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From Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel comes a groundbreaking, deeply personal, and devastating autobiographical meditation that attempts to address the complicated legacies of Canada's residential school system and contemporary Indigenous existence. As a Nisga'a writer, Jordan Abel often finds himself in a position where he is asked to explain his relationship to Nis From Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel comes a groundbreaking, deeply personal, and devastating autobiographical meditation that attempts to address the complicated legacies of Canada's residential school system and contemporary Indigenous existence. As a Nisga'a writer, Jordan Abel often finds himself in a position where he is asked to explain his relationship to Nisga'a language, Nisga'a community, and Nisga'a cultural knowledge. However, as an intergenerational survivor of residential school--both of his grandparents attended the same residential school--his relationship to his own Indigenous identity is complicated to say the least. NISHGA explores those complications and is invested in understanding how the colonial violence originating at the Coqualeetza Indian Residential School impacted his grandparents' generation, then his father's generation, and ultimately his own. The project is rooted in a desire to illuminate the realities of intergenerational survivors of residential school, but sheds light on Indigenous experiences that may not seem to be immediately (or inherently) Indigenous. Drawing on autobiography and a series of interconnected documents (including pieces of memoir, transcriptions of talks, and photography), NISHGA is a book about confronting difficult truths and it is about how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples engage with a history of colonial violence that is quite often rendered invisible.


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From Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel comes a groundbreaking, deeply personal, and devastating autobiographical meditation that attempts to address the complicated legacies of Canada's residential school system and contemporary Indigenous existence. As a Nisga'a writer, Jordan Abel often finds himself in a position where he is asked to explain his relationship to Nis From Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel comes a groundbreaking, deeply personal, and devastating autobiographical meditation that attempts to address the complicated legacies of Canada's residential school system and contemporary Indigenous existence. As a Nisga'a writer, Jordan Abel often finds himself in a position where he is asked to explain his relationship to Nisga'a language, Nisga'a community, and Nisga'a cultural knowledge. However, as an intergenerational survivor of residential school--both of his grandparents attended the same residential school--his relationship to his own Indigenous identity is complicated to say the least. NISHGA explores those complications and is invested in understanding how the colonial violence originating at the Coqualeetza Indian Residential School impacted his grandparents' generation, then his father's generation, and ultimately his own. The project is rooted in a desire to illuminate the realities of intergenerational survivors of residential school, but sheds light on Indigenous experiences that may not seem to be immediately (or inherently) Indigenous. Drawing on autobiography and a series of interconnected documents (including pieces of memoir, transcriptions of talks, and photography), NISHGA is a book about confronting difficult truths and it is about how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples engage with a history of colonial violence that is quite often rendered invisible.

30 review for Nishga

  1. 4 out of 5

    df parizeau

    Teachers from high school through post-graduate studies, take note: this book belongs in the classroom. What does it mean to be dislocated? What does it mean to only have access to your personal and familial history through fragments and scraps--some of which you aren't even aware are connected to you in the moment? These are some of the questions that Jordan Abel confronts in NISHGA. While it's true that from the standpoint of commercially available biographies/mempirs, what Abel is doing here is Teachers from high school through post-graduate studies, take note: this book belongs in the classroom. What does it mean to be dislocated? What does it mean to only have access to your personal and familial history through fragments and scraps--some of which you aren't even aware are connected to you in the moment? These are some of the questions that Jordan Abel confronts in NISHGA. While it's true that from the standpoint of commercially available biographies/mempirs, what Abel is doing here is novel. However, I think that it is important to acknowledge that for many Indigenous folks, it is a reality that they cannot conceptualize their personal histories in a non-linear manner. This is an important book because it gives Indigenous and non-Indigenous people a concrete visual of what it is like to try to piece together a history, when a person and their people have been displaced and directly targeted by colonial genocide.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ❀ Susan G

