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  • A Conversation with Lisa Brooks about Our Beloved Kin
  • Matt Cohen

Thank you very much for being willing to do this. I'm going to just appreciate for a moment, because this is a beautiful and disturbing book that obviously took a lot of heart, energy, persistence, patience, and time to write. But it's also a personal joy for me to talk with you because, like so many other people, I have learned so much from your work, and from your way of being in this profession, if I can put it that way. I'm grateful to you.

Your first book, The Common Pot, was hugely provocative for lots of us in its gesture of simultaneously recovering the centrality of writing and literacy to Indigenous resistance in the Northeast and modeling a new approach to literary history. Our Beloved Kin, I feel, continues its strong thread of regarding, paying respect to, and telling stories about the landscape of the Northeast. It alters the metaphorical landscape of our imaginative and, I think a lot of people would say, sacred connection to the past.

Now, this new book is, on the one hand, a new history of King Philip's War: it uncovers new information about the motives of the settlers; the motives of Natives and Native communities leading up to the war; new understandings of the action, the scope, the impact, the duration of the war. It also offers an unprecedented picture of Indigenous experience of the war. I mean unprecedented in the sense of scope, but also its willingness to follow people down difficult and what seem like contradictory paths.


That's such a great way of putting it. You're describing a lot of my experience while writing it.


There's also an underlying argument about how the historiography of the war from the 1670s until now has itself been colonialist, with a few important exceptions. This is even the case when the historian has every intention of doing justice to Native people, then and now, affected by the conflict. But it still happens, and it has something to do with the storytelling. The other thing I find amazing is that the book—because it takes its stance as an act of remembering and of decolonizing a major story about American history—is itself a diplomatic event. [End Page 157]


That is so true.


So maybe I should start by asking, what are, at the broadest level, the revisions of the war or of the telling of the war you wanted readers to come away with or to confront? And then, how did this other way of telling and this other kind of gesture of the book as linking people today come together?


That's a great question, and a big question, and it's amazing to hear you talk about it in this way, because I feel like at this point, even though I'm a short remove from the writing process, I had a similar experience of being taught by it. I was learning from the process of researching and writing it and teaching various aspects of that and not just seeing things through my own lenses, but also so many other people's lenses through that process; I learned so much from it. And it's like it has its own life, really.

So I think the questions that you're asking speak to the process, as well as the final product that it became. I've said this at several talks already: I didn't set out to write a book on King Philip's War. That wasn't my goal. And it's not actually a goal I would recommend to anybody, right? [Laughs.] It's not something I would say: "Hey, you know what you really need to do is write a book about King Philip's War." It's been written about so much, but also it's a traumatic violence to live with for a number of years, even if going back through the history is nothing compared to what it was like for the people who lived through it.



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pp. 157-164
Launched on MUSE
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