Deconstructing the Silence: Lisa Bird-Wilson’s The Red Files

The Red Files, Lisa Bird-Wilson’s acclaimed debut collection of poetry, grew out of a very personal place: her own family history as depicted in photos. “I went looking in archives for more photos from the same era,” Bird-Wilson recalls, “and found the children were not identified in any of the archival photographs—a form of silencing and treating individuals as if they are anonymous and uniform, rather than real people. I wanted to try and deconstruct that and poetry emerged as the vehicle to do so. Poetry becomes an act of resistance, of what is available to me as a writer.”

The Malahat Review praises Bird-Wilson’s work, calling The Red Files a “haunting, sorrowful and lovely” collection that “takes us on a journey through mourning and grief, denial of history, demands for truths, and the curiosity for a history that has long been silenced, ultimately pressing on toward healing. It is an unsettling and beautiful read and Bird-Wilson tells her stories with ferocious grace.” The Red Files is a powerful contribution to uncovering the legacy of residential schools and moving toward reconciliation.

The Red Files was recently shortlisted for two Saskatchewan Book Awards: the Rasmussen, Rasmussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples’ Writing Award and the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award. The winners will be announced on April 29, 2017.

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