This list features Canadian fiction and nonfiction by established Portuguese Canadian writers and a selection of books that delve into Portugal’s history, culture, and national psyche, including the new anthology Memória: An Anthology of Portuguese Canadian Writers.
My Darling Dead Ones, by Erika de Vasconcelos
In this bittersweet first novel of exile and return, Erika de Vasconcelos delivers brutal truths about the complexity of transplanted Portuguese culture and the emotional legacies that often bind immigrants and their children to the “old country” in ways that often limit personal growth and happiness. The lives of four Portuguese women, their relationships, their unfulfilled dreams and their joys, are told in varying time periods in a narrative that swings between past and present, between Portugal and Canada, between stoicism and saudade. Lyrical writing, sprinkled with Portuguese folklore, makes My Darling Dead Ones a classic Portuguese Canadian story.
The Scent of a Lie, by Paulo da Costa
This book of 14 interconnected stories set in the terraced hills and small towns of coastal Portugal received the 2003 Commonwealth First Book Prize for the Canada-Caribbean Region and the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize. Paulo da Costa’s lean and allegorical tales of farmers, village folk, priests, and soldiers who dream of leaving their difficult circumstances reveal a nearly pagan-like reverence for nature and an openness to exploring the miraculous. The Scent of a Lie is among the best in imaginative storytelling from an established poet and novelist who writes from a perspective of having lived in Angola and Portugal before immigrating to Canada.
Fado: The Saddest Music in the World, by Elaine Avila
A melancholy pairing of concert and theatre, Fado: The Saddest Music in the World, plucked the heartstrings of sold-out crowds in 2018 and 2019—especially those of the Portuguese immigrant community who intimately connected to playwright Elaine Avila’s story set in the back alleys of old Lisbon. Fado is the story of three women: a young Portuguese Canadian reclaiming her cultural identity and realizing a long-held dream of singing fado; her mother, an older woman confronting an old flame and Portugal’s fascist past; and finally, the ghost of Amália Rodrigues, the famed queen of fado, whose songs throughout the play evoke the heartbreak of love, loss, and fate.
Kicking the Sky, by Anthony de Sa
Anthony De Sa's previous book, Barnacle Love, is a collection of linked short stories about a Portuguese immigrant family and one of the pieces, “Shoeshine Boy” became the basis for his first novel, Kicking the Sky. De Sa sets his story in the aftermath of the real-life rape and murder of a young Portuguese Canadian shoeshine boy, Emanuel Marques, in the summer of 1977. As the details of Emanuel's death come to light, three young boys are pulled from the safety of their Portuguese immigrant neighbourhood into Toronto’s seedy underbelly, an adult world of danger and cruelty. A powerful but disturbing coming-of-age story about innocence lost set against the backdrop of a community’s urge for revenge.
The Whalemaster, by Michael Moniz
Below the nine islands of the Azores, a monster
waits for those who murdered his kin—the whalers,
with their longboats and deadly harpoons.
Moby Dick meets The Old Man and the Sea in a middle grade novel replete with swashbuckling adventures and haunted memories. A tough harpooner plucks a wounded boy from the sea while on a mission to hunt down a monster whale and save his homeland, a mystic island beset by pirates, war, and revenge.
The Mystery of the Portuguese Waltzes, by Richard Simas
In this delightfully illustrated picture book, musician and writer Richard Simas presents a slice of history in his story about Tamara, a young girl who overcomes her stage fright by learning to play a beautiful set of tunes known as “The Portuguese Waltzes” after meeting Art Stoyles, the renowned Newfoundland accordion player. With encouragement from the elderly musician and inspired by the story of his musical friendship with Manuel da Silva, a Portuguese sea captain, Tamara gains the confidence she needs to perform in front of an audience.
Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure, by Mary Soderstrom
This is an excellent resource for history buffs and others fascinated by the legacy of Portugal and its people. Soderstrom provides a detailed look at a country shaped by its sea-faring adventures and search for exotic spices though the lens of a fascinated outsider. A well-researched overview of Portugal’s greatest people and achievements, the author does not shy from examining Portugal’s early involvement in slave trading and its colonial legacies in India, Brazil, and other countries.
The Remarkable Adventures of Portuguese Joe Silvey, by Jean Barman
Historian and author Jean Barman captures the extraordinary life of a trailblazing, entrepreneurial Azorean immigrant who left his mark on BC by breaking new ground—both figuratively and literally. Joe Silvey was the first European to marry into the Coast Salish community and one of the first entrepreneurs in Vancouver (as a saloon keeper and owner of a grocery store). He was a pioneer of seine fishing on the coast and even built a school for his children on Reid Island where he and his descendants lived for many decades. An inspirational story of perseverance with keen insight into the obstacles faced by immigrants and Indigenous people at the time.
Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person, by Erin Moure
Inspired by the renowned Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, Erin Mouré “translates” and transplants the pastoral poetry in O Guardador de Rebanhos, a long poem by Pessoa’s alter ego, Alberto Caeiro, into the familiar settings of urban Toronto. Moure’s clever embellishments and wry observations reimagines the unsentimental spirit of the original text and flips it on its head. Quirky and provocative, this modern translation of The Keeper of Sheep would have likely met with Pessoa’s approval—and with elation at finding, in Mouré, a kindred spirit.
The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel
Composed of three loosely-related stories set primarily in Portugal, each of the three main characters is struggling to accept the death of a cherished loved one. One denounces God and seeks revenge, the second denies his grief and begins to question his sanity, and the third, with the aid of a chimpanzee, finds comfort in the acceptance of death. The High Mountains of Portugal is beautifully written and best read slowly to contemplate the symbols, metaphors, and allegories woven into these stories of self-reflection and grief.
Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between: Portuguese Popular Art, by Anthony Alan Shelton
A companion to the 2015 MOA exhibition, Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between combines fascinating analysis of Portuguese popular art with stunning photographs and personal accounts of the author’s friendships with the artisans he meets in the shops, factories, and markets of Portugal. From phallic ceramics, dance masks, and mischievous puppets to medieval frescoes and urban graffiti, curator and author Anthony Alan Shelton explores the enigmatic creations and national psyche of a small country haunted by its history, politics, and fate.
About Memória: An Anthology of Portuguese Canadian Writers, edited by Fernanda Viveiros
This slender volume of short fiction, drama, and poetry is a testament to the emergence of Portuguese Canadian literature, with more of their words and stories being brought to the attention of readers all over the world. With a foreword by noted academic and author Onésimo T. Almeida, Memória features fifteen writers whose work illustrates a wide range of experiences, narrative voices and sensibilities. Contributors include Clemente Alves, Edith Baguinho, Nelia Botelho, Esmeralda Cabral, Tony Correia, paulo da costa, Humberto da Silva, Aida Jordão, Irene Marques, Antonio M. Marques, Emanuel Melo, Eduardo Bettencourt Pinto, Paul Serralheiro, Richard Simas and Laureano Soares. Collected and edited by Fernanda Viveiros with editorial support by Maria João Dodman and Hugh Hazelton.
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