I started writing Minique in October 2017, the same month the #MeToo movement took off on social media. It was a fevered and seemingly transformative time for women pushing back against suffocating patriarchal structures; for a moment, it felt like real change was possible in the face of female rage.
I knew about female rage. I was one of the complainants in the investigation into Steven Galloway, my former professor and thesis advisor at UBC. Writing this novel was a way to exorcise the anger I felt throughout that process; it was also a way to give a voice to a woman from history whose story had been overwritten by the stories of men.
These books, about people and characters pushing back at structures that aim to diminish them, make me feel less alone.
Best Young Woman Job Book: A Memoir, Emma Healey
Healey peels back the layers of the connection between precarious work and existing as a woman looking for safety in life in general but also specifically in the insular, often-rotten sphere of the Canadian writing scene. I felt like she was lifting a mirror up to my face; this book inspired me to excavate my own feelings about CanLit.
White Resin, by Audrée Wilhelmy
No one writes like Wilhelmy. Her voice is crystalline and yet dreamy, brutal and yet ephemeral, in love with people and yet repulsed by them. A meandering book about what happens when the industrialised meets and mates with the wilderness. Dãa, our female protagonist, refuses to let her husband and the changing world tame the most important core of her.
I Become a Delight to my Enemies, by Sara Peters
Part Greek tragedy, part 1984, part lived experience of almost every woman in the world, Peters’s book pulls us into the Town, a place that seems normal but has an ageless and violent secret roiling and rotting beneath its facade. We hear the desperate voices of all the Town’s women, and in them the moments of fear and rage and subjugation contrasted with the fragments of love, joy, and remote hope.
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, by Alicia Elliott
Elliott unfolds the pain of Canada’s horrific treatment of Indigenous peoples; the dangers of being a woman in a patriarchal world; the heartbreak of seeing people you love struggle with mental illness. And she does it all with immense generosity, walking us through things we may not be familiar with but guiding us every step of the way, so that if we feel lost, angry, or sad, she's there to return us to the track she wants us to continue on.
Baba Yaga and the Wolf, by Tin Can Forest
It’s Baba Yaga—no-one can compare! Tin Can Forest, made up of Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek, who work under one name, is known for its dark and lush illustrations. Baba Yaga is known mostly as a villain, but like most Slavic folk characters, in reality she is ambiguous, many-faceted, and fiercely protective of herself and her home.
Bunny, Mona Awad
There are so few words to describe the manic genius of Bunny. Part fairy tale, part Mean Girls, part Frankenstein, it made my heart race with its descriptions of the difficult and dangerous power dynamics that exist within a creative writing department at a university, and the theatrics and uneasy creepiness that go hand in hand with doing an MFA in said department.
The Hunter and the Old Woman, by Pamela Korgemagi
Aside from having one of the best covers I’ve ever seen, this novel, which follows the intertwining lives of a battle-worn, wise female cougar and a brash and yet entranced young male hunter, is both a forward march of time and a dive back into the past. And it asks an age-old question: Who is the animal, really?
Foul Ball!: Five Years In The American League, by Alison Gordon
Gordon was one of Canada’s first prominent female sportswriters, and was also the first woman doing sports coverage of the MLB’s American League. It’s a pleasure and also at times an absolute horror to be invited into the baseball locker room alongside her, to see the challenges she was faced with and also the joys she experienced. Grimly, so many of the revolting behaviours she dealt with in the '80s are still affecting female sports journalists and writers today.
Hooked, by Carolyn Smart
If we’re to talk about women who were overwritten by history, whose stories have morphed depending on the men they were associated with, for better or for worse, then we have to talk about Hooked. It’s not always an easy read; some of these women are reprehensible people. And yet here they are, alive again, voices vaulting off the pages, no longer solely defined by the men in their lives.
Loosely based on the lives of real 17th-century figures, Minique is a fierce outsider narrative, a feminist fable, a survival story, and a turbulent romance rolled into one utterly captivating novel.
The buzzing in her head gets louder, like there are more bees, and the itching on the top of her mouth is everywhere now, all across her tongue and teeth and the inside of her cheeks, hot, hot, hot. She takes a breath and she sees these men in the forest, sees their hands covered in blood as they skin beavers, ripping the fur from the shiny meat.
Montréal, 1680s: Minique has a secret she can’t ever tell. She knows there are horrific consequences for girls and women who do not conform. She saw it with her own eyes when Anne, the aubergiste, was viciously marched through town and charged with crimes she didn’t commit. Besides, Minique has never had family members to tell. She remembers little of her mother, a fille du roi, who arrived in Montréal on a ship; she rarely sees her father, a coureur des bois who is often away; and she barely speaks with her Tante Marie, a stern, hard woman.
Years later, after a string of tragedies, Minique has abandoned the hostility of the town and its people. She has built a home for herself in the woods, outside the boundary of Montréal. But her solitary existence is interrupted when she learns that Antoine de Cadillac, an ambitious Frenchman with a violent past, is after a monopoly of the fur trade in New France. Though initially repulsed by his greed, Minique is powerfully drawn to him. Soon, their paths start to cross in unpredictable ways as Cadillac’s determination to learn more about the “witch in the wood” intensifies. They forge a reckless, passionate connection with an ever-shifting dynamic that Minique welcomes until she realizes that everything—down to the core of who she is and the secret she carries—is at stake.
By turns fierce, gripping, poignant, and menacing, Minique is historical fiction with a contemporary twist. Here is a one-of-a-kind story about a woman’s reckoning with her own power and what she will do to protect it.
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