A revolutionary collaboration about the world we're living in now, between two of our most important contemporary thinkers, writers and activists.
When much of the world entered pandemic lockdown in spring 2020, Robyn Maynard, influential author of Policing Black Lives, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, award-winning author of several books, including the recent novel Noopiming, began writing each other letters—a gesture sparked by friendship and solidarity, and by a desire for kinship and connection in a world shattering under the intersecting crises of pandemic, police killings, and climate catastrophe. Their letters soon grew into a powerful exchange on the subject of where we go from here.
Rehearsals is a captivating book, part debate, part dialogue, part lively and detailed familial correspondence between two razor-sharp writers convening on what it means to get free as the world spins into some new orbit. In a genre-defying exchange, the authors collectively envision the possibilities for more liberatory futures during a historic year of Indigenous land defense, prison strikes, and global-Black-led rebellions against policing. By articulating to each other Black and Indigenous perspectives on our unprecedented here and now, and the long-disavowed histories of slavery and colonization that have brought us to this moment in the first place, Maynard and Simpson create something new: a vital demand for a different way forward, and a poetic call to dream up new ways of ordering earthly life.
“What a pleasure and honor it is to read two such probing and principled minds in conversation and collaboration. Maynard and Simpson dare to confront the most wrenching challenges of our omnicidal times, while finding joy and love along the way. A beacon of a book."
—Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough
“Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson embody and express how practice makes different. This necessary book is a model—through the shared process of two brilliant thinkers it gifts us clarity to see rehearsals otherwise and elsewhere.”
—Ruth Wilson Gilmore, from the foreword
“We have been, and will continue to be, flooded with big books and little books and reports and documentary films all showing us how capitalism, racism, prisons, patriarchy, walls, and war are killing the planet. But this book is different. How Maynard and Simpson came to understand the world we must abolish and the world we need to build is through communing—with each other, comrades, friends and family, and the movements to which they make themselves accountable. They dance together, sing together, meditate, worship, and study together through letters, by sharing, by making themselves vulnerable to one another and to all of us reading these pages. Rehearsals for Living is a work of profound humility that honors the ancestors, the land, the children, and the struggles that enabled every generation to survive. They braid the histories and collective memories of Black and Indigenous struggles to establish a basis for solidarity, to find answers, and to reveal and share valuable lessons for our movements.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, from the afterword
“Rehearsals for Living is a profound and sublime work of memory, witnessing, refusal, dreaming. In the trenchant tradition of Black and Indigenous feminisms, this brilliant book moves us away from the language of crisis or victimhood to the precise and intimate encounters of kinship and liberation. The letters between Maynard and Simpson magnificently shapeshift and engage on multiple levels, and in doing so, rigorously demand an accounting for horrific violences while illuminating lives and worlds anew. A masterclass in literary form, ethical orientations, and collective futures.”
—Harsha Walia, author of Border and Rule, Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism
“As we collectively and unevenly live through sedimented colonialities, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Robyn Maynard draw out a political vision that emerges from epistolary connections—letters, animated by stories, that seek out, engage, imagine, and narrate different kinds and types of liberation. Accentuated by entangled black-indigenous histories and geographies, Rehearsals for Living actualizes friendship as correspondence, modeling a mode of togetherness that we can practice, learn from, and revise.”
—Katherine McKittrick, author of Demonic Grounds and Dear Science and Other Stories
“The beautifully named Rehearsals for Living is a gift conjured by a pair of brilliant scholars during the dark days and months of the pandemic, lit by a powerful resistance movement, fueled and rendered magical by a profound and challenging dialogue that offers ways to collectively think and be and act in a chaotic world.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
“This book must be read for its future vocabularies, its political intimacies, its careful assemblage of the materials of our activisms, and its generous and fulsome thinking.”
—Dionne Brand, poet, novelist, and essayist
“Not all apocalypses are unwelcome. The profound anticipation for a world otherwise bubbled to the surface the summer of 2020. Collective rage and love shattered the sense of inviolability surrounding white supremacy putting forward an alternative vision, one already existing and always in the making. Rehearsals for Living is an epistolary that captures that urgent project of what it means to be human and imagine freedom in times of terrible danger. Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson tap into Black and Indigenous ways of knowing and world-making that require a fundamental disordering of the forces of destruction and the re-ordering of life and the beautiful struggle to get free.”
