“Red Paint” by Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe is a powerfully moving and disquieting look at tradition and trauma, ancestry and erasure, and empowering lineage and tragic cycles. Aptly subtitled “The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk,” LaPointe’s memoir finds touchstones in both her Coast Salish identity, growing up in the Pacific Northwest as part of the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian tribes, while also firmly rooted in the ’90s punk music scene.
LaPointe writes with crisp narration and occasional poetry, proceeding to lead the reader through her story, while interspersing apt connections to the women of her lineage by recounting historical stories of struggle, erasure and violence.
“Red Paint” is not an easy read. It looks at generational trauma and how that impacts one’s relationships. But it is also hopeful. It finds empowering liberation through embracing one’s history, adapting to meet the life you have rather than what you’ve missed, and by telling the stories of the oppressed.
LaPointe’s writing evokes a particular time and place. David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” was a cultural touchstone across North America in the early ’90s, nowhere more so than here in the Pacific Northwest, where the fictional story took place. The show’s protagonist, agent Dale Cooper, imprinted upon a young LaPointe in such a way that she repeatedly compares romantic partners to the Cooper ideal. Similarly, the work draws on other aspects of the 1990s and the Pacific Northwest in such ways that, while this book is a powerful read for all, PNW natives (or longtime residents) will find greater resonance in its pages.
While this memoir stands alone nicely, interested readers will find even more insight into LaPointe’s journey in “Rose Quartz,” her recently published work of poetry. “Rose Quartz” fleshes out the story of “Red Paint” in powerful ways, and serves as a great entry point even for those who shy away from poetry.
“Red Paint” is the Whatcom Reads 2024 selection. The book presents a wide range of discussion and event opportunities starting this January, leading up to the author’s visit in March. For more info on Whatcom Reads and the events surrounding “Red Paint,” visit whatcomreads.org.
“Red Paint” is the Whatcom Reads 2024 selection and the December selection for the Blaine Books & Bites book group. Read the book and then join Books & Bites at the Blaine library at 1 p.m. Friday, December 15 for a time of community and lively conversation. For more information, visit wcls.libcal.com/event/9738094.
Jonathan Jakobitz is an avid reader and the branch manager of Blaine Public Library.
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