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Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  872 ratings  ·  96 reviews
In her debut collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation.

Found on reserves, in cities and small towns, in bars and curling rinks, canoes and community centres, doctors offices and pickup
Paperback, 143 pages
Published November 15th 2013 by Arbeiter Ring (first published November 1st 2013)
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Jacob Wren
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wrote about it here:

And then three passages from Islands of Decolonial Love:

etienne gets out the lines and in two minutes we know we’re on the school because we’re pulling in mackerel easy. he watches as i hold the hook and snap the fish into the garbage pail, which is my reveal. it’s sunny and it’s windy and it’s perfect and the arms of the day are wide open and no one has to be anywhere. i see a northern gannet and i love gannets because they can disco
Beautiful, powerful, challenging, inventive. A collection of poems, songs, stories that are unlike anything I've ever read before. A book to read (and listen to, since it comes with digital access to some poems recorded with also beautifully done music) again and again.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this book came into my life exactly when i needed it to. i'd been honing the craft of writing love letters to myself these past couple of years, and i bought this book at the abolition convergence in mnisota. how could i not fall in love with its title?

i read the first short story, and it explained everything i've ever felt about love and fear and the summer sun and could never tell anyone because a queer femme(ish) person of color with ptsd doesn't just wear their heart on their sleeves like t
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce livre. Leanne Simpson y raconte des histoires & des poèmes-chansons qui fessent dans le tas & qui, plus que de décortiquer l'expérience autochtone, sont entièrement immergées dans la vision nishnaabeg du monde. C'est poignant, souvent drôle. Il y a des passages d'une beauté délicate, comme suspendue de façon précaire au-dessus des mots. Le poids du colonialisme est présent partout ; il donne lieu à une colère salutaire. Mais, comme le dit la phrase de Lee Maracle pl ...more
Maia Caron
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful book--an evocative mix of both poetry and prose. So many humourous moments, the kind I like--self deprecating, yet poignant at the same time. A hard mix to get right, but Simpson manages to make it pitch perfect. I wish I had gone to her reading in Toronto a few months ago, just to hear these words come out of her mouth. I have heard her speak them to music on her website--worthwhile to give a listen.

The author opens little windows into her life affected by colonia
Francesca Calarco
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Drawing from her own life and other contemporary Indigenous perspectives, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson creates a truly moving and thought-provoking series of short stories in Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs.

Each story (or song) is short, yet vividly captures a great deal of emotion and individual personality that feels deeply intimate. Like an archipelago of islands, characters seem lonely yet interconnected, in this case through shared culture and expectation. While largely st
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the kind of thing you feel like you need to immediately reread so as to not let go of it.

“dudley george is the first aboriginal person to be killed in a land rights dispute in canada since the 19th century.

i guess that’s right, if you don’t count suicide, cop killings, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, violent deaths, deaths from poverty, deaths from coping and deaths from being a woman.”


it takes an ocean not to break

"the mother in
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
how do we get free? in this book are a thousand stories that offer a map, not the kind that is measured and charted but the kind that is sensed the kind that makes your bones say o yes the kind that is knowing right and good and kind, yes.

right now in my life i am trying to heal some particulars of whiteness: the coopting of sensation/emotion/feeling into logic/reason/argument. the immense pressure to know it all and do it right *now*. the paradoxical & squeezed place of committing to anti-
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"i don't get it. i can see them. i know them. i can think like them while still thinking like me, but nothing i do stops them. nothing i do disrupts it." - p. 110

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I think it will be added to the few that I keep close to me, and I find myself wanting to give everyone a copy. Her words are so poignant and powerful in the way that they unearth the pain of seeing and feeling the cruelty of the world around us. She speaks to the hol
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
you feel these stories more than think them. essential indigenous reading.
Ivan Roberts-Davis
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
such a great read! highly recommended! thank you leanne simpson.
What a beautiful collection of stories and songs.

It took a little while to get into the rhythm of the storytelling but once I did, I was hooked.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is an excellent writer and builds on the themes of decolonial love, destruction and heartbreak, and healing (among others) as the collection progresses. I don't really know how to adequately describe the book - it's something you have to read/experience for yourself. I did come away from it feeling like I've learned somethin
Ai Miller
Just so lovely and a deeply beautiful book. Simpson manages to create such rich worlds within such small spaces, and there's a flow to all of the work in this book that is soothing even as it interrogates trauma. The love is so present and real in it, and it's definitely a work I'm going to revisit multiple times.
Michael Bryson
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by:
Shelves: short-stories, poetry
Fragmentary in structure and written without the standard capital letter at the start of sentences, this book is what it proclaims to be in its title. Some of the pieces present as short stories, some present as poems. There is an audio component, which can be found at the publisher's website.

