Radiant Voices

My curation style weaves three threads: radical social change, amplifying voices at the edges, and connecting emerging artists and writers with well-seasoned ones. There is a fourth, though it is less a thread and more a penchant: I genuinely gravitate to the subtle stories that entwine the everyday thriving amid the realities of suffering, struggle, and hardship. As well, for this list I thought about work that captures other ways of being in relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with the more-than-human kin, including the land. Stories and works that support us to feel more connected. This spirit of connection was behind the curation of Radiant Voices. Lastly, I always begin with my friends, and then it radiates out to friends of friends.


Birdsong, by Julie Flett

Birdsong, by the incomparable Cree-Metis writer and artist Julie Flett, is pure magic. The connecting and thoughtful poetry alongside the stunning illustrations take you on a subtle but profound journey of witnessing a special relationship between an elder, Agnes, and a kid, Katherena. Their shared relationships with landscapes, languages, the moon, art making, and birds is an invitation to us all to stop and see our own connections with our own ecologies. What I think I like most about Birdsong is that it tells a story that is often not shared—one where knowledge-sharing goes in both directions: from the young to the old, and vice versa. Birdsong is a story for all ages, across all times. Thank you, Julie, for continuing to bring philosophical storytelling to our very youngest in respectful and honest ways.


Book Cover Flayed City

The Flayed City, by Hari Alluri

Every time I pick up The Flayed City by the extraordinary poet Hari Alluri I find something new. Hari’s poetry always gifts the reader in beautiful and surprising ways. His writing in TFC also evokes music while reading, because his words twist, move, and  often shock; they take you for a dance (if you’re willing). TFC is very much about displacement, or more precisely, as Hari’s said to me about it, “the work that emerged was less about displacement and more a transference of displacement into the text itself…” The Flayed City takes you across the many and often violent borders (real and imagined) that too many face—the nation-state ones, the city ones, the ones between humans and nature, and even the ones between literary genres. The Flayed City brings a cacophony of feelings, feelings that emerge with every line, and when we can tap into being present with our feelings we feel more alive, more connected. A line I visit often in The Flayed City is, “We are laughing upways on the street again, which is why we see the moon.” It’s like connecting with an old friend who delights and brings joy to me each time we meet. Thank you, Hari, for all the gifts.


The Gift Is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, artist, and activist Leanne Betasamoskake Simpson continues to create groundbreaking­­­­ and vital­­ work, and I highly recommend all of it. Leanne’s writings traverse styles and genres so beautifully and thoughtfully. For this list I chose an earlier book called The Gift is in the Making because one of the Anishinaabeg stories in it also appears in Radiant Voices and her EMMA Talk and I wanted to connect it to its source. According to Leanne, The Gift is in the Making was primarily written for “Nishnaabeg kids because they are both the inspiration and motivation for this project.” Leanne’s work always centres her people, and especially children, and this last part is why I gravitate to her work—her embodied respect and care for the youngest members of community is rarely seen in “adult” literary works. This book is all about love, an unconditional love that is the thread that connects her people to each other and to the land. It’s a world where all ages, genders, and the land are respected and loved.


Book Cover Resistance

Resistance, by Zainab Amadahy

“These people need me and I need them. That’s all I care about.” This quote from Resistance by the always engaging author Zainab Amadahy is why I included it on this list (well, not the only reason). I think Zainab’s work is vital and deserves to be amplified. She writes across genres, blending science, healing, and knowledges in all her creations. The main character in this engaging sci-fi book is Inez Xicay, who is mixed race, Latinx, African, and Indigenous, and she’s also a scientist and a medical researcher. She’s conflicted and powerful. The book deals with displacement straight on, and the destruction and violence to our communities and to the land that is caused by resource extraction and late capitalism. In this futuristic book (not unlike in our realities), climate disaster is ripping apart lives and communities, and women are the most affected by this violence and destruction. Resistance also centres the women as the leaders, as the ones who continue to hold the community together. This book is timely and I believe there is something in it for all of us, because as in the words of Chente, one of the characters in Resistance: “The crocodiles share a stomach, reminding us that, in a way, we all do and it doesn’t serve anyone to compete and fight.”


Hope Matters, by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb, and Tania Carter

The brilliant poet and Sto:lo author Lee Maracle has contributed so much to the world of books, and I sit with gratitude as I read this incredibly magical new book of poems called Hope Matters by Lee and her daughters, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter. There is something almost sacred and uniquely felt when reading a book of poetry that is sewn together by a mother and her daughters, and as Lee has said they also refer to this book as “Poetry on the Porch.” Intimate. Hope Matters is beautifully written, often tender and always powerful. I cannot recommend this book enough, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that they are doing another book, together—hurray!  Thank you to Lee, Columpa, and Tania for sharing your work with the world.


About Radiant Voices:

A collection of essays inspired by EMMA Talks, a speakers’ series committed to amplifying the voices of thinkers, activists, scholars, artists, and community builders who are also women-identified, trans, and gender-nonconforming folks.

From Idle No More to Black Lives Matter to the Me Too movements and more, one thing is certain: There is a burgeoning collective desire to hear non-dominant voices in subtle, curious, generative ways.

The Vancouver-based EMMA Talks speakers’ series amplifies the voices of women-identified, trans, and gender-nonconforming folks. Curated by carla bergman, the series showcases a diversity of writers, thinkers, activists, scholars, artists, and community builders. Radiant Voices is the anthology inspired by EMMA Talks.

Through engaging essays by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Silvia Federici, Vivek Shraya, Chief Janice George, dr. amina wadud, Astra Taylor, and others, seasoned writers align with emerging writers who share from a worldview that promotes anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-ageism, and anti-ableism, and much more. Themes of connection, rediscovery, creating, social justice, celebration, and matriarchy are revealed in these 21 essays.

This is an era in which the marginalized can publicly share their stories en masse. Now is the time to celebrate the eruption of all these radiant voices.

November 18, 2019
Books mentioned in this post
Radiant Voices

Radiant Voices

21 Feminist Essays for Rising Up Inspired by EMMA Talks
compiled by carla bergman
also available: eBook
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