    This is a book that likely needs to be read in a "real book" format to truly appreciate the blending of art and prose, Jordan's story and his complicated family story and the complexity of the generational trauma of residential schools. It started as a thesis and is a bit of a stream of consciousness as the author deals with his family issues, residential schools, racism. He incorporates his dad's art into his own art despite their estrangement. I hope that this book leads to reflection, apprecia This is a book that likely needs to be read in a "real book" format to truly appreciate the blending of art and prose, Jordan's story and his complicated family story and the complexity of the generational trauma of residential schools. It started as a thesis and is a bit of a stream of consciousness as the author deals with his family issues, residential schools, racism. He incorporates his dad's art into his own art despite their estrangement. I hope that this book leads to reflection, appreciation and a strong future together as readers listen, learn and reflect on the words and the art! "When someone tells us their story, that becomes a part of us"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Today is Canada Day. Over the years how I feel and celebrate this day has changed a lot. With the recent recovering of childrens remains on former residential school locations across Canada I am more aware than ever of Canada's past and what our government and churches have done to the Indigenous communities in Canada. Much work needs to be done. Much listening to Indigenous peoples on what they need at this time needs to be done. Difficult conversations with our families and especially our chil Today is Canada Day. Over the years how I feel and celebrate this day has changed a lot. With the recent recovering of childrens remains on former residential school locations across Canada I am more aware than ever of Canada's past and what our government and churches have done to the Indigenous communities in Canada. Much work needs to be done. Much listening to Indigenous peoples on what they need at this time needs to be done. Difficult conversations with our families and especially our children about Canada's horrific legacy need to be done. Throughout June, which was Indigenous History Month, I read this brilliant, painful and groundbreaking memoir. This is not a book to be devoured but a book to slowly take in and reflect on. This book is essential in understanding the fallout of residential schools. Abel shares of what it was like growing up disconnected from his Nishga roots, of tracing his families history in residential schools and offering insight on being an intergenerational survivor, of his mental health struggles and his experience of Indigeneity. I was moved and brokenhearted as I read this. Such a powerful, and poetic piece. The way Abel blends photography, images, documents, transcripts and memoir was a very inovative way to share his story. Abel is from B.C. so much of this centers around locales near me which I found interesting. I am not an own voice reviewer for this book so I reccomend seeking out thoes reviews but I have hope this book helps Indigenous readers to feel seen, heard and helps them to heal in some way. Absolutely reccomended reading. I strongly think this book should be a part of the school curriculum too, it would be a great teaching tool for educating future generations. • For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Carter

    Research-creation is a new term for me thanks to this stunning, brief book. As others have said - get the physical copy, the e-reader wouldn't do it justice. It's a tactile experience, lots of arresting juxtaposition, negative space that speaks volumes. There are ideas around identity and belonging that are all new to me here I will be thinking of this one for a long time. Research-creation is a new term for me thanks to this stunning, brief book. As others have said - get the physical copy, the e-reader wouldn't do it justice. It's a tactile experience, lots of arresting juxtaposition, negative space that speaks volumes. There are ideas around identity and belonging that are all new to me here I will be thinking of this one for a long time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne-Marie

    This was probably one of the more unique and undefinable non-fiction books I've read in a while. Jordan Abel, towards the end of the text, calls it a "research-creation", which 'combines elements of creative-nonfiction, found archival documentation, photography, concrete poetry, and academic inquiry.' Throughout the book, Abel discusses the personal and broader impacts of intergenerational trauma from the residential school system in Canada and the complexity of Indigenous identity as a result. He This was probably one of the more unique and undefinable non-fiction books I've read in a while. Jordan Abel, towards the end of the text, calls it a "research-creation", which 'combines elements of creative-nonfiction, found archival documentation, photography, concrete poetry, and academic inquiry.' Throughout the book, Abel discusses the personal and broader impacts of intergenerational trauma from the residential school system in Canada and the complexity of Indigenous identity as a result. He especially focuses on the experiences of people who have, like him, have been stripped of/dispossessed of their community and history, and also identify as urban Indigenous. He also discusses the argument/fact that residential schools are always present in Indigenous art and literature, even in their explicit absence, and that was a really important and impactful moment of realization for me (and I hope other readers). The mix of personal 'notes', interviews and transcripts of presentations/talks, photography, and poetry really strengthened the thesis of the book and made it an engaging, and emotional read. I particularly appreciated the overlaying of Indigenous art (notably Indigenous art from the West coast) where in the art is overlays a photograph. The use of white space in the art and text was also really effective in supporting his ideas and experiences, and appears multiple times throughout the book. There's a lot of really great ideas captured in his book and I want to tab/annotate my own copy one day. ​ Content/trigger warning: The book includes printouts of websites discussing suicide and self-harm. Mentions of residential schools don't go into detail, but are a topic discussed throughout the text.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Enid Wray

    I had no idea how to describe this, until Abel does so himself (p167) in talking about his PhD (which this basically is): a ‘research creation’... creative non-fiction, found archival documentation, photography, concrete poetry, and academic inquiry… all wrapped up in one. Yes there is lots to chew on here as he wrestles with trying to write his way home, to finding what it means to be Nishg’a… Fundamentally, this is an exploration of his own indigeneity... Along the way he wonders who has a rig I had no idea how to describe this, until Abel does so himself (p167) in talking about his PhD (which this basically is): a ‘research creation’... creative non-fiction, found archival documentation, photography, concrete poetry, and academic inquiry… all wrapped up in one. Yes there is lots to chew on here as he wrestles with trying to write his way home, to finding what it means to be Nishg’a… Fundamentally, this is an exploration of his own indigeneity... Along the way he wonders who has a right to claim to be indigenous; explores inter-generational trauma… and the ways in which it has impacted him, even though he never knew his indigenous family; muses on how the f/act of being a witness to someone’s story means that you carry a part of them with you; and wonders what reconciliation looks like, and how exactly do we de-colonise? All important stuff, and generally quite powerful, but… for me I struggled with the format, - even though I totally get that ‘form and function’ are intimately connected in this telling… that the gaps in the narrative (the white space, the blanks on the page), the disjointed inclusions of little bits from all manner or sources (books, court documents, moms little notebooks, family court judgements, police reports, TRC documents and more), the ‘fuzzy’ images (which become clear when the connection is made to the residential school his grandparents attended), and more, are critically important parts of the story-telling. I think, in part, my struggles with reading this are an artefact of having read it on an e-reader. I think that the reading experience is likely quite different on the printed page. I look forward to an opportunity to be able to get my hands on a hard copy of this, and spend more time with it. 3.5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Briar Ransberry

