Thunder Song

Coast Salish author and artist Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe (Red Paint) engages in the art of the essay in the autobiographical collection Thunder Song. She skillfully sifts through the past, present, and the unraveling future, drawing from the different branches of her identity as a punk, queer Indigenous woman. Each essay presents distinctly captivating narratives that immerse readers in the powerful and rhythmic heartbeat of LaPointe's emotions. At one point she writes: "It was a dam or a dike bursting open somewhere deep in me and generations of water rushing out."

In the chapter "Reservation Riot Grrrl," LaPointe traces the landscape of the punk scene she fell in love with from a Swinomish reservation bathroom. Through a growing awareness of how her "Native anger" differed from that of her white punk friends, she came into her own voice in songwriting and eventually as a singer with her own band. LaPointe deftly depicts her personal evolution and a commitment to carving out space not only for herself but for the next generation of Native creatives.

Many of these essays are based in contentious moments of erasure in LaPointe's experience as a mixed white and Coast Salish woman. Reflecting on a play date at nine years old, she writes: "The family had let me stay on account of my complexion and sent my sister home because she was Indian in an obvious kind of way." These essays are firmly rooted in the collective history of the Coast Salish people as LaPointe offers earnest revelations of cheated land, the significance of persistence, and the radical act of love. --Lily Kamālamalama, bookseller at Native Books, O'ahu, Hawaii

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