Today and all days, we celebrate books by Canadian women and their remarkable stories. Picking up one of these brand new titles would be a perfect way of marking International Women's Day.
A One-Handed Novel, by Kim Clark
About the book: When Melanie Farrell visits the neurologist she is told her multiple sclerosis is progressing. She isn't surprised by the diagnosis, but what does shock her is the related prognosis. It seems, based on a new study, that she only has six orgasms left. Six! Fortyish and single, Mel must decide how best to spend, save or at least not waste those precious orgasms.
Mel's plans to make the most of her sex life proves easier said than done when other realities of living with MS demand even more of her attention. Should she max out her credit card on an experimental procedure in Costa Rica? How can she work to financially support herself and get the care she needs when she can hardly leave the house? Where are her friends when she needs them? Her choices become even more confusing when one day she meets a man who loves butterflies and is good with his hands. But is romance what she's really looking for right now? Or is she looking for something even more?
Hysteria, by Elisabeth de Mariaffi
About the book: Heike Lerner’s life looks perfect from the outside: she’s settled into an easy routine of caring for her young son, Daniel, and spends her days wandering the woods near their summer house, while her nights are filled with clinking glasses and charming conversation. It all helps to keep her mind at ease—or at least that’s what her husband, Eric, tells her. But lately, Heike’s noticed there are some things out of place: a mysterious cabin set back in the trees and a strange little girl who surfaces alone at the pond one day, then disappears—while at home Eric is becoming increasingly more controlling. Something sinister that Heike cannot quite put her finger on is lingering just beneath the surface of this idyllic life.
It’s possible Heike’s worries are all in her head, but when the unthinkable happens—Daniel vanishes while she and Eric are at a party one night—she can no longer deny that something is very wrong.
Desperate to find her son, Heike will try anything, but Eric insists on a calm that feels so cold she wonders if she can trust him at all.
Could Eric be involved in Daniel’s disappearance? Or has some darker thing taken him? The closer Heike gets to the truth, the faster it slips away. But she will not rest until she finds her son.
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, by Kim Fu
About the book: A group of young girls descends on Camp Forevermore, a sleepaway camp in the Pacific Northwest, where their days are filled with swimming lessons, friendship bracelets and camp songs by the fire. Bursting with excitement and nervous energy, they set off on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. But before the night is over, they find themselves stranded, with no adults to help them survive or guide them home.
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore follows these five girls—Nita, Kayla, Isabel, Dina and Siobhan—through and beyond this fateful trip. We see the survivors through the successes and failures, loves and heartbreaks of their teen and adult years, and we come to understand how a tragedy can alter the lives it touches in innumerable ways. In diamond-sharp prose, Kim Fu gives us a portrait of friendship and of the families we build for ourselves—and the pasts we can’t escape.
The Red Word, by Sarah Henstra
About the book: A smart, dark, and take-no-prisoners look at rape culture and the extremes to which ideology can go, The Red Word is a campus novel like no other. As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters into the back-to-school revelry—particularly at Gamma Beta Chi. When she wakes up one morning on the lawn of Raghurst, a house of radical feminists, she gets a crash course in the state of feminist activism on campus. The frat known as GBC is notorious, she learns, nicknamed “Gang Bang Central” and a prominent contributor to a list of rapists compiled by female students. Despite continuing to party there and dating one of the brothers, Karen is equally seduced by the intellectual stimulation and indomitable spirit of the Raghurst women, who surprise her by wanting her as a housemate and recruiting her into the upper-level class of a charismatic feminist mythology scholar they all adore. As Karen finds herself caught between two increasingly polarized camps, ringleader housemate Dyann believes she has hit on the perfect way to expose and bring down the fraternity as a symbol of rape culture—but the war between the houses will exact a terrible price.
The Red Word captures beautifully the feverish binarism of campus politics and the headlong rush of youth toward new friends, lovers, and life-altering ideas. With strains of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, Alison Lurie’s Truth and Consequences, and Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, Sarah Henstra’s debut adult novel arrives on the wings of furies.
Things Are Good Now, by Djamila Ibrahim
About the book: Set in East Africa, the Middle East, Canada, and the U.S., Things Are Good Now examines the weight of the migrant experience on the human psyche. In these pages, women, men, and children who’ve crossed continents in search of a better life find themselves struggling with the chaos of displacement and the religious and cultural clashes they face in their new homes. A maid who travelled to the Middle East lured by the prospect of a well-paying job is trapped in the Syrian war. A female ex-freedom fighter immigrates to Canada only to be relegated to cleaning public washrooms and hospital sheets. A disillusioned civil servant struggles to come to grips with his lover’s imminent departure. A young Muslim Canadian woman who’d married her way to California to escape her devout family’s demands realizes she’s made a mistake.
