Joshua Whitehead Pulls Back the Curtain on New Book, « Making Love With the Land »


TORONTO — Following the critical success of his 2018 novel « Jonny Appleseed, » writer Joshua Whitehead found himself answering questions that mistook him for his protagonist.

Readers and reporters have stumbled upon his identity, sometimes calling him Jonny instead of Josh, Whitehead writes in his new book, « Making Love With the Land. » They assumed that the character’s biographical details were also true for the author.

With the collection of 10 essays released this week, Whitehead said he seeks to clarify the difference between the two, offering insight into himself and the character of Jonny whose shameless homosexuality has resonated with thousands. of readers after her novel won « Canada Reads » last year.

« If you kind of pull back the curtain, you’ll see the wizard that is Oz. I kind of feel like ‘Making Love With The Earth’ is what Jonny is about, » Whitehead said, who is an Oji-Cree member of the Peguis First Nation.

« I really tried to answer all the questions I received from the public, interviews and Q&A. »

The essays explore Whitehead’s strangeness and indigenity, the trauma of colonialism, and the interplay between body, land, and text.

Like Jonny, Whitehead is two-spirited, an identity that « means much more than just my sexual preference in Western ways of knowing, » he writes in the essay On Ekphrasis and Emphasis. “I am queer, female/iskwewayi, male/nâpew, and I thus situate myself in relation to my native lands and my communities. »

Whitehead and Jonnyboth have powerful, meaningful dreams and deep relationships with the women in their lives.

Part of Jonny’s origin story comes from poems written by Whitehead that were eventually cut from his first book, « Full Metal Indigiqueer », which he says was, in some ways, more autobiographical than « Jonny Appleseed « .

Whitehead describes his books as part of an expansive literary universe that defies traditional categorization, though publishers categorize them into different genres « for sales and promotional reasons, » he said.

Even so, they are all linked and build on each other.

« I really don’t understand or respect the expectations or limitations of the genre, » Whitehead said. « Because I think of ‘Jonny Appleseed’ as a photo album, and I think of ‘Making Love With the Land’ in a similar sense. »

And while he goes into detail about himself, Whitehead said he was careful not to share too much after reporters opened up old wounds with ‘extracting’ questions as he promoted « Jonny Appleseed ».

« How does this very manuscript I’m writing now also position me on the metaphorical medical table, prepared for inspection and autopsy? » he says in the essay entitled Writing as Rupture.

As he promotes this new book, he said he’s added a new defense to his arsenal – telling people « no ».

« I’m kind of stepping into this space and getting ready armed with rejection, » Whitehead said.

« I really believe now that there’s quite a bit of creative and political action in rejection. »

« Making Love With The Earth » was released on Tuesday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 26, 2022.


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