    This “research creation”, as Abel describes it, is brilliant, painful, beautifully artistic, and practical in a way that is really astonishing. The reader needs to sit back and “witness” this book. Let it wash over. It’s not a mining expedition, it is an experience. Abel layers his own poetry and his father’s Nisga’a artwork and family photos over each other. He includes archival government documents and personal legal documents. He transcribes interviews and weaves amongst them notes of persona This “research creation”, as Abel describes it, is brilliant, painful, beautifully artistic, and practical in a way that is really astonishing. The reader needs to sit back and “witness” this book. Let it wash over. It’s not a mining expedition, it is an experience. Abel layers his own poetry and his father’s Nisga’a artwork and family photos over each other. He includes archival government documents and personal legal documents. He transcribes interviews and weaves amongst them notes of personal reflection. He explores questions that are often misunderstood or not asked in what, to me, amounts to a meditation on identity. What does it mean to be an urban Indigenous survivor of intergenerational trauma caused by Residential Schools? What does it mean to be an Indigenous person who grows up separated from both one’s traditional lands and community? How does one deal with the ignorant (unintentionally or otherwise) questions from white people? What does it mean to give testimony? To witness testimony? In what ways might Residential Schools underpin and underpaint most (all?) Indigenous literature? All of this is woven together in a way that questions narrative and poetic forms. It forces the reader to accept a format and style that is new and unfamiliar in a way that makes me think of being adrift - akin, perhaps, to the way many Indigenous people speak of being set adrift after leaving residential school- not quite “fitting in” with traditional or mainstream worlds. In a way, it seems, that Abel feels likewise disconnected from his indigeneity. Leave your preconceptions behind and just try to witness this important work. This one will stay with me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patricia L.

    This is a quiet and emotive way to show and tell the effects being a Nishga and not knowing anything about being a Nishga. The slow pacing of the book with empty spaces and overplayed images matches the pacing of the authors/illustrator's lack of relationship with his father. His father is a ghost of an image whose parents were both schooled in the same residential institution. The artist's history is passed on quietly to be within his empty spaces. This is a quiet and emotive way to show and tell the effects being a Nishga and not knowing anything about being a Nishga. The slow pacing of the book with empty spaces and overplayed images matches the pacing of the authors/illustrator's lack of relationship with his father. His father is a ghost of an image whose parents were both schooled in the same residential institution. The artist's history is passed on quietly to be within his empty spaces.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sinéad O'Brien

    This is a profound and deeply devastating work about IRS and intergenerational survivors. Abel thoughtfully articulates an experience of disconnection often misunderstood and under-examined in the discourse about IRS. It is brave, painful and necessary. It was a privilege to witness.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Clivemichael

    Powerful and articulate expression.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin Kowal

    A beautiful, powerful, and somewhat bleak book that opens complex perspectives. Resonant to read after The Marrow Thieves and close to Alison Bechdel’s parental memoirs.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lyz

    A memoir that reads more like items found in an archival box. I really liked this unconventional format and am eager to see the finished copy (I read and advance version) in it's full glory. The transcription narratives and poetry convey the complicated emotions of the author in a unique way. More than storytelling, this book gives the reader more than just words to ponder. And you will ponder. There is a lot to chew on in this piece. Jordan Abel has bravely taken us with him through his journey A memoir that reads more like items found in an archival box. I really liked this unconventional format and am eager to see the finished copy (I read and advance version) in it's full glory. The transcription narratives and poetry convey the complicated emotions of the author in a unique way. More than storytelling, this book gives the reader more than just words to ponder. And you will ponder. There is a lot to chew on in this piece. Jordan Abel has bravely taken us with him through his journey of identity, history, belonging of place. The impact of this work stays with you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Craig Paulson

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alisha Samnani

  15. 4 out of 5

    AnyD

  16. 5 out of 5

    shayne avec i grec

  17. 5 out of 5

    Isabel

  18. 5 out of 5

    ek

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steffi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jieun

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meghan Elizabeth

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Lumsden

  24. 5 out of 5

    Billy-Ray Belcourt

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erin W

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aleesha K

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ted Landrum

  29. 4 out of 5

    Riri

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emilie

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