Cover image for Why Indigenous literatures matter / Daniel Heath Justice.
Why Indigenous literatures matter / Daniel Heath Justice.
Publication Information:
Waterloo, Ontario : Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
xxii, 284 pages : map ; 21 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
819.09897 JUS Book Adult General Collection

On Order



Part survey of the field of Indigenous literary studies, part cultural history, and part literary polemic, Why Indigenous Literatures Matter asserts the vital significance of literary expression to the political, creative, and intellectual efforts of Indigenous peoples today. In considering the connections between literature and lived experience, this book contemplates four key questions at the heart of Indigenous kinship traditions: How do we learn to be human? How do we become good relatives? How do we become good ancestors? How do we learn to live together? Blending personal narrative and broader historical and cultural analysis with close readings of key creative and critical texts, Justice argues that Indigenous writers engage with these questions in part to challenge settler-colonial policies and practices that have targeted Indigenous connections to land, history, family, and self. More importantly, Indigenous writers imaginatively engage the many ways that communities and individuals have sought to nurture these relationships and project them into the future.

This provocative volume challenges readers to critically consider and rethink their assumptions about Indigenous literature, history, and politics while never forgetting the emotional connections of our shared humanity and the power of story to effect personal and social change. Written with a generalist reader firmly in mind, but addressing issues of interest to specialists in the field, this book welcomes new audiences to Indigenous literary studies while offering more seasoned readers a renewed appreciation for these transformative literary traditions.

Author Notes

Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation) is Professor of First Nations and Indigenous Studies and English at the University of British Columbia, where he also holds the Canada Research-Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture. He has published widely in the field of Indigenous literary studies, and his critical and creative work focuses on issues of Indigenous being, belonging, and other-than-human kinship.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Indigenous literature scholar and fantasy novelist Justice (Our Fire Survives the Storm) assembles a vital history and defense of First Nations writing. Centered around four key questions-"How do we learn to be human? How do we behave as good relatives? How do we become good ancestors? And how do we learn to live together?"-this book is a cross between an academic reader and a polemic on indigenous literatures, with a focus on voices often left out of the canon, such as those of women and queer/two-spirit individuals. Justice makes strong, well-reasoned arguments that indigenous liberation is essential for indigenous peoples to survive and recover from colonialism, structuring his thesis around issues of racism and cultural appropriation, such as when white authors attempt to tell indigenous stories as if they were their own. He also addresses Western literature's tendency toward a unified standard of "realism" that dismisses or downplays indigenous fantasy, surrealism, and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic works as genre works or escapism not worthy of the same merit as similar work by non-indigenous writers. By embracing a wider canon of indigenous authors, Justice explores personhood, queer identities, ancestry, and speculative works (dubbed "wonderworks"), and offers erudite, passionate analysis of and paths toward discovering new material. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. xiii
Preface / Notes for the Long Rebellionp. xvi
Introduction Stories That Wound, Stories That Healp. 1
Chapter 1 How Do We Learn to Be Human?p. 33
Chapter 2 How Do We Behave as Good Relatives?p. 71
Chapter 3 How Do We Become Good Ancestors?p. 113
Chapter 4 How Do We Learn to Live Together?p. 157
Chapter 5 Reading the Rupturesp. 183
Conclusion Keeping a Firep. 205
Appendix A Year of #HonouringIndigenousWritersp. 213
Bibliographic Essay / Citational Relationsp. 241
Copyright Acknowledgementsp. 265
Indexp. 267