Beautiful writing, beautiful story marks debut novel for writer

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024 9:48am


Image Caption

Author Brandon Reid (photo credit: Kevin Cruz) with the cover of his book Beautiful Beautiful


“In the end, I think we have a beautiful thing going with whatever you call this land, whether it be Canada or Turtle Island… The fact is that we're all here and I want us all to live together in peace and harmony for the betterment of all.” —author Brandon Reid
By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Beautiful Beautiful is the sometimes disturbing, but in the end, satisfying coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Derik Mormin. It’s also the “coming-to-terms” story of debut novelist Brandon Reid.

“It was very much a human journey for me,” said Reid. “Just the overall tone about my ancestry, my grandpa, what he meant to me and my respect for him evolved through each version of the manuscript.”

In Beautiful Beautiful, Derik and his father George are joined by shaman Raven in a boat trip from Vancouver to Bella Bella (“bella” is Spanish for “beautiful”) for the funeral of Derik’s grandfather.

George is estranged from his father because of an abusive relationship. Derik has little memory of his grandfather but that doesn’t stop him from encouraging his father to make the trip and to mend fences with other members of his family.

It’s also an opportunity for Derik, who desperately wants to catch a salmon by himself, to connect with his Heiltsuk First Nation side (his mother is white) and prove he’s as good a fisherman as his father and grandfather, who made their livings on the sea.

Reid, who is Heiltsuk, with a mix of other Indigenous and English ancestry, says Derik’s story is about 30 per cent autobiographical.

The author and character both have a loving father who presents as hyper masculine. Reid’s father was “very sweet and affectionate towards me,” and, like Derik and George, they often exchanged “I love yous.”

“I think it's really sort of telling on George's character, the fact that his dad was abusive to him and he turns around and he's loving. He's correcting, healing that trauma, that chain. It's usually a chain of abuse. If you're abused as a kid, you're likely to abuse your kid. So I really wanted…to break that chain and it's through love, really,” said Reid.

Both George and his mother, who is also abusive toward George, attended residential schools.

Beautiful Beautiful is about 50 per cent an exploration of Reid’s own beliefs, issues and memories.

“Some of it was me coming to terms with those issues and sort of evolving myself,” he said.

Reid is quick to point out that not only did he grow as a person through creating the story, but he also grew artistically as a writer. From the first draft to the novel that hit the bookstores this past November, he says the book is “completely, 100 per cent different…I think I've changed everything in terms of words.”

Reid won’t call his first novel “challenging” although it’s told by Derik in varying ways and has a non-linear recounting of events. He says his storytelling was “ambitious.” But ambitious is also the work he enjoys reading.

“I like modernist stuff where it's about depicting the mind. I like post-modernism where it's abstract and has a lot of meta narrative where you break the fourth wall and stuff,” he said.

“I wanted to do something a bit more difficult and abstract.”

But the final Beautiful Beautiful is not the modernist version that Reid started. Instead, he took the advice of his publishing house, Nightwood Editions, and “toned it back” making it more of a traditional piece of literature.

However, Reid does break the fourth wall with unreliable narrator Redbird (who Derik believes is his spirit guardian and who Raven cautions could be a trickster) directly addressing the reader, offering humour and a different take on the phrase from “a bird’s-eye view.”

Redbird was an opportunity for Reid to “say certain things that maybe I couldn't get away with…It was an interesting way to critique humanity and all sorts of issues from a different perspective rather than political from just my point of view.”

Reid tackles difficult subjects such as the intergenerational trauma from residential schools, the abuses Derik also suffers, and murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, sometimes in an abstract way, but often with a deft impactful one or two sentences. In that brevity is the power of discomfort and even horror.

Reid covers a lot of general and region-specific history in Beautiful Beautiful, much of which comes from his training through the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at the University of British Columbia.

He draws on his experiences as a COVID survivor, a park warden giving tours of a First Nation’s longhouse, and a participant of sweatlodges.

He also draws on stories from his great grandpa, who gave sasquatch tours to celebrities, and traditional Heiltsuk narratives, which fuel George’s belief in aliens.

For Indigenous readers of Beautiful Beautiful, Reid wants them to be proud of where they come from and proud to express everything that they are, including their traumas. It is an understanding that takes Derik a summer journey to realize.

“I just want them to be proud of where they come from and the resiliency, how they protect their land, how they maintain their culture. And maybe most importantly from that, I want them to freely branch out in the modern world and to live as best as they can, whatever that may be,” said Reid.

As for non-Indigenous readers, he wants them to understand that Indigenous people and settlers “have to uplift the earth, uplift each other and move into the future.”

“In the end, I think we have a beautiful thing going with whatever you call this land, whether it be Canada or Turtle Island or if you say they're different, so be it. The fact is that we're all here and I want us all to live together in peace and harmony for the betterment of all and the betterment of the earth,” said Reid.

Reid is presently working on a sequel to Beautiful Beautiful which will follow Raven in becoming a shaman. He is drawing on his 10 years of experience in the culinary industry by linking food and health and medicines.

“I've always been fascinated with Michelin stars (ranking for excellence in restaurants) and fancy eating. And the economy between working as a cook and catering to all these rather wealthy people when you're in the back. It's an interesting statement on the economy and society, really,” he said.

With this draft at 100,000 words, Reid expects his second novel will come out in late 2025.

“I'll take my time with it and make sure it's really excellent and apply everything that I learned through this process writing my first book. I learned a lot. And I sort of know what the publisher expects and I want to do them proud. I'm proud of Nightwood. I’m proud of being part of Nightwood,” he said.

Beautiful Beautiful can be purchased in bookstores or online at

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