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A History of My Brief Body

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4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,158 ratings  ·  189 reviews
The youngest ever winner of the Griffin Prize mines his personal history in a brilliant new essay collection seeking to reconcile the world he was born into with the world that could be.

For readers of Ocean Vuong and Maggie Nelson and fans of Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, A History of My Brief Body is a brave, raw, and fiercely intelligent collection of essays and
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Paperback, 142 pages
Published July 14th 2020 by Two Dollar Radio (first published May 19th 2020)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  1,158 ratings  ·  189 reviews


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Ash
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love reading Ocean Vuong and Maggie Nelson
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbtq, aoc
I devoured the first few chapters before forcing myself to slow down and savor Belcourt's way with words, the unexpected, compressed perfection of lines like "How silly that we measure the day by how much light fits inside it and not by the number of ordinary wounds the light lands on at any given second." A History of My Brief Body is one of those books which gets its adulation from the impact of sheer grit — an explosive exposition on the profound and often the peculiar terrain that forms the ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this on a Monday morning, and you know how sometimes you find yourself in a book? Here is how I found myself in this book:
"Desirous of a beautiful life I get out of bed, but it's Monday and I'm in the throes of a genocide. I make a cup of coffee and pick up a poetry collection, both of which I attend to at my living room window; for a few minutes, I think of nothing besides coffee, poetry, and windows, which feels like a small rebellion... I'm not in the future. I'm in the present; this m
...more
Michael
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
a collection of fragmented, elliptical personal essays about the pains and joys of coming of age queer and indigenous in Canada, self-consciously recalling the work of better writers like Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, and Terese Marie Mailhot (all are name dropped / referenced here, a lot). many have found this stimulating and beautifully written, which’s great, and it’s hard to give this such a low rating, given how vulnerable some of the pieces are — but the prose feels obscure, derivative o ...more
Jason
BRB's writing demands that I be more as a reader and thinker, and that I do more to divest from Canada, its destructive whiteness, to resist loudly and violently the nation-state, to stand out of the way of Indigenous flourishing and joy. ...more
Dani
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TW: suicide, racism.

“How any of us survive in a world we neither wanted nor built ourselves. I have called this bind precarity. It’s also the ground zero for suicide ideation.”

Driftpile Cree/Indigiqueer writer Billy-Ray Belcourt wrote in a way that had my heart soaring & aching. Immaculately crafted, intelligent, honest, searing. Necessary truths, personal reflections. What it means to be Queer/Trans Indigenous, 2Spirit in colonial Canada. Suicide epidemics in multiple First Nation communities.
...more
Sarah
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the most annotated book I have now. Don’t let its slim 128 pages fool you. Every sentence in here is power, is elemental, cerebral. I found myself reading almost this entire text out loud to myself to better absorb it. My mouth is dry and my ribs cracked open. Anyway in case I’m being too opaque this book is pure crackling lightning, and you should get it.
Romie
I honestly don't know how I feel about this memoir. I recognise that this books is so important for many first nation queer people, and I also recognise that some of these essays were really powerful, but I think it's one of those books I'm not going to rate. I mean, this memoir is so personal and raw, I don't know how I could give it a rating. it wouldn't feel right. but I also think it's one of those books I should have read with my own eyes and not listen to it. because I felt disconnected. t ...more
Brad Allen
I struggle to negatively review the lived experiences of others. I find it especially difficult when those experiences belong to an extremely talented artist. But this book just did not connect with me. There were portions that were dizzyingly beautiful, subversively funny, and heartbreakingly poignant, and then there were parts that read like an academic’s muddled stream of consciousness, lacking any sort of congruity or relevance. At 128 pages, this book is rather dense and, oftentimes, comple ...more
Ryan Mangione
Read this on a plane ride today. Totally regret leaving this book in the unread stack for as long as I did - really inventive and crushing take on a style I’m normally less than crazy about, which is the essay+criticism+poetry+theory-fiction all thrown in a blender book. Belcourt’s writing is challenging in the best way, totally non-linear and lyrical while also extremely tactful. Although they’re very different writers, this book gave me the same sort of feeling of, “I have no idea what I’ve ju ...more
Adrian Chiem
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is right that BRB quotes Ocean Vuong, Claudia Rankine, and Roland Barthes throughout this essay collection because when I read this, it is their chorus that rings in my ears. It is the sound of songs that we are writing at all times, individually conceived, that scream harmoniously against colonialism and inequity. I felt like I had read this before, and I also felt like I would read it again, with someone else's name. If I have to face this persistent inevitability, I'm glad I get to do it t ...more
Katey Flowers
I listened to the audio of this book (thanks Libro.fm!) and although it is very well narrated, I do wish I’d picked up the physical book for this one. The author’s writing is beautiful and penetrating, and it was the sort of book that I would’ve benefited from being able to highlight and annotate. There was so much here and I know I only scratched the surface with my listen, which is why I have opted not to rate the book, although I do recommend it. The way Belcourt exposed the reality of Canada ...more
Ming
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this memoir was a mixed experience.  There are many passages that are both beautifully written and convey an observation with a depth and bite. (Please see my numerous "highlights."  I had more than 40, many are shared here.)

