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Poet Jordan Abel pieces together his past in his latest book ‘Nishga’ –

Abel mines his family’s painful story, exploring the impacts of residential schools and intergenerational trauma, in a new literary work of poetry, art and archival documents

Nishga, the new book by award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel, uses poetry, visual art, analysis and family documents to create a dynamic mosaic of the artist’s journey to claim his own identity and name the things that torment him. The work examines the impact of residential schools (Abel’s paternal grandparents attended the same one), intergenerational trauma and the complexities of Indigenous identity. What he finds along the way spans the generations behind and in front of him. It digs up answers too painful to fully process and questions too complicated to fully answer. The result is an experience that leaves the reader feeling like a collaborator, digging along with the writer into both the solid evidence and the artistic representation of the ineffable. Abel’s previous collection, Injun, won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2017, while his debut, The Book of Scraps, won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Deeply personal, beautiful and graced by staggering writing, NISHGA seems a culmination of earlier works by the author, who grew up off-reserve in Barrie, Ont., and Lethbridge, Alta. Terese Marie Mailhot, a writer from the Seabird Island Band in B.C. whose 2018 book, Heart Berries: A Memoir, was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by numerous libraries and publications, recently spoke with Abel about NISHGA.

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