Empty Spaces (Hardcover)

Empty Spaces By Jordan Abel Cover Image

Empty Spaces (Hardcover)


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A hypnotic and mystifying exploration of land and legacy, investigating what it means to be an intergenerational, Indigenous survivor of Residential Schools
“A singular, incantatory work. . . . The book feels as though forest itself is speaking, sky itself, river itself.”—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe

Jordan Abel’s new work grows out of the groundbreaking visual expression in his recently published NISHGA, a book that combined nonfiction with photography, concrete poetry, and literary inquiry. Whereas NISHGA integrated descriptions of the landscape from James Fenimore Cooper’s settler classic The Last of the Mohicans into visual pieces, Empty Spaces reinscribes those words on the page itself, and in doing so subjects them to bold rewritings.
Reimagining the nineteenth-century text from the contemporary perspective of an urban Nisga’a person whose relationship to land and traditional knowledge and spiritual traditions was severed by colonial violence, Abel attempts to answer his research question of what it means to be Indigenous without access to familial territory. Engaging the land through fiction and metaphor, Abel creates an eerie, looping, and atmospheric rendering of place that evolves despite the violent and reckless histories of North America.
The result is a bold and profound new vision of history that decenters human perception and forgoes Westernized ways of seeing. Rather than turning to characters and dialogue to explore truth, Abel invites us to instead understand that the land knows everything that can and will happen, even as the world lurches toward uncertainty.
Jordan Abel (Nisga’a), an award-winning author, is associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. He is the author of NISHGA,The Place of Scraps,Un/inhabited, and Injun.

Product Details ISBN: 9780300275544
ISBN-10: 0300275544
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: February 6th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English
“A singular, incantatory work, one that reimagines James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans. . . . Told from the perspective of a contemporary city-dwelling Nisga’a person, the book feels as though forest itself is speaking, sky itself, river itself.”—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe

Empty Spaces is nearly without precedent—its scale is reminiscent of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans; its conceptual sophistication reminds me of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!; its critique of settler colonialism is as intellectually rigorous as Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s The White Possessive. It is hard to think of a more original work.”—Sarah Dowling, University of Toronto

“In Empty Spaces, Jordan Abel cultivates a relationship to land that is textual, a necessary act of both lamentation and futurity. By under- and over- and re-writing a canonized settler novel, Abel displaces the descriptive violence of the colonial imagination, its anthropological heft, and replaces it with, subsumes it under, a lyric voice and language that reminds us ‘[t]omorrow might arrive in the next few seconds.’”—Billy-Ray Belcourt, author of A Minor Chorus

“I did not want to leave Empty Spaces. I saw and heard things I haven’t before: the breath of rocks, bodies open like lakes, broken air, shore and shrub and softness, the outline and humidity of life in every bend. This is a spiritually tectonic book—it will restore life inside you.”—Sumana Roy, author of How I Became a Tree