Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Shelf Talkers: Spring 2021

Shelf Talkers: Spring 2021

By Robert J. Wiersema

One of the best pieces of news in an otherwise dark year was the word that, despite the growth of online giants during t …

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Book Cover The Shadow Life

My Drifter Reading List

By Jen Sookfong Lee

A poetry list by the author of new book The Shadow List.

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Book Cover Fuse

Persian-Canadian Writers You've Got to Read

By Hollay Ghadery

So, where were all the Persian Canadian writers? It turns out, here all along, but not as represented as one might hope; …

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Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

By Geoffrey Ruggero

Picture books are often written with young children as their intended audience. In Tough Like Mum, Lana Button provides …

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Book Cover We Jane

Aimee Wall on The Great Canadian Abortion Novel

By Kerry Clare

"I didn’t want the plot to turn on an abortion or the decision to have one. Any conflict or tension is rooted elsewher …

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Book Cover Because the Sun

Poetry That's Going to Grab You

By 49thShelf Staff

Great books to read before for National Poetry Month is out.

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The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

By Trevor Corkum

Christopher DiRaddo’s sophomore novel, The Family Way, is a dynamic and rich exploration of queer family, parenthood, …

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Book Cover No More Plastic

Fighting for the Planet: Inspiring Books for Earth Day

By Kerry Clare

An eclectic list of inspiring books about fighting to protect the planet.

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Book Cover Hour of the Crab

Other Beings, Other Minds

By Patricia Robertson

A recommended reading list by author of the new book Hour of the Crab.

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Book Cover WANTED! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Life Sciences

By Julie Booker

Celebrate Earth Day with these fun and inspiring picture books.

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Plain Words: Guest Post by Pamela Mordecai

Book Cover Subversive Sonnets

I check some other blogs on the 49thShelf. Tess Fragoulis leads me (indirectly) to Tom Payne on Georges Perec, which leads me (more indirectly) to a recent review by Payne of a new book from Chatto, Beyond the Lyric: A Map of Contemporary British Poetry by Fiona Sampson, a former editor of Poetry Review. Early on, giving examples of some of the schools Sampson identifies as she looks for deeper links between poets, Payne tells us she considers poets like Elaine Feinstein and Dannie Abse to be among “The Plain Dealers,” influenced as they are by post-war austerity. The online thesaurus offers "blunt" and "austere" as synonyms for plain, but also "unadorned", "simple" and "natural". I think these are probably more what Fiona Sampson means, but then I think again: “Maybe, maybe not”, as the Eastern storyteller would say.

Eventually I settle down to write. My web-walk has been useful. It’s brought me to what’s on my mind, which is the matter of plain poems and stories.

I go back to Tom Payne: he takes (gentle) issue with Fiona Sampson for liking everything. “It’s great that she does. But this can make the book a less satisfying, provocative read than it might be.” He’d also prefer her to be more concerned with the "interested bystander" and if she " …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Pamela Mordecai


PCM for 49th Shelf

This week on The Chat, I’m pleased to be in conversation with Pamela Mordecai, whose ambitious, spellbinding first novel, Red Jacket, was a finalist for the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Award for Fiction.

Governor General’s Award winner Rachel Manley called the novel “a rich and compelling tale about the agony of being made to feel different and the elusiveness of belonging.” Quill & Quire says "Red Jacket is an accomplished, intelligent novel ... to be savoured for its multiple layers of meaning and—especially—its richness of language.”

Pamela Mordecai was born and raised in Jamaica. She has published six collections of poetry, most recently de book of Mary: a performance poem, which appeared from Mawenzi House in 2015. In 2006, Insomniac Press published Pink Icing to excellent reviews. Pamela has also published numerous textbooks, five children’s books, and a reference work on Jamaica (with her husband, Martin). Her play, El Numero Uno, premiered at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre in 2010. In spring, 2014, she was a fellow at Yad …

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The Recommend: September 2017

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Greg Rhyno (To Me You Seem Giant), Pamela Mordecai (Red Jacket), Alix Hawley (All True Not a Lie In It), and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer (All the Broken Things).


Greg Rhyno recommends Andrew Hood's The Cloaca

Andrew Hood has written a pile of great stuff including book reviews, essays, and a biography on Guelph lo-fi legend Jim Guthrie. But for my money, Hood’s primary talent lies within his ability to birth a killer short story.  His second collection of these slimy diamonds is The Cloaca, appropriately named after the orifice where everything bad comes out of a bird. The stories in this book are messy, cathartic, and hilarious.   

The narrator in “Manning” spars with a deformed man-child over a rookie baseball card. In “Beginners,” a woman’s martial arts dreams are dashed when her sensei keeps looking down her karategi. The smell of a used diaper in “I’m Sorry and Thank You” reminds the main character of things he …

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Pamela Mordecai: Novels of the Caribbean

Book Cover Red Jacket

The award-winning Pamela Mordecai's new novel is Red Jacket, which is about a girl growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Chris who never feels like she really belongs. Although her large, extended family is black, she is a redibo. Her skin is copper-coloured, her hair is red, and her eyes are grey. A neighbour taunts her, calling her “a little red jacket,” but the reason for the insult is never explained. Only much later does Grace learn the story of her birth mother and decipher the mystery surrounding her true identity. 

In keeping with our theme of "Writing the World" this month, Mordecai shares with us this fantastic list of novels of the Caribbean. 


I had three criteria for this list of nine books: that the writers be Canadian-Caribbean women; that the setting be entirely or in large part, the Caribbean; and that the books be published in (roughly) the last 15 years. That I claim most of these women as friends is a huge privilege. Give thanks.

At the Full and Change of the Moon, by Dionne Brand

As my daughter says, this is an amazing bo …

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On Our Radar

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.


Red Jacket, by Pamela Mordecai

Reviewed by Dana Hansen in Quill & Quire: 

"The first novel from Jamaican-born poet, short-story writer, and scholar Pamela Mordecai is a deliberately paced, trenchant story of one woman’s coming of age on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Chris, and her difficult journey away from the security and familiarity of her loving home to find a place for herself in the wider world...

Despite being thematically heavy, Red Jacket is an accomplished, intelligent novel. It is to be savoured for its multiple layers of meaning and—especially—its richness of language."

Read the whole review

And don't miss Pamela Mordecai's "Novels of the Caribbean" list from last month.


Born to Walk, by Dan Rubinstein

Reviewed by Zsuzsi Gartner in The Globe and Mail

"From a group walk in Glasgow meant to boost mental health, and a pilgri …

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