Nightwood: From where did you write the majority of Beautiful Beautiful?
Brandon Reid: This is the memory I hold closest to writing the book: writing after work, teaching my first class of grade eights and nines English. I was fasting (because I chose to follow Lent for the first and only time in my life), so I would park by a pasture or military grounds, then write with cars streaming by until dusk, when I would crawl through the drive-thru for convenient eats.
NW: Did anything surprise you during the process of writing?
BR: Everything! I’m very much a discovery writer. I aimed to write about the thunderbird in some capacity, then I eventually deployed Redbird as the narrator. Beautiful Beautiful is a genuine exploration of my self, beliefs and memories. It’s my desire that the reader experience the excitement I felt scrying the text.
NW: What books did you turn to while writing?
BR: The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence inspired me to mesh Indigenous and Western mythoi. The interplay of allegory, humour and wisdom I drew heavily from Moby Dick. A Tale of Two Cities, of course, was an example in how to juxtapose cultures and meticulously structure a story. Five Little Indians (Michelle Good) and Jonny Appleseed (Joshua Whitehead) granted authority to detail Indigenous issues and traumas.
NW: Is there a sight, memory or feeling that embodies Beautiful Beautiful?
BR: A grove of birch drenched in rain.
NW: If Beautiful Beautiful were a meal, what would it be?
BR: I have to go with the typical weekday dinner my family ate: fluffy rice, sockeye salmon, ooligan grease, dash of soy, topped with crispy, dried seaweed, perhaps a side of roe-on-kelp. Delicious as well as incredibly nutritious.
Beautiful Beautiful: Twelve-year-old Derik Mormin travels with his father and a family friend to Bella Bella for his grandfather’s funeral. Along the way, he uncovers the traumatic history of his ancestors, considers his relationship to masculinity and explores the contrast between rural and urban lifestyles in hopes of reconciling the seemingly unreconcilable: the beauty of each the Indigenous and “Western” way of life—hence beautiful beautiful.
All right, that’s quite enough third-person pandering; you’re not fooling anyone. Redbird here, Derik’s babysitter, and narrator of this here story. We’re here to bring light to an otherwise grave subject, friends. Follow us through primordial visions. Dance with a cannibal (don’t worry, they’re friendly once tamed). And discover what it takes to be united.
Brandon Reid holds a B.Ed. from UBC with a specialization in Indigenous education, and a journalism diploma from Langara College. His work has been published in the Barely South Review, the Richmond Review and The Province. He is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, with a mix of Indigenous and English ancestry. He resides in Richmond, BC, where he works as a TTOC. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, playing music and listening to comedy podcasts. His debut novel, Beautiful Beautiful, was published with Nightwood Editions in fall 2023.