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Activism & Action

A Fictional Political Forecast: Windy with a Chance of Democracy

A photo of a white red headed woman named Riveral Sun. She is outside. There is snow in the background.
Rivera Sun, protest novelist and peace activist outside her home in Taos, New Mexico

The Author’s Note in Rivera Sun’s Winds of Change reads, in part: “The Dandelion Trilogy has always stood in a time that looms around the corner of today, in a place on the edge of our nation. It is fiction that reveals the problems and possibilities lurking in the shadows of our work.” The trilogy sparks ideas and provides examples of how grassroots organizing and nonviolent activism results in true change. The books are about resistance and resilience. They’re about recognizing a system that’s not working, and doing something about it.”

Protest novelist and nonviolence activist Rivera Sun was the featured guest on October’s episode of The Fine Print, an online conversation series with contemporary feminist authors. Like previous episodes, a group of feminist changemakers gathered on Zoom to hear the writer discuss ideas in her novel, Winds of Change—the third book in the Dandelion Trilogy

The evening did not disappoint.

(Watch video highlights from the evening’s conversation below, or on LiisBeth’s YouTube channel.

The trilogy follows protagonists Zadie Byrd Gray and Charlie Rider— a feisty and passionate young couple—in their leaderful movement that challenges the existing government structure in the United States and hopes of replacing it with a people-powered, representative democracy. The stories involve conflict with oligarchy and the wealthy elite. “If this sounds a little familiar to U.S. culture it’s because it is a little familiar to U.S. culture,” Sun said on the video call from her Earthship home in New Mexico. She started writing The Dandelion Insurrection, the first book of the trilogy, back in 2013, just a few months before Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA spying on American citizens. “I was a little paranoid for a couple of months as the reveal came out because I had actually been writing about that, as a speculative fictional scenario,” she told the group 

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Protest novels are books defined by their intent that often challenge political views, depict social injustices and/or offer alternative perspectives from underrepresented groups. According to Sun, “In a world like ours where injustice runs amok and so many are crying out for change, I think all of us can bend our talents and skills in solidarity with demands for respect, dignity, fairness, inclusion, safety, and sustainability.”

Sun has a few favourite protest novels she uses for inspiration including  Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing, Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables and Ursula K LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. For more examples of books written in response to, or inspired by, political strife, check out the list compiled by Electric Lit.

The author’s writing is influenced by her lived experiences. 

Sun described herself as someone who was once an ‘ignorant activist’ who has since come a long way in her activism journey. The 39-year-old has been involved in participatory democracy from bike messenger co-ops to member-mechanic operations, leaderful movements to consensus-based nonprofits. “I believe in this kind of democracy the way I believe in nonviolence. They both have challenges, but they offer more hope than any other system I’ve seen.”

Not sure what leaderful, non violent movements or actions might look like?  Watching starlings in murmuration provides a useful way to imagine it. 

Winds of Change largely focuses on the belief that for participatory democracy to work, “People need to have a direct and active role in determining the laws and policies by which our lives are impacted.” Sun was quick to address the idea of participatory democracy as a lofty goal but also something that is not entirely out of reach. “We’re at such a point of division that sometimes it’s hard to believe, or imagine, or trust that humanity as a whole has this kind of inherent wisdom…but we do have a pretty innate sense of wanting to solve problems together.”

While Sun isn’t alone in recognizing that our current systems aren’t working, she attributes the lack of change to the fact that people aren’t meeting and discussing issues in a room together whether it’s virtual, physical or metaphorical. “They’re not actually engaged in collective problem solving and they’re often spouting political opinions in reaction to the lines and the commentary that are fed to them by elite groups to keep them divided and disempowered,” said Sun.

Writing the trilogy allowed her to grow both as a writer and as an activist. For example, while researching how to bring her stories to life, she actually Googled “How to bring down dictators non-violently.” She discovered plenty of people are already out there doing it.

Sun said there are no shortage of examples of nonviolent activism successful in heralding change. “We have to remember there are over 300 different methods of non-violent struggle ranging from holding that sign, to civil disobedience, to shut downs, blockades, boycotts, occupations, covert actions, refusals to comply with work, slowdowns, walkout strikes. The list goes on. So that’s the kind of hopeful news that people are engaged in.”

