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Billy-Ray Belcourt on finding a place to flourish

By Kobo • January 08, 2021Kobo in Conversation Podcast

“What I think a lot of indigenous people want their writing to do is to carve out space for large feelings, for desires that run counter to the world, to the present, to the past, to show that there’s a whole chorus of us singing one rebellious song.”

We spoke with poet and scholar Billy-Ray about his new book, A History of My Brief Body, a poetic, intellectual work of theory, essay, and memoir. He explained how he builds on the work of others in his own writing and what drives his mission to locate joy at the centre of Indigenous stories.

Stick around at the end of this episode for Billy-Ray's reading of an excerpt from A History of My Brief Body.

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Billy-Ray Belcourt's debut memoir opens with a tender letter to his kokum and memories of his early life in the hamlet of Joussard, Alberta, and on the Driftpile First Nation. From there, it expands to encompass the big and broken world around him, in all its complexity and contradictions: a legacy of colonial violence and the joy that flourishes in spite of it, first loves and first loves lost, sexual exploration and intimacy, and the act of writing as a survival instinct and a way to grieve. What emerges is not only a profound meditation on memory, gender, anger, shame, and ecstasy, but also the outline of a way forward. With startling honesty, and in a voice distinctly and assuredly his own, Belcourt situates his life experiences within a constellation of seminal queer texts, among which this book is sure to earn its place. Eye-opening, intensely emotional, and excessively quotable, A History of My Brief Body demonstrates over and over again the power of words to both devastate and console us.

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Books Billy-Ray mentions in this conversation:

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