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Pedestrian Crossing: Recommended Reads about Walking

A recommended reading list by author of new essay collection Straggle: Adventures in Walking While Female.

Book Cover Straggle

As I wrote Straggle: Adventures in Walking While Female, I entered a world of books in which others walked faster, farther, and better than me. But I was encouraged by what Rebecca Solnit wrote in Wanderlust, that it is “the most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.” Walking can give us a new perspective on what ails us, and no doubt some things can be solved by walking it out, walking it off or walking away, but it depends on who’s doing the walking, as well as where and how. Straggle is a book that emphasizes the delicate art of walking in a sometimes painful body with a trauma history. Like most people, I’m a package deal; when part of me walks, all of me walks. Many books about walking lean toward adventure or distance hiking, but my recommended books have been written about the importance of knowing where you walk and experiencing who you are as you go.

 

Walking can give us a new perspective on what ails us, and no doubt some things can be solved by walking it out, walking it off or walking away, but it depends on who’s doing the walking, as well as where and how.

*****

Book Cover This Place 150 Years Retold

This Place: 150 Years Retold, by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, and others

This multi-authored, beautifully drawn graphic collection offers stories of Indigenous lives during the last 150 years on Turtle Island/North America. Whenever you walk in “this place,” it’s useful to think through time and these stories will give you a way to start.

*****

Book Cover Fast Commute

Fast Commute, by  Laurie D. Graham

Graham’s ongoing gift to Canadian literature is her work on walking or riding through land and questioning how history is written and unwritten on the ground we walk on. This long poem is for anyone who has been forced to be peripatetic because of life changes and wants to think about what it means to pass through, walk on, live alongside stories that you may or may not recognize as your own. 

*

Book Cover Feminist City

The Feminist City: A Field Guide, by Leslie Kern

This practical and no-bullshit discussion of female urban experience is the kind of book I read and yelled “Yes!” every few pages. Kern’s wide-ranging and thoughtful contemplation of the maxim “a woman’s place is in the city” will get you thinking—and re-thinking—how you take up urban space.

*

Book Cover A Map to the Door of No Return

A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging, by Dionne Brand

This is an older book by the fabulous Brand, but I have re-read it many times and always find keep something new in these kaleidoscopic essays. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to think about what belonging—or not belonging—means to a place, a body, a world.

*

Book Cover And a Dog Named Fig

And a Dog Named Fig, by Helen Humphreys

It’s been a long time since I lived with a dog, but Humphreys’s stellar book reminded me how dogs change our relationship of the land where we walk, and her account of the writer’s life of the mind tempered (and instructed) by the embodied daily demands of the dog is a terrific reminder of creatureliness is its magnificent and daily forms.

*

Book Cover We Share Our Matters

We Share Our Matters: Two Centuries of Writing and Resistance at Six Nations of the Grand River, by Rick Monture

My go-to read about living on the Haldimand Tract is Rick Monture’s We Share Our Matters. There’s nothing quite as humbling as reading the history of where you live by people who have been stewards of the land for centuries. Reading books by local Indigenous authors is especially important for anyone with a settler background who relocated as an adult and may need an extra boost of local Indigenous history.     

*

Sneak preview:

Book Cover Until Further Notice

Until Further Notice: A Year in Pandemic Time, by Amy Kaler

This book won’t be available until September, but I read it in manuscript and can tell you that Kaler has documented the daily walking project as a map not only to mental health during pandemic lockdowns, but also a long look at the costs of isolation and a re-consideration of unmanicured space in urban life.

*

Online bonus:

Miriam Toews’ essay in The New Yorker, “The Way She Closed the Door”: a walk with Toews through the city of Winnipeg, and a dance of return and departure.

*

Book Cover Straggle

Learn more about Straggle:

Tanis MacDonald walks the reader down many paths, pointing out the sights, exclaiming over birds, sharing stories and asking questions about who gets to walk freely through our cities, parks and wilderness. She walks to understand the place she now calls home in Southern Ontario, catalogues the fauna around her and walks through illness. Wry, smart, political and lyrical, these essays share the joy and danger of walking, and uncovers its promise of healing, of companionship and of understanding. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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