Details

ISBN-10: 1571311750
ISBN-13: 9781571311757
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 03/08/2022
Dimensions: 8.50" L, 5.50" W, 0.70" H

Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water

Paperback

Price: $18.00

Overview

An Outside Magazine Favorite Book of 2021
A Book Riot Best Book of 2021
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2021


“Places do not belong to us. We belong to them.”

The child of South Asian migrants, Kazim Ali was born in London, lived as a child in the cities and small towns of Manitoba, and made a life in the United States. As a man passing through disparate homes, he has never felt he belonged to a place. And yet, one day, the celebrated poet and essayist finds himself thinking of the boreal forests and lush waterways of Jenpeg, a community thrown up around the building of a hydroelectric dam on the Nelson River, where he once lived for several years as a child. Does the town still exist, he wonders? Is the dam still operational?

When Ali goes searching, however, he finds not news of Jenpeg, but of the local Pimicikamak community. Facing environmental destruction and broken promises from the Canadian government, they have evicted Manitoba’s electric utility from the dam on Cross Lake. In a place where water is an integral part of social and cultural life, the community demands accountability for the harm that the utility has caused.

Troubled, Ali returns north, looking to understand his place in this story and eager to listen. Over the course of a week, he participates in community life, speaks with Elders and community members, and learns about the politics of the dam from Chief Cathy Merrick. He drinks tea with activists, eats corned beef hash with the Chief, and learns about the history of the dam, built on land that was never ceded, and Jenpeg, a town that now exists mostly in his memory. In building relationships with his former neighbors, Ali explores questions of land and power―and in remembering a lost connection to this place, finally finds a home he might belong to.

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Reviews
Praise for Northern Light

"A powerful, thoughtful, and beautifully written exploration of the narratives that we create and that are created for us." –Book Riot, "Best Books of 2021"


"In Northern Light . . . [Ali grapples] with his family's legacy as both victims and perpetrators of stolen land. On every page, he tries to decipher what it means to be 'from' a place, crafting poetic exploration of home, assimilation, and belonging."Outside Magazine, "Favorite Books of 2021"


"Ali's ethical imaginary is as finely honed and illuminating as his prose. . . . What a privilege his fine book is, what a joy to spend a week in Cross Lake beside Ali."World Literature Today

"Embedded in [Northern Light] . . . is the higher call to slow down and pay close attention to the injustices wrought upon the people of Cross Lake, including, as a result, its troubled youth. And to truly feel what it's like to be there, to reclaim a land that possesses you in return."Minneapolis Star Tribune


"A thoughtful memoir about what it means to call a place home, about the hidden stories of the places we think we belong to, and about what true belonging actually looks like."Book Riot

"Kazim Ali, an acute observer and listener, has helped bring voices of the Cross Lake community into our hearing. In this latest book, he shines some northern light over essential questions about identity, power, governance, and justice for all peoples."Anchorage Daily News

"Ali moves from writing a memoir to something else, something larger than the story of one person, one family, or even one place. . . . Northern Light transcends any one of these categorizations to become something much larger than the sum of its parts, a provocative consideration of what it means to belong to a place–and whether or not a place can ever belong to a person."Shelf Awareness

"By carrying us along on his journey to understand his love for a place, and by refusing to extract the 'truth' of tragedy from what he encounters, Ali draws readers into his own complicity, his own complex, frustrated love. We get invested in a community that is trying to work past centuries of colonial trauma, to give their kids a home worth living for. As a reader, I developed an amazed respect for every individual described so delicately within these pages." Los Angeles Review of Books


"One of Northern Light's greatest strengths is Ali's ability to weave between his personal connection to the land and the history of the people who call it home. . . . Ali's gift as a writer is the way he is able to present his story in a way that brings attention to the myriad issues facing Indigenous communities, from oil pipelines in the Dakotas to border walls running through Kumeyaay land."San Diego Union-Tribune

"Ali, known as a poet, brings his poetic sensibility to his literary reportage and descriptions of Cross Lake. . . . The result is prose that brings lyrical beauty, dignity, and life to a place that has not received the respect it rightly deserves. . . . Northern Light complicates our preconceived definitions of home, belonging, and identity, begging the reader to make every visit to their hometown a more nuanced, and perhaps more generous, experience."Adroit Journal

"Ali's book grapples with place, ecosystem, 'home, ' and how sometimes home is not an identifiable place. Through Ali's memories of living near the Nelson River in Canada, he discusses the survivance of a community and concerns of exploitation and colonialism. . . . I've already learned so much regarding this community and place I had not known of before."Ecotone

