Hello and Welcome Back!
As a Canadian and an avid reader, I like to read a lot of books by Canadian writers. I personally think that books are one of the few media that remains unique in Canadian. Our movies, our television, and our music is largely dominated by our American neighbours but in literature, I feel we have our own voice and perspective in a way that is fading in other artistic forms.
There are lots of Canadian books but they don’t necessarily focus on Canada itself. For the purposes of my own awards, I’ve chosen books that I think say something about us as a nation or a people. Astray by Emma Donoghue and Women Talking by Miriam Toews are both examples of excellent books written by Canadians that I read this year that you won’t find mentioned below because neither of them focus on this country.
Animal Person – Alexander MacLeod (McClelland & Stewart, 2022)
I really enjoyed this short story collection and MacLeod is quickly becoming a strong literary name on the Canadian scene, even apart from his famous literary father. I’ve put this one in last place though because it is very focused on the experience of a certain generation of Canadians from a certain place, namely the Maritimes. I think there’s a lot of interesting commentary here on younger Canadians who feel both connected to their home towns but are no longer able to make a living or survive in them but there was also a lot that didn’t speak to me as a West Coast Canadian.
This House is not a Home – Katłįà (Roseway Publishing, 2022)
It has been a fantastic thing to see Indigenous voices amplified in Canadian literature in recent years. I see more and more of this in my workplace where readers are searching out books by Indigenous writers. Story-telling, both in non-fiction and in fiction, is such a powerful way to share experience and understand each other better. This is a book that delves into Canada’s history of stolen land through the story of one family. This is an important Canadian book because it’s a part of our country’s history that we all need to know and understand better.
When We Lost Our Heads – Heather O’Neill
Whether writing contemporary fiction or historical, O’Neill always writes about Montreal. And I don’t know why I find that more accessible than reading about the East Coast of Canada, but I do. Maybe because cities are cities in a way that one small town is not another small town. Who knows. Even though this is a book about a city I’ve never been to, set over a hundred years before my birth, O’Neill brings it to life in a way that feels so alive and familiar. Probably because the focus is so tightly on women and their labour and their relationships and those are timeless issues. Her writing is bright and funny and shocking in all the right ratios.
Astra – Cedar Bowers
Maybe I’m showing my own bias here by choosing a BC writer. (Though, really, isn’t this whole award series focused on my own biases?) Part of the reason I was so charmed by this story of a woman named Astra was because it was so unexpected. A novel from a debut author has no business being this good, this thoughtful. Astra is both a book and a character that I still think about and the questions that Bowers evokes on relationships and what we can truly know of another person are so well drawn out here. She succeeds in the setting too here, a back and forth between small towns and communities and cities, showing the way that so many people live in and between both.
Do you try and specifically read books by authors from your home country? Any favourites you think I should read?