Mini Review: Jonny Appleseed (2018, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Joshua Whitehead
This isn’t so much a novel about bodies, but a novel that embodies. Whitehead places the reader as witness of the carnal embodiment of queer desire as it attaches to tendrils of cigarette smoke, sweat, memory, and fantasy. It is a text that lingers.
The feeling that stuck with me as I finished the book was that of being taken apart. As if pieces of me were left there, on a page that lingered with lingering itself.
When the narrator, Jonny, mused: “Funny how an NDN ‘love you’ sounds more like, ‘I’m in pain with you’,” I cried. I cried remembering what colonialism does to bodies over generations. It is a way of talking about intergenerational trauma that recognizes the constitutive foundation of modern indigeneity as one of pain, loss, and love in spite of. The novel dwells on the pain of loss and loss foretold, of seeking, and eventually finding, but not knowing if what is found was actually what was sought.
This isn’t so much a novel about resistance, but about how much the body can bear. The imagery depends on contrasts of neglect and glimmering promise; scars and celestial reflection, the orgasmic immediacy of a now that can only exist as promise.
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