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Northern Light

Northern Light

190 pages
Published:   March 9, 2021
Non-Fiction  /  Queer Lit  /  Nature
Paperback:   9781773101989   $19.95

"It begins to rain as we fly, falling in solid sheets, water from sky to earth — a free system of exchange."

Kazim Ali’s earliest memories are of Jenpeg, a temporary town in the forests of northern Manitoba where his immigrant father worked on the construction of a hydroelectric dam. As a child, Ali had no idea that the dam was located on the unceded lands of the Indigenous Pimicikamak, the "people of rivers and lakes."

Northern Light recounts Ali’s memories of his childhood and his return to Pimicikamak as an adult. During his visit, he searches for the sites of his childhood memories and learns more about the realities of life in Pimicikamak: the environmental and social impact of the Jenpeg dam, the effects of colonialism and cultural erasure, and the community’s initiatives to preserve and strengthen their identity. Deeply rooted in place, Northern Light is both a stunning exploration of home, belonging, and identity and an immersive account of contemporary life in one Indigenous community.
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Poet, editor, and prose writer Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom to Muslim parents of Indian, Iranian, and Egyptian descent and raised in Canada and the United States. He is the author of seven poetry collections, two novels, and three works of non-fiction. He teaches at the University of California, San Diego.


“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

“What a privilege his fine book is, what a joy to spend a week in Cross Lake beside Ali.” — World Literature Today

“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 J. McLeod, author of Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

“[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 word. ... Though these topics are complex, they are untangled in an elegant manner.” — Foreword Reviews

“A graceful, elegant account even when reporting on the hard truths of a little-known corner of the world.” — Kirkus

“Part personal narrative, part chronicle of history, Northern Light reads mostly as an in-real-time account of Ali's return to reacquaint himself with Cross Lake and its long-suffering yet gracious people.” — Star Tribune

“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.” — The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Ali places importance on revisiting his memories while also respecting, honoring, and holding space for the disrespected landscape where his now-demolished childhood home once stood.” — The Adroit Journal

“Ali weaves a detailed meshing of historical events, personal accounts, and his own experiences as he searches for answers to the series of questions that led him to Cross Lake and the Pimicikamak community.” — Glassworks

“In this latest book, he shines some northern light over essential questions about identity, power, governance, and justice for all peoples.” — Anchorage Daily News

“A poet and writer whose life and its inception challenges the way that we construct narratives of belonging to a nation.” — Terrain.org

Northern Light will push you to consider what home means to you. It evokes the transformative power of revisiting a place from your past in order to reencounter yourself.” — Hippocampus Magazine

“The book reflects diligent scholarship on the long and complicated relationship between Indigenous Canadians and the institutions created by European settlers that changed their lives forever.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“[Ali’s] reflections on alienation and the environment are deeply explored in his most recent book, Northern Light.” — Sierra

“Ali has fulfilled the promise he made to the people he met on his journey, a pledge to “...share what I learn with as many people as I can reach.”” — Miramichi Reader

“I cannot pretend to be objective about how much I loved the book.” — Los Angeles Review of Books

“A powerful, thoughtful, and beautifully written exploration of the narratives that we create and that are created for us.” — Book Riot