I’m Canadian. (Surprise!) I’m also of the opinion that there are some great books coming out of Canada and from Canadian writers. Much of our media (movies, music, television) in Canada tends to be dominated by the United States but a lot of our book industry (not all) still stands as independent from our neighbours. As a Canadian and a reader, I always make an effort to read and support Canadian books and I’d like to highlight some of my favourite Canadian reads this year. When looking at this category, I decided to choose not just the Best Book by a Canadian but the book that I feel says something important to and for Canadians in 2021. Here we go!
Blanket Toss Under the Midnight Sun – Paul Seesequasis
This book combines photography and writing to show a part of life in Canada that we don’t always hear about. Seesequasis has collected photos and stories of Indigenous communities – particularly in the North – in the mid-20th Century. His goal is to show what life was like, that it was happy and based in community and to demonstrate what families and communities were like.
This Place: 150 Years Retold
This is a graphic novel or, rather, a collection of graphic stories. Each one comes from a different author and illustrator but retells a portion of Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective, reminding us that there have been people and history here in Canada for much, much longer than European settlers. It is also an important reframing and new understanding of Canadian history, shining a light on the many abuses that the government and people have put Indigenous people through.
Forgiveness – Mark Sakamoto
Continuing the theme of Canadian atrocities….Sakamoto’s book is part memoir, part history. Through his family’s own story he tells a part of Canada’s. Our country’s role in World War II and the abuse that Japanese-Canadians suffered at that time. It is a hopeful book too though, showing what forgiveness can look like and what it means in a country of diversity like ours.
Butter Honey Pig Bread – Francesca Ekwuyasi
This book highlights what I think is one of Canada’s strongest attributes. We are a country of diverse backgrounds. We are a country made of people who have come here from all over the world and from all kinds of places. While this novel isn’t entirely set in Canada, it’s a beautiful story of family and food and a glimpse at some of the reasons people come to Canada.
And the Winner is:
Five Little Indians – Michelle Good
If I had to pick a book from my reading this year that everyone in Canada should read, it would be this one. Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples and particularly our history of residential schools and genocide has been international news in 2021. For any person who might question why this is still a problem or why people can’t simply move on, I would say, Read this novel.
I read many excellent books by Canadians this year. Below are some books by Canadian writers that I really enjoyed but they simply didn’t fit into this category. (Reviews are linked in titles where applicable.)
Out of the Sun – Esi Edugyan
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch – Rivka Galchen
Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A Womb in the Shape of a Heart – Joanne Gallant
Happy Hour – Marlowe Granados
What Strange Paradise – Omar El Akkad
How to Pronounce Knife – Souvankham Thammavongsa
We Want What We Want – Alix Ohlin
The Dogs Are Eating Them Now – Graeme Smith
Satellite Love – Genki Ferguson
Indians on Vacation – Thomas King