"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

"[Ali's] experiences are relayed in sensitive, crystalline prose, documenting how Cross Lake residents are working to reinvent their town and rebuild their traditional beliefs, language, and relationships with the natural world. . . . Though these topics are complex, they are untangled in an elegant manner."Foreword Reviews (starred review)

"A world traveler, not always by choice, ponders the meaning and location of home. . . . Ali alerts readers to the First Nations' struggles to fend off an open-pit titanium mine, a gas pipeline, and other water projects, taking care to include many Indigenous voices. . . . A graceful, elegant account even when reporting on the hard truths of a little-known corner of the world."Kirkus


"Northern Light is Ali's writerly effort to grapple with his and his family's history in a remote community in Canada. He recounts the formative years he spent on Indigenous lands as the child of Indian immigrants, learning about the impact of his father's work on a dam on both the people and the environment in Jenpeg. The story he tells–of beautiful people, a unique community, and settler colonial dynamics–is an important and powerful one. The poet's voice is evident in some of the most resonant passages, shaping the story Ali tells in wondrous ways."Book Riot, "9 Unforgettable Prose Books Written By Poets"

"This lyrical memoir is a balm for the soul."Literary Hub, "Recommended Climate Readings for March 2021"

"Ali's lyrical, hypnotic storytelling takes us on an unlikely journey to a place that only now exists in his childhood memories: a remote industrial community in the boreal forest of northern Canada. I was mesmerized by the voice of a poet who methodically and artistically recounts his once-in-a-lifetime journey to connect with a Cree tribe called the Pimicikamak, the original owners and occupiers of the land and water that mesmerized him as a child. The human landscape Kazim Ali creates in his work, interweaving his own familial and cultural disruption with those of the Pimicikamak Cree, is intriguing and profound."–Darrel McLeod, author of Mamaskatch

"In a cross-cultural exploration of home, Kazim Ali faces the reckoning of his family's legacy in the destruction of indigenous lands when he is welcomed to a Cree tribe known as the Pimicikamak. Poetically and precisely, Ali gives us an example of the ways we can learn to reconcile with the impact of our history with a story that shows the ways in which water connects all of us from lakes, rivers, and across oceans." –Riley Jay Davis, Next Chapter Booksellers

"In this slim memoir, Ali gives us a view of his childhood memories and the reality of what he finds upon return to the small community of his youth. Not Jenpeg, Manitoba Canada, but rather the Pimicikamak community. Here he learns of the damage done by the power company and the way the community members have responded and are dealing with the issues that damage has caused. Ali's gentle narrative points to the underlying story in a way that is both enlightening and enriching. Thank you." –Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore

Praise for Kazim Ali

"Reading Ali is an act of redemption even when the worst is spiked and wired with hatred and danger. His perspective on time is both a challenge and a balm."–The Rumpus

"Ali's lyrics are crafted with a controlled, delicate quality that never stops questioning, never stops teaching, never stops astounding."–American Poet

"Lyrical, political, humorous, light and deep–Ali strikes out in many directions. . . . The resulting harmonies–and even the discord–are beautiful."–Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

"A master of so many genres and forms–poetry, fiction, essay, memoir–Ali seems to manage the ultimate feat: to slip free from the limitations of these categories."–Rahul Mehta, author of Quarantine

"Ali's forceful use of musicality is incantatory, pushing his lyrics from the realm of the everyday into the unknown or even the sublime. . . . Ali also finds tension between the pulls of prayer and silence, void and profusion, the hidden and the overt. The result is a charged space in which a very contemporary voice takes on an elemental and numinous sheen."–Publishers Weekly

"The speed and energy of this language, and its confident movement, are undeniable and compelling. There is a lovely plenitude in the embroidery woven out of these journeys, inner and outer the rich and nuanced tracings of contemporary experience Ali offers here are reward enough."–Georgia Review

"What a gift Ali's Inquisition is, what a generosity, in its sustained and sustaining inhabitation of the mystery. That, without ignoring heartbreak or rage, it understands that we are always 'at the end of knowing, ' and shows us how we might reside there. And from which residence, Inquisition reminds me: love."–Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights

"Ali extends to us a living and moving wondering in Silver Road–an active and rational thinking, yes, though poured from the vessel of body, its clay, breath and frailty. . . . Here, I can 'stare into the dark of Nothing to see.' Then see both ancient and newborn constellations of theory, beliefs and dreaming; see the intersections; see relationships. . . . Ali's admission of aloneness . . . causes the space of loneliness itself to collapse."–Layli Long Soldier, author of Whereas

More Reviews

Details

ISBN-10: 1571311750
ISBN-13: 9781571311757
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 03/08/2022
Dimensions: 8.50" L, 5.50" W, 0.70" H
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