Spreading the Word Like Dandelion Seeds

By self-publishing her books through Rising Sun Press Works and printing copies on demand, Sun doesn’t feel the pressure of answering to a publisher’s vision of her work.

Where does Rivera Sun find hope?

Through crowdfunding different projects, she has built an audience of loyal followers and created uniquely community-published work. She is encouraged and humbled by the amount of support and positive feedback she receives from readers. For example, commenting on Winds of Change in Transition US, Marissa Mommaerts wrote, “These practical and inspiring examples of direct democracy are exactly what we need to move forward as society.” Tom Altee at the Co-Intelligence Institute and Wise Democracy Project also has high praise for Sun’s work. “I was totally captivated [by] Rivera’s vision in Winds of Change. It was the best participatory democracy imagineering creation I’ve ever seen.” 

Sun is mindful about the message of Winds of Change: “I hope no one takes this book as a blueprint. It’s not. It’s a story that is meant to spark ideas, thoughts, and reflections in the reader. It’s intended to provide more questions than it answers.”


BONUS! Download and read an excerpt from Winds of Change © Rivera Sun 2020.

Plus! You can watch all previous episodes of The Fine Print with authors including Shaena Lambert (Petra), Leanne Betasmosake Simpson (Noopiming) and Farzana Doctor (Seven) on YouTube.

GOOD NEWS! THE FINE PRINT returns in 2022. Free for FEC members or you can purchase access tickets on Eventbrite. 

Watch for updates! 

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Feminist Practices

Reimagining Our Financial Future

Shannon Pestun. Photo provided.

Shannon Pestun followed her own advice when she started her financial literacy training business: Know yourself. Figure out why you’re doing it. Who could you partner with? 

“The system is always telling women to fix themselves,” Pestun says. “But we’re making it about her first and foremost and what her goals are, and then building the company around that.”

The Finance Cafe is an Alberta-based incorporated for profit social enterprise that was formed because its two female founders understand firsthand the barriers that women entrepreneurs face, primarily around financial literacy and confidence. 

The Path to Entrepreneurship 

Pestun spent the formative part of her youth working in her parents office furniture company. She and her younger brother spent summers cleaning and doing accounts receivables for the family business in Alberta, Canada. 

She also grew up around horses and loved spending time at her extended relatives’ farms. In her first job she worked for free mucking stalls in exchange for riding the horses.

She fell in love with the animals and went on to become a competitive show jumper. 

Riding provided her with a sense of comfort and freedom and trust that is present to this day. 

“A horse will know how I’m feeling before I do,” she says.

Shannon Pestun with her horse, circa 1981. Photo provided.

But the outgoing, horseback-riding girl turned inward after she was sexually assaulted in her teens. Pestun dropped out of high school and ended up working two minimum wage jobs just to keep a roof over her head. There were times she had four hours of sleep between her shift selling hot dogs at a nightclub (while underage) and being a sales clerk at a Merle Norman cosmetics store. 

“I know what it’s like to be at the poverty line. I understand what it’s like to live in fear of finances.” 

Fierce tenacity and the generosity of others — like the Merle Norman shop owner and the guy at the night club who allowed her to work underage — enabled Pestun to get her life back on track. 

Pestun eventually went back to high school then on to college and university where she got a degree in management.

She landed a marketing job at ATB, a financial institution with a focus on small business owners. Before she became ATB’s first Director of Women’s Entrepreneurship, she jumped at the opportunity to become a lender even though she had little experience in finance. 

Her tenacity returned and Pestun taught herself how to be a banker after hours by going through finance and business rules to understand what the lending business was all about. Soon, a pattern emerged. She had no female clients. Where were all the women? 

Pestun took to social media under the alias @agirlsbizbanker to have conversations and learn why women weren’t coming to ATB, or anywhere else, for financing. 

“The banking system was never designed with women in mind,” she says. It was impossible to ignore the financial industry was not effectively serving women and systemic barriers were being upheld. 

As an advocate for women in business, Pestun is a mentor for Fifth Wave, Canada’s first feminist accelerator program for women in digital media.

