Kazim Ali & Danielle Geller
Life stories and geography get a little flipped around for what should be a compelling evening as poet, novelist, and essayist Kazim Ali, who lives and teaches in San Diego, writes of what happened with a Manitoba town he grew up in in his haunting, beautiful book, Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water (Milkweed), while Navajo writer Danielle Geller, living and teaching in Victoria, writes of her own growing up far south of there, and, in particular, retracing her mother’s life, in her powerful memoir, Dog Flowers (One World). These two know each other, so this should be an extra pleasure. This is Kazim Ali’s third virtual appearance with us this year, following his reading from the anthology of queer South Asian poetry, The World That Belongs to Us, and an evening he and poet Rick Barot shared, Kazim Ali reading from The Voice of Sheila Chandra.
“Poet Ali chronicles his return to the small Canadian town he lived in during early childhood in this layered memoir ... Upon his return to Jenpeg—built to house people constructing a dam on the Nelson River—he found that the town no longer exists and the native community, the Pimicikamak, were suffering the economic and environmental impacts of the dam ... Ali began to study the ways the dam changed the landscape ... as a way to empathize with the challenges faced by the Pimicikamak and to understand the legacy of the dam his family helped build ... Ali’s prose shines when recalling his interactions with members of the Pimicikamak community and friends. Those concerned with environmental justice or the plight of Indigenous peoples will want to give this a look.” - Publishers Weekly.
“Dog Flowers pulls the few remaining threads of an unraveled family life. This courageous, honest, desperate, tender, and compelling book tells a daughter’s story of her troubled mother. In Dog Flowers, we learn that a handful of threads can never reweave the blanket of family, or patch up what a mother’s abandonment has torn. What little we learn of Geller’s Navajo mother comes from collaged notes and journal entries, photographs and reportage; it’s a story full of gaps. Which is exactly what’s remarkable about this book: Geller does not seek to make anything whole but herself. She refuses to deal in the tropes of redemption and reconciliation—which just shows how much strength it takes not to judge another’s life or lie about it. Even her return to her mother’s Navajo Nation does not bring about an easy cultural reunion, although it does give us a satisfying sense that while an immediate family can fall apart, an extended family, a tribe, ties a tight web that might just hold.”—Heid E. Erdrich.