Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances "Frankie" Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly alienated from one another.
Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the complex dynamics of a small family falling apart.
Nancy Jo Cullen is the fourth recipient of the Writers' Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph-Humber. Her fiction and poems have appeared in The Puritan, Grain, filling Station, Plenitude, Prairie Fire, This Magazine, Room and Arc Poetry Magazine. Her short story collection, Canary, was the winner of the 2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.