Pestun knew of Shauna Frederick because they were both on the Board of Directors for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO). When Frederick, a respected chartered professional accountant (CPA) invited her to lunch in 2020, Pestun knew she’d found someone who shared her passion for supporting women entrepreneurs. 

The two finance pros knew that confidence and financial know-how impacts women’s emotional connection to their businesses. Together they realized their combined knowledge could help women overcome these challenges of confidence by creating a hub for business financial literacy. The two women holed up in a Canmore hotel room for a weekend in the fall of 2020 to hash out the details of new business. 

The duo officially launched the Finance Cafe in 2021.

Confidence is Key  

Pestun and Frederick teamed up to change the narrative about how women talk about money. They wanted to create a place where women could ask all their financial questions without being judged or feeling berated. How am I going to earn money from this? Will it be enough so I can pay myself a living wage? I don’t want to have investors or take out big loans. How else can I finance my business? 

“We have a very gendered focus on the curriculum,” says Pestun. “We’re aiming to make financial literacy not feel judgmental when it’s being led by two women, particularly an accountant and a former banker.”

A 2020 report by Scotiabank’s Women Initiative found that, “women business owners are 56 per cent  more likely to be ranked as ‘below average’ in financial knowledge than counterpart men business owners.” They are also less confident about their knowledge of small business finance. The full report — Financial Knowledge & Financial Confidence – Closing Gender Gaps in Financing Canadian Small Businesses — indicated that closing gender gaps in small business financial knowledge, financial confidence and financing will further women’s economic security. 

The report also revealed that fewer women are applying for loans, but when they do apply, they get funding. 

Among study participants, 7 per cent  of women and 11 per cent of men had applied for a business loan in the 12 months leading up to the survey. However, among loan applicants, 88 per cent of women and 77 per cent  of men had their loan applications approved. 

Why don’t more women apply for loans? Financial literacy is a factor. 

For women about to put their savings on the line for a business, adding a loan can be scary. Knowing when a loan makes sense, what type of loan to apply for and basic loan terms is something training in financial literacy can help with. 

Women face additional barriers than men in terms of starting their businesses as well. This includes accessing social capital and political power to impact policy that would assist in unlocking potential opportunities. Male-centered entrepreneur narratives and stereotypes are another huge barrier for women entrepreneurs. 

One of The Finance Cafe’s goals is to help women understand the current mindset, system and how to wrangle it to meet their authentic needs. Things like being told that you need to make a certain amount of money to be successful. 

“Screw that,” says Pestun. “We want to give women the confidence to say I’m doing this on my terms and this is enough. Let’s quit treating women like they need to build  massive corporations. Because who wants to enter entrepreneurship with that being the guiding principle?”

To make the course as accessible to as many women as possible, the seven-module online program is priced purposely low at a one time payment of CAD$379 + GST or four payments of CAD$99 + GST. The program includes access to the course for a year, video tutorials, quizzes, worksheets and priority support. There’s even a free financial literacy quiz you can take to test your knowledge.

The lived experience between the two financial gurus is priceless. 

“We see some of the mistakes women entrepreneurs make and we share our own stories about mistakes we’ve made,” Pestun says. “We know the importance of role models for women so it’s about information, mentorship, capacity building, all those wraparound services.”

The New Return on Investment (ROI) 

But what if success was measured not only in terms of profit? What if it was about physical wellbeing, mental health and safety? What about environmental impact or community impact? How could we measure the stronger family aspects of your enterprise? 

Pestun is a proud Métis woman who credits her grandmother, a Métis elder in Manitoba in the 1930s, with learning about resilience and resourcefulness. As farmers, her grandparents lived off the land. They valued family and community and were always willing to share what they had. Pestun’s ideas for the future mean revisiting the past. 

“When we think about Indigenous communities and how they functioned, I think the principles are changing now. We’re seeing women entrepreneurs starting micro-sized businesses or working together to form co-ops.”

Greater accountability and different measurements of value are starting to happen with organizations like B-corporation and the rise of ESG reporting. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) is at the forefront for many organizations, even though the idea has been around for decades. 

