[The following review by Michelle Scwartz appeared on p. 43 of the Spring 2013 issue of Shameless, a Toronto-based intersectional feminist magazine aimed at young women and trans people.]
History is often described as being written by the victors; a single story in which voices of struggle and resistance are often lost. Scott Neigh’s pair of books, Resisting the State and Gender and Sexuality, work to counteract this dominant account of history, recording “Canadian history-from-below through the words of long-time activists.” Neigh’s books tell the history of opposition, oppression and struggle. These are the voices of people that resisted settlement, resisted residential schools, resisted war, resisted the dominant paradigm of racism, sexism, ableism and heteronormativity.
Each chapter in the book contains the story of a particular activist, told in their own words through interviews conducted with the author. These personal stories are prefaced with throughly researched commentaries by Neigh, taking the very specific story of one person and giving it a context within centuries of world history. For instance, the preface to an interview with Lynn Jones, a Black woman who fought for power and respect within the labour movement, contains a history of the African Nova Scotian community going back to 1605, explaining the impact of the slave trade, the destruction of Africville, and the legal struggles of Viola Desmond.
More importantly, Neigh weaves the chapters together, showing the connections between the fights for Indigenous sovereignty, against domestic violence, for immigration reform, for LGBT rights, and against the psychiatry movement. As 2013 kicked off with the rise of Idle No More, the words of Josephine Grey, founder of Low Income Families Together (LIFT), resound: “I may never see another success for as long as I live, but I made a promise… If the seeds that I plant today sprout in six hundred years, I don’t care, I’m going to do it anyway. I’m just going to keep going.”