for white people, a cage with which Indigenous people are still living within. I do not have anything save for praises for each passage in this book, so many that I will return to in the future as I existentially dwell upon my own loneliness and queerness and South Asian identity in a white-predominant society surrounded by those who colonized and murdered my own ancestors for centuries.

thesaltiestlibrarian's review against another edition

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challenging reflective slow-paced

2.0

As many people have already said, it's incredibly difficult to rate something like a memoir. (Unless you're James Frey, unapologetic pathological liar and narcissist. Then you're rating fiction.)

I'll be purely looking at the writing, then. I've done the academic circuit, and am about to dive back in for my Master's. One trend I've noticed with people who want to tell their story in academia is that it's easy for them to fall into the trap of "academic writing"--i.e. a lot of words that take three routes around Robin Hood's barn and then ultimately come up saying very little. It sounds pretty, sure. But it doesn't hit. It doesn't grip. It has few moments where it swoops in and promises to hurt you, to give you truth, but covers that truth in prose impenetrable to the layperson.

That is Belcourt's big failing here. Laypeople are going to want to read this book, and they're not going to understand what he's saying. Prose doesn't have to be boring or straightforward or easy. Cormac McCarthy is an excellent example. Sometimes one must reread in a McCarthy book, but in the end the meaning always becomes clear.

Art isn't always easy. It shouldn't be. But it should be accessible.

buttercat42's review against another edition

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Writing style just not for me

lucyyygibsonnn's review against another edition

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challenging emotional hopeful reflective sad fast-paced

4.5

A really full-frontal, nothing to hide challenging read that I couldn’t recommend enough. Beautifully written. My thanks to the author for putting down into words what they did.