Gro Harlem Bundtlund, Norway’s first female prime minister and Chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development (known as the Brundtland Commission), put sustainable development on the international agenda with the Commission’s landmark report, Our Common Future

Leslie Kern is a Canadian scholar, geographer and author focused on feminist cities, city-building and reimagining home and family

Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa is founder and chair of the non-profit organization 8 80 Cities and is the first ambassador of the World Urban Parks with a mission to create safe and happy cities that prioritize people’s wellbeing. 

Kate Raworth has been talking about doughnut economics for years. Accountability and social impact is being addressed in the finance community with Leanne Keddie’s research on sustainable accounting.

But profit is still a driver for banks. We live in a capitalist society and by its nature, capitalism is not inclusive. 

“If you look at the financial system or angel investors, venture capitalists or lenders, they all want to see how profitable the company is–or will be,” Pestun says. 

So what will it take for change to happen? 

A revised definition of success? Redefining value? More data to prove that women entrepreneurs are profitable? Agreeing that a micro-sized business can have major impact?  

Want Different Metrics? Ask Different Questions

Lenders use the traditional five C’s of credit to gauge the creditworthiness of potential borrowers. The five C’s are: character (read: credit history), capacity (debt-to-income ratio), capital (how much money you have), collateral (assets that act as security for a loan) and conditions (purpose and amount of the loan, prevailing interest rates). 

But what if the five C’s aligned more with values and purpose over financials. We need money, yes, but what if there was greater emphasis on why the enterprise was being created?

What if the business was going to create a healthier neighbourhood, or safer schools, or increase the overall wellbeing of a population? What if a product or service provided food, shelter or educational outcomes? What if a business was about art and creativity that was measured in community impact? 

What if it was a different system altogether?

Flash Forward 20 Years 

It’s 2041. Rural Alberta. Shannon Pestun is 65 years old. She is out riding her horse on the property she shares with six other women and their partners. A billion people died from the novel Ceasariovirus (CEASE-55) that swept the globe in 2032. Water is scarce in many regions. Border patrol is enforced. Global trade has come to a halt. There is life on Mars.

Two thousand kilometres away, in Tkaranto (formerly Toronto), purposepreneur Lee Ladybug puts the finishing touches on their info kit for the CEVO (Care Economy Virtual Office) where Pestun is an advisory board member. The bi-monthly review is in 24 hours. Applicants are judged blindly and most are approved and given a purposepreneur lender grant (PLG). 

Racialized barriers don’t exist. Capitalism is no longer toxic. There is no stereotyping. 

Lee Ladybug is one third of Insectifit, an enterprise that produces protein beverages from locusts. They have crowdsourced production of their test product, Beetlejuice, that won best new beverage at the Canadian Natural Exhibition (CNE). Predictive modelling shows that if Beetlejuice is distributed to learning centres and care hospices across the country, Insectifit will be able to create 100 PLGs to give back to CEVO. Their products are sold on a subscription-based model, sliding scale. Insectifit is made up of three sub-companies: Bug Out, the farming collective that grows and harvests the insects in an ethical manner; Venus Source, an electric energy enterprise that packages and ships the product; and Spidey Sense Marketing who promote the wellness, environmental and social stability benefits of Insectifit. 

Pestun arrives at the stable and watches the sunset. She dismounts the horse and lands on solid ground with her riding boots.

She loves what she does. 

She is grateful to have the opportunity to give back and to use her life experiences to pay it forward to the next generation. The Gifting Circle Bursary for Indigenous Women in Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University that she started just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Pestun is honoured and thrilled there are now thirty-two other similar bursaries associated at post-secondary institutions across Canada. 

She reflects on The Finance Cafe and how it has grown into the hub for girls and women across the country and beyond. The original vision came to fruition.  

She thinks back to her fortieth birthday, twenty-five years ago, when she gave herself the gift of riding again. She remembers how her best ideas came to her when she was out riding. Solutions arrived when she was galloping in the field with the wind on her face, the sound of hooves on the soil, deeply connected to the natural world.

Pestun strokes the horse’s neck then lets it run free into the field.


Publishers Note: The Fifth Wave is a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to 30% participation by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth Media partner and ally. Apply here.

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Allied Arts & Media

How To Navigate a World Designed To Fail You

Screenshot via The FOLD’s Instagram.

