Author Sasha “taqwéseblu” LaPointe discussed her favorite “shamelessly native” reads and the writing process for her latest book, “Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk,” at a Northwest Passages on Tuesday.
LaPointe, a descendant of the Nooksack and Upper Skagit tribes, colors the storybook about how she overcame the hardships of growing up on the Skagit Valley reservation. LaPointe also makes tasty references to pop culture, including punk and metal music, as the soundtrack to his life.
With the theme of home radiating throughout the book, “Red Paint” is a memoir that details LaPointe’s healing journey to his ancestral and internal ideas of home.
Emma Noyes, a fellow author and Indigenous woman from the Colville Tribes, led the conversation.
The two discussed at one point how LaPointe uses “Indigenous feminism” to be “unabashedly Indigenous.”
Noyes and Lapointe discussed their all-time favorite Indigenous writers. LaPointe praised author Kawai Strong Washburn’s “Sharks in the Time of Saviors,” which details how native Hawaiians relied on their native gods and goddesses to survive.
“It’s so beautifully done, unapologetically indigenous with these themes of digging into the recent colonization of the Hawaiian Islands and the impact it has had on the native Hawaiians, the environment and the contribution of these Hawaiian legends of the native people “, LaPointe said of the book.
LaPointe also discussed the balance between knowing which family events to put in “Red Paint” and which ones to steer clear of to respect the confidentiality of Indigenous rituals and values. She also discussed her own risks, especially with sharing sacred family history in the name of vulnerability on the page.
“Before I let others read it or even friends or trusted readers, I gave it to my parents because I knew I had to,” LaPointe said. “I brought it to them and said, ‘I need you to read this,’ and my mom definitely pointed out some areas where she was like, ‘No, you have to take it out. And I did it no questions asked.
Noyes knows the impact the LaPointe line has had throughout the Pacific Northwest, having met LaPointe’s great-great-grandmother while working in education. Noyes is also familiar with the work of LaPointe’s uncle Ron, a main character in Red Paint and a notable member of the Pacific Northwest’s native art scene.
“He had these portrayals of longhouse dancers and something that I’m not sure anyone else portrayed,” Noyes said. “He had a very good reason to do it and had a purpose, but at the same time he took a very big risk, and it was difficult in his lifetime.”
With three ancestors present in “Red Paint,” LaPointe also highlighted the times she had with her grandmother, with whom she shared the name “taqwéseblu,” pronounced tock-sha-blue, as a namesake.
LaPointe also discussed her decision to label her book as an ancestral autobiography instead of a memoir.
“It couldn’t just be a memoir or an autobiography,” LaPointe said. “It gives her the space to be my own story as a Coast Salish woman, as a survivor, and rooted with her is the story of my ancestors and the women in my family, and I knew that. was their story as much as it was mine.”
Along with the questions and answers, LaPointe read the book’s “Naming Ceremony” chapter, detailing a rich description of the 1986 photo where LaPointe, then 3, attends her naming ceremony.
“You can tell by the smile on my face that moments after the photo was taken, I’d be barefoot, my dress would be streaked with grass stains,” LaPointe said.
Released on March 8, the book earned 4.6 out of 5 stars from Goodreads. LaPointe also has a book of poetry coming out in 2023, which will be published by Milkweed Editions.