“A History of My Brief Body” by Billy-Ray Belcourt— An Essay Collection Filled with Strength

Belcourt, Billy-Ray. “A History of My Brief Body”, Two Dollar Radio, 2020.

An Essay Collection Filled with Strength

Amos Lassen

Billy-Ray Belcourt’s “A History of My Brief Body” is an amazing collection of essays and personal history on how he has sought  to reconcile the world he was born into with the world that could be. He looks at grief, colonial violence, joy, love, and queerness.

Belcourt begins with a letter to his kokum and his memories of his early life in Joussard, Alberta, and on the Driftpile First Nation. As we read, we explore “the big and broken world he inhabits every day” and this includes complexity and contradiction: his legacy of colonial violence and the joy that exists despite it;  his first loves and loves lost; sexual exploration and intimacy; writing as a survival instinct and a way to grieve. What we really get here is a meditation on memory, gender, anger, shame, and ecstasy as well as a plan for o a way forward. Belcourt looks at his life experiences within a focus of queer texts and his words filled with emotion and powerful.

Belcourt balances poetic, philosophical, and political insights throughout his essays to give us strong writing and an exploration of love, sexual exploration and intimacy. He is philosophical as he examines queerness,  isolation and loneliness. Sharing the abuses felt by brown and queer bodies, this is a study of past and present and a paean to the destruction of these abusive structures. Belcourt measures personal artifacts against history as he searches for a future of emancipation and compassion.

Transcending genre, memory and nostalgia become ways for finding truth and because it is so personal, it is that much more endearing.  Combining memoir, poetry and  quite novel, we look at coming-of-age with equal parts through search and insight.

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