Imagine being saddled at birth with a debt you must repay to gain your freedom? That question fired up the imagination of author and activist Jael Richardson as she created the dystopian world in the novel, Gutter Child, where a nation is divided into communities of the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. Is it a metaphor for racism?

As a recent guest on The Fine Print, a conversation series with contemporary feminist authors, Richardson teased out this interpretation with attendees, reminding them that while she mentions the skin colour of her characters, no one is labelled Black or white. There are Olo people and Sossi people in this world, and readers project the systemic oppression on her disadvantaged young protagonist, Elimina Dubois, and other students who attend an Academy where they train and learn how to work off their debts to society. Elimina was taken from the Gutter at birth and raised in the Mainland as part of a social experiment initiated by the Mainland government. But when her mother dies (on page five) she ends up at the Academy, alone and afraid.

“I started thinking about laws and constitutions and how they’re designed,” Richardson told the attentive audience when asked about the catalyst for the book. “How systems are built, and who builds them and who they’re built for.”

Richardson admits she had endless discussions with her editor as she worked out the logistics of her imagined have- and have-not world. What did the geographical landscape look like? How many socio-economic classes were there? What resources did they have? What opportunities or employment options were available to some and not others? Why?

Though fictional, the world is remarkably recognizable as any society where race and class determine who is privileged and who is disadvantaged. The book adds gender to that mix — women struggle against harsh and unjust situations and are forced to make hard choices. “What happens to women and their children in any world says a lot about the conditions of that world,” Richardson said in the interview. The difficult circumstances in which she placed her characters compelled her to add a disclaimer at the beginning of the book:

“This book is a work of fiction that explores a perilous world rooted in injustice. As in life, the effects of injustice impact many of the characters. Take care with your heart and your mind as you read. Pause and rest as required. These are difficult times.”

As in the real world, Gutter Child offers no quick fix to systemic racism. Systems protect the people who created them. And Richardson isn’t optimistic of that changing anytime soon. “People at the top would have to be willing to acknowledge that they [systems] are built on lies and falsehoods, and be willing humbly to take it all apart and give it to all of us to help build them.”

To avoid being overwhelmed by what isn’t changing, Richardson focussed on how people create bonds and community, even when forced into disadvantaged spaces. “Why do people make choices? And why do other people make different choices? And what makes each of those things different or important to pay attention to?”

Ultimately, Richardson hopes to get people reading and that Gutter Child can start conversations about oppression and how to break down unjust systems. The book certainly got the conversation flowing after the formal interview on The Fine Print as guests lingered to chat to the author about how the book jolted them into seeing and thinking in new ways about systemic oppression. One person said she was reading it with her twelve-year old son; another planned to do so with their young niece.

Richardson is considering a sequel to Gutter Child, which has become a national best seller since its publication in January 2021 and is a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award that will be announced May 27, 2021. The follow up book promises to be another dystopian tale – set in a nowhere land that could be anywhere. “As a Black woman who has sort of only lived in one place, but also felt like I belong to no place…dystopia is my favourite place to play.”

You can “play” more with Jael Richardson, who founded and serves as the Artistic Director, at the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), which runs until May 15, 2021. If you’re late to sign up, recordings of author interviews, workshops and readings are available to watch and re-watch until May 31, 2021.

The Fine Print is hosted and produced by Liisbeth Media and Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC).

Watch the video highlights of the conversation here on YouTube.

Read an excerpt from Gutter Child (Harper Collins, 2020) © Jael Richardson 2021.

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Allied Arts & Media

The Forgotten Feminist

Petra Kelly circa 1985.

To round our women’s history month in March 2021, a group of feminists gathered for the season finale of The Fine Print, an online conversation series with contemporary feminist authors. Topic of discussion? A novel inspired by one of the original founding members of the German Green Party, a revolutionary activist who fought for human rights, peace and environmental justice. The brilliant young political firebrand espoused ideas so far ahead of her time in the 1980s, we could easily imagine her in a national leadership role today, along with the likes of New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Finland’s Sanna Marin, Iceland’s Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

So why don’t people know more about Petra Kelly?

