Off the Page

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

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Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

By Spencer Miller

Welcome to the Association for Canadian publisher’s Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video seri …

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Book Cover bread and water

Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

New books about everything, including food, beauty, art, travel, singing, healing, grieving, shopping, aging, and so muc …

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Book Cover Unlocking

CanLit Yearning

By Amy LeBlanc

"At the heart of my novella and in each book on this CanLit list is a sense of desire or a yearning (for belonging, iden …

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The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with political trailblazer Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, whose memoir, The Queer Evangelist, …

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Book Cover The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

With new books by Miriam Toews, Dawn Dumont, Douglas Coupland, Marie-Renee Lavoie, Omar El Akkad, Zoe Whittall, Trudy Mo …

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Book Cover The Quiet is Loud

Speculative Fiction: Vast and Thrilling

By Samantha Garner

"As a reader and a lightly superstitious human, I can’t deny the pull of the unusual, the not-quite-real. I love books …

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Book Cover Travels in Cuba

Writing with Four Hands

By Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel

"That’s what the Travels series is all about: sending a resourceful, observant, unafraid (well, sometimes a little afr …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

By Trevor Corkum

“Norma Jeane Baker of Troy leverages a millennia-old story of beauty and war to animate a history of the male gaze and …

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Book Cover The Hunted

The Places We'll Go

By Roz Nay

Pack your fictional bags at your peril! A recommended reading list by Roz Nay, whose latest thriller is The Hunted.

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Your (Bad) Mother's Day Liberation: "All women lie. They lie because they have to."

Book Cover Bad Mommy

My name is Willow Yamauchi, and I am a Bad Mommy. I’m also an epic mommy, an awesome mommy, a funny mommy, a loving, caring over-functioning mommy. But the truth--the real truth--is that I am fundamentally Bad, and that’s OK with me.

I had my first child at the ridiculously young age of 24. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I had a degree, a career, a husband, a mortgage. All I needed was the baby to have the complete package. What I didn’t get was how all this mommy business actually worked. What I also didn’t get was how alone I would find myself in my mommy-life. None of my friends were actively breeding. I was isolated in a baffling world of Mommy with little guidance.

Being a bibliophile I turned to books for direction and devoured--with great avarice--the Mommy tomes of the day: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, the Baby Book and the related gang of Mommy bibles became my lifeline. I faithfully memorized developmental charts, documented poopies and pee-pees and followed these books to the letter. I’ve always been compliant with direction, that’s my thing. I was being GOOD. Alas, my infant daughter didn’t seem to be reading the same books I was reading. Despite my adherence to all Mommy instructions, things just weren’t working out …

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Karleen Pendleton Jiménez on Butch Identity and Trying to Get Pregnant

As a dyke I am well-versed in sexual secrets. I've seen every kind of closet, and the hurt and shame that often fill them. I'm suspicious of silence, and have always been hell-bent on busting it open. The doctors may or may not be able to help us get pregnant these days, but at least, if even only through the written/web page, we can be there for each other.

This is from Karleen Pendleton Jiménez's essay "The Fertility Closet," posted on 49th Shelf earlier this year. Read the full piece here.

How to Get a Girl Pregnant book cover

I'd heard about Karleen's memoir, How To Get a Girl Pregnant (Tightrope Books)—all raves—each delivered by a woman even more different than the last, of interest because Karleen's memoir is about her singular experience as a butch-identified queer woman trying to get pregnant. Yet, as she states above, the struggle for women trying to get pregnant is hardly uncommon.

About the book: How to Get a Girl Pregnant is a frank and funny memoir about a dyke trying to get pregnant. Karleen Pendleton Jiménez has known that she was gay since she was three-years-old and wanted to have a baby for almost as long. But how is a butch Chicana lesbian supposed to get sperm? Picking up men at nightclubs and restaurants? Asking queer male friends for a donation? Using sperm banks dominated b …

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Unbreakable: Dede Crane on Motherhood

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." —Rajneesh

Once you are a mother, you are a mother for the rest of your life.  A perpetual contract, there is no such thing as time off. Your heart has been peeled back, your instinct turned on. Motherhood was the first time I knew without doubt that I would lay down my life for someone else. Pregnant with that first child, I asked a spiritual leader at my church how he liked being a parent. He was the father of an eight-year-old. Constant heartbreak, he said, with such honest feeling that I’ve never forgotten his words, though I’ve since forgotten his name and face.

Four children and innumerable heartbreaks later, big and small, joyful and otherwise, I stand on the cusp of no longer being vital or even necessary to my children. Our youngest, now fourteen, has begun the by now familiar parental exorcism. Pulling away from or perhaps pulling ahead of us, she’s clearly feeling the same way my thirteen-year-old self once felt towards my parents: as much as I loved them, I couldn’t help but hate them. For no reason that I can now think of, and without wanting to do so, …

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How Far Is Too Far? Theresa Shea on Motherhood and Reproductive Technology

Book Cover The Unfinished Child

From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Becoming a mother was not on my list of things to do, so I find it amusing now that I would have three children before I would publish a book. That’s amazing to me not just because the time has sped by (this is my 15th year of celebrating Mother’s Day) but also because for many years I had assumed I would remain childless. When that assumption changed, I found myself, like many women today, beginning a family in my mid thirties.

Despite being well educated and politically engaged, I had paid little attention to how the medical terrain surrounding pregnancy had changed. I had no clue, for instance, that there was a label for women like me. According to the medical profession, I was in the category of “advanced maternal age.” Suddenly, before I’d even had an examination, I had a big red RISK stamped onto my file. I felt as if I’d failed pregnancy 101 before I’d even shown up for the class.

Without a doubt, reproductive technologies have changed our ideas and practices about creating new human life. Google the words Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and read about the various procedures now available, and you might well wonder if you’re in Victor Frankenstein’s “workshop of filthy creation …

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On Kerry Clare's Mat Leave

kerryclare

Kerry Clare, our tireless, brilliant, and somehow both sweet and trenchant editor is taking a leave from 49th Shelf next week … FOR THE SUMMER. Just for the summer, thanks to god. She’s having a baby. Baby #2, a sister for Harriet. We are very excited for her, and thought the perfect gesture with which to send her away would be to republish a little something she wrote a few years back about her initial adjustment to motherhood.

The piece is called “Love is a Let-Down,” published in the Fall 2010 issue of The New Quarterly, and Kerry has declined to let us post it here. “49th Shelf is not about me or my writing!” she said. To which we said, “Fine. Be like that, all upstanding and decent and non-whorish.”

But. I can write a little about my recollection of reading “Love is a Let-Down.” Ha!

When I first came across “Love is a Let-Down,” I was having one of those days as a mother (at the time, of just one thrilling but challenging toddler) when I could not do one thing right. I was feeling fuzzy-minded about work and feeble according to every checklist I had yet consulted about what constitutes good parenting. Thank goodness time, experience, and candid conversation with other parents has given me more confidence (and humour), but then … I felt …

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