—Nick Estes, author of Our History is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance
“Across the pandemic-imposed distance, Leanne and Robyn begin a new iteration of the practices they’ve enacted in their labors and loves for years—this origin rises in letters, in which they take account of (and consequently bear the physical, emotional, and intellectual burdens of that accounting) the intimate and public violences committed by our governments upon our peoples, lands, waters and non-human relatives. In these letters, Leanne and Robyn constellate our brightest wounds and scars, but refuse to waste their energies of love and imagination on fixing or salvaging the Nation/State. Instead, they reorganize the trajectories and shapes of those constellations—retelling stories again and anew, of who we have been and might yet be again.”
—Natalie Diaz, author of Postcolonial Love Poem
“Using the age-old practice of letter writing and the land itself as a palimpsest, Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson find common ground to challenge the moral legitimacy of the settler nation state, and reinscribe new ways of what it means to be beings who are human in the forensic landscapes of Canada. In Rehearsals for Living, two women, one Indigenous, the other Black and African-descended confront their shared yet different experiences of colonialism, provide new and subversive meanings to the colonial trope of being landed, the mechanism by which the land was (un)settled. Unflinchingly, and in long-overdue and profoundly-needed “reasonings” that reverberate with shared breath, Simpson and Maynard weave their ideas, thoughts and reflections and their deep caring for community and society through the network of issues that impact us today—the pandemic and the differentials in treatment for Black and Indigenous people, the role of BLM, abolition, the necessity of Nibi and homespace for the Nishnaabeg, the joys of living on the land, and parenting in the face of ecological and racial disasters are but a few of the challenges they grapple with. Rehearsals for Living is fundamental to understanding the interlocking, founding crimes of the Americas; necessary for remembering the many erased histories of the on-going struggle for justice, and altogether indispensable to those wanting to create possible solutions.”
—M. NourbeSe Philip, author of Zong!
“Rehearsals for Living is an intellectually fierce dialogue about our colonial present by two of the most renowned scholar-activists working today. In a time of incredible uncertainty, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Robyn Maynard show that the shared and divergent histories of Black and Indigenous communities are foundational to the building of a better world for all.”
—Glen Coulthard, author of Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition
“Lyrical, visionary, and transcendent, Rehearsals for Living creates a literary maroon space deeply rooted in unique and overlapping histories and presents in which to dream abolition, home, love, land, liberatory forms of governance, life itself. While chronicling the continuing unfolding calamities of settler colonialism and racial capitalism with care and razor sharp clarity, Simpson and Maynard point readers to portals to different futures through the infinite possibilities of Black-Indigenous resistance. Give yourself the gift of allowing your heart and mind to overflow with the beauty and promise of Rehearsals' visions.”
—Andrea J. Ritchie, author of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color and co-author of No More Police: A Case for Abolition
“The end of the world, or the end of capitalism, colonialism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy? This astonishing work of literature and theory enables us to imagine the end of them all, and to call into being, to rehearse, a world anew. If pandemics opened portals, Rehearsals for Living reveals the places of Indigenous and Black freedom to which they might lead. At a time when we need it most, Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s letters generously invite us all to a future in which relations of liberation, not exploitation and oppression, constitute living on this planet together.”
—John Munro, author of The Anticolonial Front: The African American Freedom Movement and Global Decolonization, 1945–1960
“In their inspired act of ‘writing together, walking together, witnessing these times together,’ Robyn Maynard and Leanne Simpson illuminate in essential ways the entwined lives of Black and Indigenous peoples. Rehearsals for Living honours legacies of courageous revolt against the ongoing histories of dispossession, incarceration, and violence. It is a book of relation, radical generosity, and care – a book, too, of running children, and the colour of the sky, and of ‘holding within [ourselves] that nascent shimmering of possibility.’ Above all, it is a book that poses and answers these most urgent questions: ‘how are we going to live and how are we going to live together?’”
—David Chariandy, author of Brother
"As the year continued, both Maynard and Simpson joined the swelling, unprecedented Black Lives Matter and Indigenous land-defense movements, and their writing collaboratively imagined a society with, for example, no police and abundant shared resources. As they reflect on the many ways that the state has harmed their respective communities—including overpolicing and neglectful public-health responses to the pandemic—the letters contemplate what the future could look like, and writing becomes a form of coalition-building."
—Tajja Isen, The Atlantic
Related blog posts View all related posts
Join Robyn Maynard & Leanne Betasamosake Simpson for a discussion on abolitionist horizons for a world in crisis, hosted by Naomi Murakawa.