For author Shaena Lambert, the answer is all too familiar and tragic – history erases female leaders and their accomplishments. The Canadian author set out to resurrect the life of Petra Kelly who transformed global and environmental politics in the 1980s before she was murdered at the age of 44. Police reported that while she was asleep, Kelly was shot in the temple by her lover and ex-NATO General Gert Bastien, who then turned the gun on himself. Their bodies were not found for an estimated eighteen days – Kelly, still an elected Green politician at the time, was already in the process of being forgotten.

Lambert, also an environmental activist, met Kelly at a peace demonstration she helped organize in Vancouver, B.C. in 1986 and was transfixed by her charisma and inclusive vision. “I met her personally. I met the general and I was swept up by her vision,” Lambert said during her interview on The Fine Print. “It was so much larger than the vision we had in our peace movement out here in Vancouver. The interconnections that she made between peace and ecology and human rights and Tibet and sexual freedom.”

Decades after that event, Lambert saw Petra Kelly’s photograph in a museum at Checkpoint Charlie, the famed crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It was the same photo that Kelly had sent to Lambert all those years ago.

In that moment, Lambert felt a zing and knew she had to write about Kelly. “I just walked out of that museum changed, with that sort of electric feeling the hairs on my arms were all lit up,” Lambert told The Fine Print guests.

To answer the question of why Petra Kelly slipped so quickly from memory, Lambert wrote the novel primarily from the point of view of Manfred Schwartz, a composite of several Green activists who were close to Kelly. In the novel, he is also an ex-lover (she had many) who struggles to understand her legacy and her often contradictory choices. Did she give up on the Greens? Did they give up on her? How could a peace activist fall in love with a Nazi officer?

“You’ve been the corpse for too long,” Manfred Schwartz narrates in the novel. “I’ve let your final identity define you, your murder turn you into a murder victim, as though that’s who you were, your meaning, your self. As a feminist, how you would have hated that! All your complexity, your laughter, your fears, reduced to a body in a bed.”

Giller-award winning author Madeleine Thien hailed Petra as “a tour de force” and “a masterpiece – a fierce, humane and powerful novel for our times…the story of generations reckoning with history, sex, the land, guilt, and our troubled future, is at every moment personal and political.”

Cover of novel, Petra by Shaena Lambert
Petra, a novel by Shaena Lambert

After the formal interview on The Fine Print, guests engaged with Lambert in a lively informal conversation. The author shared her thoughts from Cortez Island in B.C.: “I’m feeling an intersection more between activism and my work as a writer than I ever have before.”

Many at the online event voiced their astonishment at how Petra Kelly’s feminism addresses the issues of today—climate crisis, economic uncertainty, land sovereignty—nearly 40 years after her death.

As Petra narrator Manfred Schwartz puts it: “And now, in 1980, the only sane way forward, for so many of our generation—the way to channel both our love and our fury—was the new Green Party.”

If Petra Kelly were alive today, she would be 74 years old.

Petra is Lambert’s fourth book. She was the featured guest in March 2021, on The Fine Print, a conversation series with contemporary feminist authors hosted and produced by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC). Watch the video highlights of the conversation here on YouTube. 

Read an excerpt from Petra (Penguin Random House Canada, 2020) © Shaena Lambert 2020 

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Allied Arts & Media

A Cure for White Ladies

Leanna Betasamosake Simpson, author of Noopiming: A Cure for White Ladies (Photo provided).
Leanna Betasamosake Simpson, author of Noopiming: A Cure for White Ladies (Photo provided).

Is it a novel? Long poem? A collection of vignettes? Leanne Betasamosake Simpson isn’t concerned with what you call the book. She did not set out to write a commercial novel with Noopiming: A Cure for White Ladies.

The Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg author, scholar, musician, and storyteller draws on Anishinaabe storytelling traditions, which don’t follow the construct of the Western narrative — protagonist, antagonist, conflict, climax, resolution. “I still wanted to tell a story in longer form with the characters that had come up with in (her earlier works) Islands of Decolonial Love and This Accident of Being Lost,” says Simpson. “I fell in love with these characters and carried them with me in my life.”

