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Megan Gail Coles: Writing Through Risk

Books that challenge  literary expectations and community norms while demanding artistic honesty and human compassion

Book Cover Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, by Megan Gail Coles, begins with a warning: "This might hurt a little. Be Brave." But oh, the rewards for the reader who dares to venture forth: Coles' fresh and vibrant storytelling is stirring and unforgettable, and this novel that's set over the course of a single day proves to be so much more expansive in terms of time and place. It's a literary tour de force, and one of the most powerful books you'll read this season.

We're pleased to feature Coles' recommended reading list, "Writing Through Risk."


The books on this list challenge literary expectations and community norms while demanding artistic honesty and human compassion. This is fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama from the whole of our country written by individuals taking creative risks. Some of these are small linguistic risks, forcing the structure of a sentence into a new shape. Others are grand demonstrative risks, urging the industry to move beyond traditional gatekeeping. Still others are risking more, risking everything, even safety and wellbeing, to speak their truth rather than sit silent and unseen. These books, to varying degrees, have given me courage to write as I do about things I feel are important to the place and people I love. I am very grateful to each author for putting it on the page and hope to contribute to this brave dialogue in my way.


Book Cover a Fine Balance

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

The ramifications of India's powerful elite are carefully and generously rendered in Mistry's epic novel focusing a steady eye on the impoverished and working class people who must daily adjust to the constant smirking face of corruption and greed.


Book Cover Open

Open, by Lisa Moore

St. John's is spread out bare in Moore's contemporary sophomore collection depicting the living and lustful grit of our historical capital which has been routinely turned out in the near-distant, overly romanticized and often saccharine past.


Book Cover Down to the Drt

Down To The Dirt, by Joel Thomas Hynes

The raunch and slice of rural tongues familiar to any bay kid beyond the overpass is relentless in Hynes' debut where he unapologetically throws conventional literary linguistic traditions aside to embrace the salty wharf-head voice of NL, sluts, cunts and all.


Book Cover Huff & Stitch

Huff & Stitch, by Cliff Cardinal

Huff, one of the most thought-provoking and uncompromising pieces of Canadian Theatre ever stood up on its legs, unabashedly wrestles with intergenerational trauma experienced by First Nations Peoples and forces audiences to contend with their own complicity.


Book Cover Doc

Doc, by Sharon Pollock

Pollock is unflinching and open in her attempt to hold everyone, even the act of remembering itself, accountable in this examination of adverse childhood experiences and how they continue to impact our ability to thrive as adults.


Book Cover The Break

The Break, by Katherena Vermette

Vermette does not look away from the lateral and physical violence within her own community but, rather, investigates this aspect of her humanity with tenderness and patience while remaining true to the narrative.


Book Cover Even This Page is White

even this page is white, by Vivek Shraya

Shraya deftly navigates and challenges white privilege on the poetic page while writing defiantly about her relationship to her body in a hyper racialized and fetishized modern world.


Book Cover No Is Not Enough

No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

Klein adamantly and urgently plays a hard game of connect the dots where she examines how our choices and indulgences have ultimately delivered us to this horrifying political moment while urging—no, demanding—collective action in opposition to greed.


Book Cover Liar

Liar, by Lynn Crosbie

Crosbie diligently recounts the stunning and commonplace details of a broken heart in this long-form poem that makes it nearly impossible to remain in some vague, unknowing place about the damaging nature of lying and how it undoes us.


Book Cover memory Serves

Memory Serves, by Lee Maracle

Maracle does not mince words in her exploration of how patriarchal settler state rule has damaged self-determination, nor does she shy away from how this directly endangers the lives of women and children who she asserts require protections to ensure their safety. 


Book Cover Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

About Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club:

February in Newfoundland is the longest month of the year.

Another blizzard is threatening to tear a strip off downtown St. John’s, while inside The Hazel restaurant a storm system of sex, betrayal, addiction, and hurt is breaking overhead. Iris, a young hostess from around the bay, is forced to pull a double despite resolving to avoid the charming chef and his wealthy restaurateur wife. Just tables over, Damian, a hungover and self-loathing server, is trying to navigate a potential punch-up with a pair of lit customers who remain oblivious to the rising temperature in the dining room. Meanwhile Olive, a young woman far from her northern home, watches it all unfurl from the fast and frozen street. Through rolling blackouts, we glimpse the truth behind the shroud of scathing lies and unrelenting abuse, and discover that resilience proves most enduring in the dead of this winter’s tale.

By turns biting, funny, poetic, and heartbreaking, Megan Gail Coles’ debut novel rips into the inner lives of a wicked cast of characters, building towards a climax that will shred perceptions and force a reckoning. This is blistering Newfoundland Gothic for the twenty-first century, a wholly original, bracing, and timely portrait of a place in the throes of enormous change, where two women confront the traumas of their past in an attempt to overcome the present and to pick up a future.

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