The collection is about remorse and the power of memory, about the hardships of a post-9/11 reality that labels many as suspicious or dangerous because of their names or skin colour alone, but it’s also about hope and friendship and the intricacies of human relationships. Most importantly, it’s about the compromises we make to belong.
A Dangerous Crossing, by Ausma Zehanat Khan
About the book: For Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty, the Syrian refugee crisis is about to become personal. Esa’s childhood friend, Nathan Clare, calls him in distress: his sister, Audrey, has vanished from a Greek island where the siblings run an NGO. Audrey had been working to fast-track refugees to Canada, but now, she is implicated in the double-murder of a French Interpol agent and a young man who had fled the devastation in Syria.
Esa and Rachel arrive in Greece to a shocking scene, witnessing for themselves the massive fallout of the Syrian war in the wretched refugee camps. Tracing Audrey’s last movements, they meet some of the volunteers and refugees—one of whom, Ali, is involved in a search of his own, for a girl whose disappearance may be connected to their investigation. The arrival of Sehr Ghilzai—a former prosecutor who now handles refugee claims for Audrey’s NGO—further complicates the matter for Esa, as his feelings towards her remain unresolved.
Working against time, with Interpol at their heels, Esa and Rachel follow a trail that takes them from the beaches of Greece, to the Turkish–Syrian border, and across Europe, reaching even the corridors of power in the Netherlands. Had Audrey been on the edge of a dangerous discovery, hidden at the heart of this darkest of crises—one which ultimately put a target on her own back?
The Unceasing Storm, by Katherine Luo
About the book: Just over fifty years ago, China’s Cultural Revolution began. The movement was intended to bring about a return to revolutionary Maoist beliefs and resulted in attacks on intellectuals and those believed to be counter-revolutionaries, capitalists and rightists; a large-scale purge in government posts; the appearance of a personality cult around Mao Zedong; and an estimated death count of between one and three million.
When Katherine Luo moved from Hong Kong to mainland China in 1955 to study drama and opera, she hoped her ideals and patriotism might help to build her country. Like many citizens, she loved the motherland and admired its revolutionary leaders. After years of completely trusting the regime, rationalizing its decisions and betrayals, and criticizing herself for doubting the Party, she realized that no matter how much she loved China, it would never love her back because she had the wrong background—capitalist class origins and overseas connections.
The Unceasing Storm describes Luo’s personal struggles—among other things, she was expelled from university, forbidden to marry her first love, and accused of being a spy—but it is also the memoir of a generation, representative of similar incidents occurring all over China. Luo’s colleagues and famous artists were dogged by their backgrounds—the unluckiest in the “to be executed, imprisoned or placed under surveillance” category; family members and teachers were labelled rightists; friends and war heroes were imprisoned; careers were ruined, families separated, ordinary people lifted to power one morning and destroyed overnight.
Some of those with stories to tell perished, of those who lived, many prefer to forget, and others burned all written records to avoid being incriminated. When the people involved in the revolution have all died, it will be all too easy to forget or pretend it never happened. The Unceasing Storm is one step towards creating a truthful record of contemporary China.
Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot
About the book: Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot "trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain and what we can bring ourselves to accept." Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people and to her place in the world.
Shrewed, by Elizabeth Renzetti
About the book: Why are there so few women in politics? Why is public space, whether it’s the street or social media, still so inhospitable to women? What does Carrie Fisher have to do with Mary Wollstonecraft? And why is a wedding ceremony Satan’s playground?
These are some of the questions that bestselling author and acclaimed journalist Elizabeth Renzetti examines in her new collection of essays. Drawing upon Renzetti’s decades of reporting on feminist issues, Shrewed is a book about feminism’s crossroads. From Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign to the quest for equal pay, from the lessons we can learn from old ladies to the future of feminism in a turbulent world, Renzetti takes a pointed, witty look at how far we’ve come—and how far we have to go.
If Nellie McClung and Erma Bombeck had an IVF baby, this book would be the result. If they’d lived at the same time. And in the same country. And if IVF had been invented. Well, you get the point.
Who Took My Sister?, by Shannon Webb-Campbell
About the book: Joining a host of important contemporary voices such as Gregory Scofield, Liz Howard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Mi'kmaq writer Shannon Webb-Campbell's Who Took My Sister? is a collection of poems and texts that hold and carry trauma; they are a choir and a haunting testament.
Falling somewhere between Indigenous wisdom and contemporary poetic strategies Who Took My Sister?creates a space where readers are brought face to face with Mother Earth, Grandfather Sky, waterways, ancestors who give voice to the land, extreme national genocide, and Indigenous women whose lives are cut short by the colonial agenda.
Laced with piercing provocative awareness, cutting truths, and the reality of oppression, Who Took My Sister? is a decolonial orchestra and a rallying cry in the wilderness of our tumultuous times.
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