The result is a radically different kind of novel and unique reading experience. As Alexis Pauline Gumbs blurb: “The book is poem, novel, prophecy, handbook, and a side-eyed critique all at once.” Some pages have just one sentence or paragraph, which Simpson describes as, “very much a reflection of a contemporary Indigenous experience under colonialism where you have these pieces of yourself, pieces of culture, pieces of language and your sort of always trying to put them together.” The white space also allows the reader to take a moment to pause, reflect, think. Let the language and the story to sink in.  

Relationality plays a large role in Anishinaabe storytelling and this book: everything that is alive has a spirit. The seven main characters in Noopiming appear and reappear as humans and non-human forms, such as geese, caribou and maple trees. They exist in a collective time and space in a constructed urban-settler world and natural spaces such as parks, the lake, the sky.

Says Simpson: “The book is very much about the present and building Anishinaabe worlds with whatever we have. I see that practice as being something that has been a beautiful form of resistance that so many Anishinaabe families have engaged in and so many women in my family have engaged in.”

A circular idea of time and space — versus a linear past, present, future timeline — is also something Simpson incorporated into the work. Circles and cycles are important in Anishinaabe thought and Noopiming is structured so that a reader can open it and start reading at any page, with any character.

Simpson produced several multimedia assets to help bring the book to life while launching it during a pandemic, when everything has gone virtual. She recorded a short, four track EP called the Noopiming Sessions over original music composed with her singer songwriter sister, Ansley Simpson. And Solidification is a video collaboration blending an immersive reading (by Simpson) over a wintery soundscape of drone and vocal composed by Ansley Simpson, along with visuals from Sammy Chien of Chimerik 似不像.

Noopiming: The Cure For White Ladies is Simpson’s sixth book. She was the featured guest in January 2021, on The Fine Print, a conversation series with contemporary feminist authors hosted by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC).

Read an excerpt from Noopiming: The Cure For White Ladies (House of Anansi, 2020) © Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 2020.

The Fine Print is hosted and produced by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons.

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Allied Arts & Media

Has Feminist Organizing Stalled?

Firebrand author Nora Loreto thinks feminism needs to get its act together, that is, in terms of bringing various strands of thought and action into a coordinated organization to advance the cause.

The author of Take Back the Fight: Organizing Feminism for the Digital Age (Fernwood Publishing, 2020) made the argument as a featured guest in November 2020, on The Fine Print, a conversation series with contemporary feminist authors hosted by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC).

She writes in her book that “a new feminist movement” needs locations to debate new definitions and theories of feminism in good faith “to correct historical wrongs of mainstream feminism” and “create consensus that can move a diverse movement composed of many different parts towards the same direction.”

During the show, she said that various groups of feminists in Canada and around the globe are working for change and creating knowledge, but that fight is splintered. People are working in silos. Loreto argues that we need to come together to build an inclusive movement that has strength in numbers.

“Just as many feminists are doing, confronting white supremacy within feminist thinking and action is the greatest challenge that a new feminist movement must take on,” Loreto wrote. “We need a space and a structure to help navigate these debates that isn’t simply through social media or the academy.”

She argues that feminists need a place to meet and debate in good faith, find common ground, listen to and show compassion for each other. Such spaces allow activists to develop ideas, sharpen arguments and emerge strong as leaders.

Take Back the Fight is part history lesson and part handbook. Loreto uses feminism as an action verb. The book cites examples of what feminism once was, where is it now, and what it could be. Rabble.ca calls it “mandatory reading for young feminists in Canada”.

Loreto doesn’t claim to have the answers or a solution, but she presents scenarios that require collective debate and discussion. She credits the immigrant labour movement as a source of inspiration of a model that is working. The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is a collective of disparate workers who share values and are working together for fairness and change. Black Lives Matter, climate justice activists, and Indigenous Land Defender movements like Tiny House Warriors are also groups to watch and learn from.

Read an excerpt from Take Back The Fight: Organizing Feminism for the Digital Age (Fernwood Publishing, 2020) © Nora Loreto 2020 

The Fine Print is hosted and produced by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons.

For unfiltered political views and commentary, check out Nora and Sandy Talk Politics podcast. Nora discusses pressing issues of our time with Sandy Hudson. They dig deep and swear often, and tackle topics in a way you won’t hear anywhere else.

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