Off the Page

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

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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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Book Cover Constant Nobody

Courage from the Outliers

By Michelle Butler Hallett

A recommended reading list by the author of new novel Constant Nobody.

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The Making of a Revolution: Q&A With Sally Armstrong and Excerpt From Ascent of Women

Photo Credit: Avril Benoit

Ascent of Women tells the dramatic and empowering stories of change-makers and examines the stunning courage, tenacity and wit these women are using to alter the status quo. It is the story of a dawning of a new revolution, whose chapters are being written in mud-brick houses in Afghanistan; on Tehrir Square in Cairo; in the forests of the Congo, where women still hide from their attackers; and in a shelter in northern Kenya, where 160 girls between 3 and 17 are pursuing a historic court case against a government who did not protect them from rape.

Women revolutionaries in Toronto and Nairobi, Kabul and Caracas, New York City and Lahore are making history. Women the world over are marching to protest honour killing, polygamy, stoning and a dozen other religiously or culturally sanctified acts of violence. Sally Armstrong brings us these voices from the barricades, inspiring and brave.


49th Shelf Q&A with Sally Armstrong:

Kerry Clare: For your reader, it’s not immediately obvious that Ascent of Women is a good news story. Your book illustrates that women and girls are victimized, brutalized, and subjugated all over the world—hardly news to you after 25 years of reporting this news, but for the rest of us the effect is overwhelming. …

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Mary Pratt: Monumentalizing the Stuff of Life

Mary Pratt Cover

The new book Mary Pratt is a retrospective of the life and career of the renowned Canadian painter. The book accompanies the travelling exhibition of Pratt's work, and includes images of her luminous paintings, a chronology of her life, and five critical essays which place Pratt's work in a wider context. One of these essays is "Vanitas" by Sarah Fillmore, which we are pleased to be able to share with you here. 


I first met Mary Pratt at her home in St. John’s. She served pecan bars and they looked, as you would expect, perfect. White china teacups were nestled inside one another on a tray set on the kitchen counter. Tulips sprawled in a cut-glass vase on a white lace tablecloth. It all made sense: Mary Pratt’s home serves as inspiration—why look any further than the world around her? In her home we are faced with the real thing: the “real” bowl of fruit, the “real” jar of jelly or the “real” sink full of dishes. (Though let’s be clear: there was no sink full of dishes on the occasion of my visit.)

Smears of Jam, Lights of Jelly

MARY PRATT Smears of Jam, L …

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Suri Rosen on YA and Making the Possible … Possible

Book Cover Playing With Matches

Suri Rosen writes about her new YA novel, Playing with Matches, and about how building a YA world without vampires isn't as easy as you'd think. 


In my debut novel, Playing with Matches, I explore a phenomenon that seems incongruous to the edgy world of contemporary young adult literature: traditional matchmaking.

Although matchmaking is not entirely incongruous. While young adult literature spans a broad spectrum of subject matter, the exploration of physical and emotional boundaries is a common theme. And romance is almost always an ingredient in a female protagonist’s growth.

In Playing with Matches, I combine the tradition of matchmaking with a most decidedly non-traditional medium—the Internet. This twist provided me with an almost unlimited supply of material for intrigue and mayhem.

And when you’re writing comedy, who doesn’t love mayhem?

But what about plausibility? How believable is it for accomplished professionals to turn to a matchmaker to find them a partner? Can you write about a protagonist in an all-girls school whose goals don’t involve pursuing a relationship? In the YA-verse, that’s pretty outlandish.

As writers, we often have the task of making the impossible seem possible. Readers are willing to enter alien worlds. They want to be …

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Michele Landsberg: When Did We Start Talking About Rape?

Book Cover Writing the Revolution

"Talking History" is a biweekly series made possible through a special funding grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The series focuses on a wide range of topics in Canadian history, exploring the notion of history as a compelling form of storytelling of interest to large audiences. These articles by Canada's foremost historians and history experts use the power of narrative to bring the past to life, drawing connections between then and now to show how these stories are not just relevant, but essential to our understanding of Canada and the world today.

Today, we're pleased to feature an essay by Michele Landsberg, a Toronto-born journalist, author, and feminist activist. 


When did we start talking about rape?

Was it second wave, third wave, or any wave at all?

Certainly not the first wave. That brilliant, pioneering suffragist  crew—Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and the others—breathed not a word about sexual violence when they wrote their excoriating litany of injustices to women  in their 1848 "Declaration of Sentiments." The relative silence lasted a century; I remember grade 9 in the 1950s, when our Latin teacher explained to the snickering class that "Rape of the Sabine Women" really meant "kidnapping" and not what …

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Shameless: Marilyn Churley on Finding her Son and Reforming Adoption Disclosure

In the late 1960s, at the age of 19 and living far from home amid the thriving counterculture of Ottawa, Marilyn Churley got pregnant. Like thousands of other women of the time she kept the event a secret. Faced with few options, she gave the baby up for adoption.

Over 20 years later, as the Ontario NDP government's minister responsible for all birth, death, and adoption records, including those of her own child, Churley found herself in a surprising and powerful position—fully engaged in the long and difficult battle to reform adoption disclosure laws and find her son.

Both a personal and political story, her memoir, Shameless, is a powerful book about a mother's struggle with loss, love, secrets, andlies—and an adoption system shrouded in shame.


49th Shelf: Shameless makes clear that issues around adoption are feminist issues. What has changed since your experiences in the 1960s in terms of stigma around unplanned or unwanted pregnancies? What has stayed the same?

Marilyn Churley: Adoption is a feminist issue for many reasons. As I said in the introduction to Shameless, history shows that women have always been coerced into living their lives as society deems appropriate, and tormented, punished and shamed when they didn’t comply. The double standard aro …

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