Why Indigenous Literatures Matter

Why Indigenous Literatures Matter

""Indigenous Studies" series" series

by Daniel Heath Justice
  • diversity
  • indigenous
  • literary

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.


Daniel Heath Justice, author

Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation) is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture at the University of British Columbia. A widely published scholar in Indigenous literary studies, he is the co-editor of the groundbreaking Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (2014) and author of a Cherokee literary history, a cultural history of badgers, and an Indigenous epic fantasy series.


  • Concise, engaging and readable, "Why Indigenous Literatures Matter" evokes Indigenous frameworks of relationality at every turn, whether the history of dispossession and removal, or pressing contemporary issues like reconciliation and climate change. Ultimately, this book argues that Indigenous literatures matter because they transform lives. The last chapter, ‘Reading the Ruptures’, is startling, moving, brilliant storytelling — troubling and transformative tribalography, laced with humour, provocation, and insight. The characters, drawn from real life, are ones I want to travel with. - Lisa Brooks
  • This book simultaneously affirms Indigenous writing, introduces Indigenous readers to the canon of Indigenous writing, and teaches non-Indigenous folks how to read our literatures. That’s impressive, and it’s done in a beautiful, intimate and at times playful way. "Why Indigenous Literatures Matter" was an honour to read. It is instructional without instructing, grounded, confident, affirming, generous, brilliant, clear and joyful. - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
  • Justice makes strong, well-reasoned arguments that indigenous liberation is essential for indigenous peoples to survive and recover from colonialism... and offers erudite, passionate analysis of and paths toward discovering new material. - Publishers Weekly Link to review

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

email: lquinn@wlu.ca

website: https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/

rights available: World

Additional Information

number of pages: 306

publication date: 03/15/2018

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book