The pieces frequently make use of Indigenous words, which are translated in footnotes. The overall experience is one of entering the colonial space that is being deconstructed by storytelling, o
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Leanne Simpson writing thrills me like sliding down a too icy hill, like methodically making a cup of tea, like kissing and warmth and yelling loud and long and clear into a devouring summer evening. Her story telling has taught me a great deal, and I think it has the power to teach you, too.
I want to rip apart every chapter of this book so they stand alone and put them randomly in my house so I can stumble across them at different times of the day and re-read them all again. Or put them all in different orders. Or stack them together in various formations. Put one chapter in every bag or backpack that I have. I finished reading this book and then flipped back and re-read the stories and poems that I loved the first time. This book is good. Of course, you have to listen to it here as we ...more
Mila Menna
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Stylistically I didn't like reading this book because there was often no context or specification of who the speaker was. It was more so feelings and snippets of life like poetry than a cohesive story so it was hard to follow. But respects to Leanne for expressing her experience in Indigenous communities and with white people. I loved how animals were personified as well as Mississauga showing how the entities around us have personalities. Lots of literary devices but I probably wouldn't read ag ...more
Jacob Vigil
This was one of my favorites of the year. Every so often you read a book that evokes or creates its own feel, its own atmosphere, that seems to be larger and more expansive than the writing itself and sticks with you. This is one of those books. It is sad, funny, passionate, poetic, and joyful all at once. It is one of the best examples I've seen recently of a piece of art that seems to capture an essence of Native American reality and history.
Caitlyn Spence
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can’t describe the beauty and anger and secrets this book shared with me. I want to buy 30 copies and give them to everyone I know. I finished it in two days and flipped back to the beginning and started reading again. Read this book. Overhear the characters and overhear the distance between yourself and them. Listen to these songs. Live in this reality she’s letting you peek into.
Doretta Lau
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A searingly beautiful, heartbreaking and daring book.
Carol Tilley
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indigenous, stories
painful, lyrical, beautiful, haunting
So happy books like this exist.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's collection of stories and songs is powerful, brave, gritty. It makes you want to act for what you believe in, in the face of silence and derision and belittlement; it makes you want to be as headstrong and full of life as nishnaabekwe in 'gwenkaanimod'. It is also incredibly poetic; it speaks in metaphors and images of the earth.

Its music and words speak of the indigenous peoples' power of resilience, resistance, and recreation. The spoken performance adds another
Sameer Vasta
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This reflection was originally published on and references the following books:

- A Poetry Handbook , by Mary Oliver
- Citizen: An American Lyric , by Claudia Rankine
- Islands of Decolonial Love , by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
- The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance , by Audre Lorde
- Summons: Poems from Tanzania
- This Accident of Being Lost , by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
- Upstream , by Mary Oliver

**** **** ****

"The best use of literature bends not toward the narrow and the absolut/>"The
Kristine Morris
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I give this book of stories and songs 6 stars. It’s funny, painful, and derisive. I like books that are creative, and this combination of short stories and songs that can be listened to online is refreshingly different. A few words first about the format of this book.

Like some other writer’s who are Indigenous, Leanne Simpson does not use punctuation aside from periods. I am not aware of the purpose behind this, whether it’s a poetic mechanism or if it is a statement against the general accepta
Laurence Leduc-Primeau
Beaucoup aimé.
L'espoir et l'humour qui, malgré le beat de la rage, ressortent de partout.

we're all hunting around for acceptance, intimacy, connection and love, but we don't know what those particular med'cines even look like so we're just hunting away with vague ideas from dreams and hope and intention, at the same time dragging around blockades full of reminders that being vulnerable has never ended well for any of us, not even one single time. (p.85)
Stephen Wong
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Book review of Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs (2013) by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Pay attention to the Anishinaabemowin in the footnotes.

There is a link to the spoken word versions of some of the pieces in this collection of stories and songs, meant for the ears and perhaps following the oral traditions of storytelling. The storytelling itself is formative of the place of its belonging and its finding, its wayfinding into the territories of love and decolonialism.

What could
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is challenging. Challenging because not only are words from the Mississauga Nishnaabeg people interspersed amongst the poems and short stories, but also because the content is a reflection of life as first nation people in a white society: the challenges they face as regards holidays, the role of counsellors, how to deal with the dead, love and sex, how to hold onto their identity, stories and customs.
There is an anger here, and delicate ears may shy away from some of the language...
Sarah Townsend
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Leanne Simpson's collection of stories and poems in Islands of Decolonial Love are truly spectacular. It offers a powerful glimpse into Indigenous resurgence while retaining the beauty and effortlessness that seems to be to inherent in Simpson's storytelling. The reclamation of Indigenous voice and power is planted in even the smallest of nooks and crannies of the work, such as Simpson's refusal to use the Western standard of first word capitalization in sentences throughout the collection. For ...more
I got this book from the library, but I am going to have to turn around and buy a copy. I will be re-reading it, and marking pages, and possibly making notes in the margins. Songs and stories, yes, fragments and tales with lots of unfamiliar words to make me realize...something...about how I cannot assume I understand, from my well-intentioned white lady perspective. That I must always, always, be open, listening, paying attention, and examining my own assumptions, biases, privilege. Always. The ...more
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Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is “a gifted writer who brings passion and commitment to her storytelling and who has demonstrated an uncommon ability to manage an impressive range of genres from traditional storytelling to critical analysis, from poetry to the spoken word, from literary and social activism.” In 2014, Leanne was named the inaugural RBC Charles Taylor Emerging writer by Thomas King, an ...more
“there are a couple of problems with being twenty-two but you don't know about them yet, because you can only find out about the problems sometime after you are no longer twenty-two. anyway, one of the problems with being twenty-two is you start to get afraid that maybe you're horrible at everything, mostly because you're not really good at anything yet, so you decide to stay the course with biology until a sign appears, even though being stoned drunk all the time doesn't register as a sign.” 4 likes
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