Book Review: Red Paint by Sash taqʷšəblu LaPointe

Red Paint – Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe (Counterpoint, 2022)

I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Publication date: March 8, 2022.

The subtitle of this memoir is “The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk.” I was interested in this intersection of punk and Coast Salish identity. LaPointe is roughly my age, I would guess, and lives in Washington State. I’ve visited many of the areas she talks about and although we live in different countries, I also live in traditional Coast Salish territory. (A good reminder that our modern country borders don’t align with the traditional lands of its original inhabitants.)

This is a personal memoir, one where LaPointe works through the traumas of both her childhood and her adult life. She is close with her parents and extended family but had an unstable upbringing, moving around a lot and slipping through the cracks of care which seem to have contributed to her sexual assault at a young age. After a series of difficult romantic relationships, she meets Brandon, seemingly her perfect guy, and they are married. But their relationship is far from perfect and as LaPointe begins to write about her own history, it unearths the trauma that she has not yet faced.

As I said, this is a personal memoir, and while LaPointe is Coast Salish, a member of the Nooksack and Upper Skagit tribes, she explores her traumatic history on an individual level. As she dives into her traumatic past and attempts to re-surface, she clings to both her love for punk rock music and her family history. She is the namesake of her great-grandmother, a woman who worked to preserve their traditional language of Lushootseed. LaPointe finds power and identity in claiming this generational history and it is lovely to watch her claim these for her own.

As with many memoirs from writers close to my own age, I was left feeling like the story is incomplete. There is hope at the end but a lot of loose ends, particularly regarding her relationship with Brandon, something that was central throughout. Fair enough, because who has it all figured out in their thirties? Yet I can’t help but feel that in another five years, LaPointe would write an entirely different story about her own life. Maybe she will.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Red Paint by Sash taqʷšəblu LaPointe”

  1. I tend to feel the same way about memoirs written by people around my age, unless they are specifically memoirs of childhood/adolescence so the author has had time to process and think about it.

    1. I’m a bit biased I guess because I feel like I’m not wise or experienced enough to write a memoir so it seems very bold of someone else in their 30s to think they are!

  2. I remember feeling quite upset when I finished a really good memoir that ended in the middle of things only to find a few years later this woman had written a follow-up memoir. Some folks are able to do that if their writing is compelling enough. Other people have compelling stories, but the writing or analysis is lacking.

  3. This is interesting – the idea that someone has perhaps tried to pen a memoir a little too early in life. When people have traumatic lives filled with upheaval, it seems as though they have enough to say that could fill books and books rather than just one. Hopefully she writes ‘a sequel’ in a few years 🙂

    1. It’s generally how I feel when reading memoirs from people in their 30s, unless there’s a real historical moment they’re trying to capture. A sequel in 20 years or so would be interesting!

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