The read is quick and has a frenetic energy. In one of the earlier sections, the author prepares us for a read that will be raw, jumbled, and cutting.  I imagine some of the chapters or paragraphs were drawn from a personal journal, one packed with ah-ha thoughts, ra
...more
Adri
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
CWs: References to homophobic slurs, graphic depictions of sex, sexual language, discussions of suicide and suicide ideation, discussion of AIDS, depictions of racism, references to serial killings and mass shootings.
Alanna Why
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Hope: The settler state ≠ the world.” This collection is an evocative look at what it means to grow up and be a queer NDN living in the modern settler-colonial state of so-called Canada. Whether he is describing Grindr hook-ups or writing a letter to his nôkhom, this book is stunning and heartbreaking in its intimacy. While Belcourt’s theoretical and abstract prose style sometimes went over my head (this man does have a PhD, after all), I was struck by the beauty of his writing and thinking. My ...more
Alison
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's hard and weird to give a very personal and vulnerable memoir a bad rating but I didn't like the writing at all. There are some beautiful sentences/sections, but overall I found this a weird mix of writing that was incredibly meandering, elaborate, and densely cited (often he cites himself! which I hate) and writing that was oddly informal (he likes the word butt and butthole a lot?). Not really for me. However the perspective was really interesting. ...more
Annie MacKillican
This book is devastating and beautiful. When this book came out I made sure to grab it right away and I’m so glad that I did.

Belcourt is a poetic genius. This memoir reads beautifully like the rest of his poetry, but is a holistic account of being gay, being Indigenous, and being in a society in which you are always dancing with death.

This made me feel so much. I want to read it over and over again. I want to memorize this book. I want to talk about it every day for the rest of my life.

Read t
...more
Melinda Haynie
I got a copy of the audiobook from Libro FM for an honest review. Although the book is a memoir and I hate to give memoirs less than 5 stars. I found the audiobook pretty boring and the the narrator/author was very monotone the whole time. Some parts went into way more detail than I wanted to hear but it was interesting to hear his story still.
df parizeau
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Few writers write with such unabashed conviction as Billy-Ray Belcourt; Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Dionne Brand, Angela Y. Davis, bell hooks are part of the select few who do.

To choose to celebrate beauty even in the face of the torrent of violence directed against queer Indigenous bodies in North America is something only a poet could or would undertake. I can't help but think of French philosopher George Bataille's assertion that to write poetry is to sacrifice oneself and to an extent, some
...more
Kurt
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Desirous of a beautiful life I get out of bed, but it's Monday and I'm in the throes of genocide. I make a cup of coffee and pick up a poetry collection, both of which I attend to at my living room window; for a few minutes, I think of nothing besides coffee, poetry, and windows, which feels like a small rebellion. In the corner of my eye I see a banner I constructed many months ago that says no settlers / in the future. I'm not in the future. I'm in the present; this means I'm as lonely and as ...more
lacy
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indigenous, poetry

belcourt gently opened my rib cage and in response i buried this book in my chest, tucked lovingly behind my heart. i was particularly struck by his ruminations on love and loving, but i know that this is a memoir i will read over and over again and find something new each time. a history of my brief body is a complex and masterful taking apart of the heteropatriarchal white supremacist colonial structure of so-called canada, and this may sound like a strange comparison, but i have learned more
...more
Kate
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"At a reading another poet says my love of beauty is abundantly clear. To be compelled to write beautifully about unbeautiful matters is a minor miracle, but it's also declare that the world has been poured onto me and that anyone within earshot has the power to wield a word like a match."

🌿
" How silly that we measure the day but how much light fits inside it and not by the number of ordinary wounds the light lands on at have any given second."

🌿
" Something happened in those death-schools that m
...more
Chandler Sanchez
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While a bit of a difficult start to get into, this piece pushed me to stop, read, and think more than most books. Belcourt takes on theory around love, grief, racialized violence, and Indigenous queerness, while I don’t know if I find his arguments totally convincing, with some being a bit overly-complicated to the point on unmeaningfully confusing and sometimes painting with a very wide brush, each piece adds to the current (and past) conversation.
Melissa
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Powerful. Raw. Incredibly well written. Great read that covers so much in such a short book but also really hard to listen to at times (as I listened to the audiobook).
Tim Power
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. I will return to this book again and again. And again.
sol
Jan 31, 2021 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bipoc, poetry
a person recommend this to me on discord and told me if I like Vuong I'm probably going to like Belcourt and I am really excited!! ...more
Sage Agee
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you fall in love with a book and it holds little pieces of you.
Ali Denno
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“You should know this by now: poetry is the act of hearing beyond what we are able to hear”
Sunny
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq-favorites
A beautiful and poetic exploration of queer and indigenous identity, but a bit too bogged down with academic stuff and theory for me to fully understand and appreciate. I would probably enjoy this more after I have a degree or two lol
Hannah Blair
Dec 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, fiction
please read this
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
This was not a book I had heard of until getting the chance to listen to an ALC on Libro.fm. And while I love audiobooks I felt like this one might have been a bit more understandable in the dead-tree version. It is a smart and insightful book, but for me it felt a bit like two books. The story of the history of natives in Canada was new to me and I learned a great deal. At times it is easy to think that these are stories that can only be told my American natives. This discussion of racial tensi ...more
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Billy-Ray Belcourt is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a Ph.D. candidate and 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar in the Department of English & Film Studies at the University of Alberta; he is at work on a creative-theoretical project called "The Conspiracy of NDN Joy." He is also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in Women's Studies from the University ...more

News & Interviews

“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
37 likes · 7 comments
“NDN youth, listen: to be lost isn't to be unhinged from the possibility of a good life. There are doorways everywhere, ones without locks, doors that swing open. There isn't only now and here. There is elsewhere and somewhere too. Speak against the coloniality of the world, against the route of despair it causes, in an always-loudening chant. Please keep loving.” 3 likes
“To my mind, joy is a constitutive part of the emotional rhetoric and comportment of those against whom the present swells at an annihilating pace. With joy, we breach the haze of suffering that denies us creativity and literature. Joy is art is an ethics of resistance.” 3 likes
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