Photo by: Charlie Martin
Released in June 2022, Rehearsals for Living calls its readers to envision a different future.
Throughout the book, authors Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson base said future around the ideal of a world where Black and Indigenous peoples are no longer subject to the entrenched colonialism, both in Canada and the world at-large. This novel is an important contribution to a body of literature focusing on Black and Indigenous futurities, and a must-read for those intrigued by a post-capitalist, post-colonial world.
Considering Rehearsals for Living takes form through a series of back-and-forth letters between Maynard and Simpson during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, their unique positionalities are important to the formation of the novel. Beyond being a professor of women and gender studies at the University of Toronto, Robyn Maynard is a Black feminist, author, and activist, specializing in Black abolition movements. Some of Maynard’s most impressive work is not in the form of written word, but in her ability to mobilize people – particularly in the Toronto area – around anti-capitalism and anti-racism causes, such as with the Black Lives Matter protests.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Mississauga Nishnaabeg Indigenous woman who similarly focuses on writing on and advocating for the liberation of racialized people. Simpson has a number of notable works like Land as Pedagogy amongst many popular press inputs. She also is a founding member of the land-based educational project, the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning.
Beyond engaging in discussion about being friends, Maynard and Simpson engage in conversation about what a post-pandemic world could look like – particularly one that sees through their work on abolition and liberation. The namesake of the book, Rehearsals for Living calls upon the notion that living has yet to occur for Black and Indigenous folks who exist in colonial states, and thus have been engaging in rehearsals for living.
While taking slightly different focuses in each letter. Maynard and Simpson bring forth topics of policing and fighting the Toronto Police Service’s major budget increase at city hall; the climate crisis and how the companies funding it exist with such banality in the finance sector of Toronto; and the harms of generational wealth and power amongst oppressors. Not only this, but that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult on Black and Indigenous peoples, exacerbating the need to envision futurities that are de-colonial and anti-capitalist in nature, as these systems have continued to keep racialized people oppressed.
What Maynard and Simpson bring into focus particularly well, yet subtly, is that all of these things are not only interconnected, but interdependent. The back-and-forth letters style of this book is unique, and as such readers may be initially hesitant to continue on reading it. However, it allows for these well-established authors to speak honestly, openly, and straight-forwardly about their visions for the future. This allows their calls for a different future to be particularly impactful as readers can trace just how personal these topics are.