In the stark expanse of Northern Alberta, a queer Indigenous doctoral student steps away from his dissertation to write a novel, informed by a series of poignant encounters: a heart-to-heart with fellow doctoral student River over the mounting pressure placed on marginalized scholars; a meeting with Michael, a closeted man from his hometown whose vulnerability and loneliness punctuate the realities of queer life on the fringe.
A novel full of academic theory and jargon ... People don’t talk like this – except in this book, where they scarcely talk any other way, because the author’s stand-in doesn’t see much of a difference between theory and fiction ... There’s certainly not much difference between the narrator and the white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalist bigotries he’s forever – honestly, forever – droning on about ... One of the minor annoyances of A Minor Chorus is that it almost tells an interesting story. The narrator’s childhood friend from the Cree reservation, Jack, leads a tough, defeated life actually experiencing the racism and discrimination the narrator never does. His story wouldn’t have been a simple copy-and-paste vanity exercise from the author’s own social media posts.
Extraordinary ... A slim, sparse book with a breathtaking structure, a genre-defying blend of fiction, critical theory and oral history that holds seemingly endless layers of stories ... It’s hard to describe just how moving and unusual this novel is. It is intensely interior, sometimes dizzyingly so. The narrator is a scholar who constantly analyzes his own experiences, philosophizing and interrogating, but he’s painfully aware of the limits of academic thought ... Belcourt crafts sentences like only a poet can, each one precise and shimmering. He writes with ferocious intensity and beauty ... A feat of technical brilliance, a novel that questions the worth of writing even as it asserts its own value. It is a slippery, scholarly work, rooted in the layered complexity of Indigenous life.