REVIEW: Thunder Song: Essays, by Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe

Reviewed by Sarah Evans

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cover of thunder song by Sasha Lapoint, yellow background with abstract totem image in bright colorsStrong women. Connections to our home and landscape. Losing — and gaining — cultural identity. Shame. Beauty. Strength.

Most of us can relate at some level to these deeply personal topics, all of which Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe weaves throughout her latest book, Thunder Song: Essays (Counterpoint; March 2024).

What pushes LaPointe’s essays to another level are the themes distinctive to her individual story as an Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribe punk rocker living on the Puyallup reservation near Tacoma, Washington.

LaPointe begins her book with a story about her great-grandmother, Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert. At age 83, she called the Seattle Symphony office to try to commission the writing of a symphony based on Coast Salish spirit songs with lyrics in Lushootseed, the traditional language of the peoples of Puget Sound. They said no. She called every week to ask again until the composer finally said yes. The result, The Healing Heart of the First People of This Land, was performed to a sold-out crowd in a Seattle concert hall.

It’s a fitting introduction to LaPointe’s great-grandmother, given her immense influence over Lapointe, from her work to revitalize the Lushootseed language, to her role-modeling as a determined adult woman, to her talent at traditional storytelling.

In addition to shining light on the women who inspired her, LaPointe details many of the times she has lost her way in life, and how she continually fought to come back to some sense of identity and meaning. She is adept at taking seemingly small objects and small moments and imbuing them with deeper truths, particularly about the ways that colonialism and a white-dominant society continue to threaten Native American individuals and communities.

In one essay, LaPointe remembers a jacket she owned at age nine that her mother hand-painted with an image of Ariel from the Little Mermaid. The jacket quickly turned from a source of pride to one of shame as a popular white girl made fun of it — one of countless examples of the divide between the white children who lived in town and the brown children from the reservation.

As a young girl, LaPointe sometimes used her lighter skin to help her fit into white-dominant spaces, a fact she laments as an adult. “I changed the landscape of my own identity the same way settlers changed the land they took from us,” she writes.

Many of LaPointe’s essays explore the way she left home as a young teen, drawn to the big-city lights and grunge and punk rock scenes of Seattle, only to suffer deep loneliness and homesickness for the landscape and people of her childhood.

LaPointe balances her painful memories and stories with ones of hope — of finally meeting a partner who respects her and holds her safe, of re-connecting with her landscape and her people’s history through meditative walks near her home, of making new friends who understand first-hand her complicated feelings about identity.

LaPointe often reflects on a sentiment her great-grandmother repeated to all who would listen: “People have lost their way. They need to be reminded to take care of one another.” LaPointe’s vivid imagery, powerful storytelling, and distinctive voice remind us that to find our way back to truth and peace, we must not only take care of others — we must first extend love and grace to ourselves.

sarah evans reviewer

Sarah Evans


Sarah Evans is an Oregon writer and social justice activist who tries to raise marginalized voices by reviewing books written by and about people of color, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ+. She has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Pacific University.

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