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QWF Awards 2012 Shortlists

By 49thShelf
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The Quebec Writers’ Federation is proud to announce the shortlist for the 2012 QWF Literary Awards. With a combined value of $12,000, these six awards will be announced at a special gala ceremony hosted by author, filmmaker and Montreal Gazette columnist Josh Freed, on Tuesday, November 20 at Le Lion d’Or.
26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6

26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6

also available: Paperback eBook

Forget social studies, math, and science -- this hilarious novel is about surviving some of the real problems tween girls face in the sixth grade. Honest and heartwarming, the story follows eleven-year-old Becky Lennox over the course of the school year as she figures out how to survive friendships, first crushes, embarrassing parents and annoying older brothers.

This award-wnning novel from emerging author Catherine Austen is a sure-fire hit for tween girls.

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The Flower of Youth

The Flower of Youth

Pier Paolo Pasolini Poems
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

Written as a kind of historical narrative in verse, the poems in this collection depict the coming of age and sexual awareness of the great Italian writer and film director, Pier Paolo Pasolini. The time of this story is World War II; the place is German-occupied northern Italy. Unlike his younger brother, Guido, who took up arms to fight in the resistance, Pasolini chose to help his mother set up a school for the boys too young to fight or be conscripted. The situation ignited an internal war f …

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Fools Rule

Fools Rule

Inside the Failed Politics of Climate Change
also available: Paperback

This eloquent, rage-inciting polemic about the global failure to deal with climate change will appeal to readers of Tim Flannery, George Monbiot and Bill McKibben - and anyone concerned with the economic and environmental future of our planet.

Kyoto, 1997. Montreal, 2005. Copenhagen, 2009. Cancun, 2010. In Fools Rule, Marsden illustrates how inefficient and short-sighted political negotiations have become despite mounting scientific evidence that immediate action is essential to curb the effects …

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Arne Bang Mikkelsen was a happy man. And why not? The convention had gone as planned. His logistics were flawless.
During the two weeks from December 4 to 18, 2009, when world leaders met in Copenhagen and spectacularly failed to produce a global agreement on climate change, Arne found success in feeding and watering them. The enormous food production system that mankind had been perfecting over the last eight thousand years—in the process conquering nature and altering normal climatic cycles—had worked. As chief executive of the huge hangar-like Bella Conference Center where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference was held, he was “really proud,” he said, that during the thirteen-day event the appetites of 45,000 people had been well served, the multitude having consumed three hundred tons of food including fish, poultry, beef, vegetables, fresh fruit and Danish hot dogs (pølse); 14,779 cakes (mostly apple strudel and chocolate squares); 350,000 glasses of water and 250,000 cups of coffee, plus thousands of bottles of beer and wine.
The only glitch was the long lineups into the convention itself, caused by a congested security system that forced some delegates to wait up to five hours in the cold of a Danish December before gaining entry. “The UN has apologized for this and has taken on the full responsibility,” Arne said. Nothing was gonna stick to Arne. From the Danish organizers’ point of view, the long queues were the only practical thing that did not function. “It has created respect throughout the world,” they said after the conference wrapped up and the world leaders and delegates had, as Greenpeace put it, fled the crime scene.
Arne’s finest hour, however, was not to be found in the simple fact of having fed so many delegates. As he stated in his final communiqué after the conference, it was the “record-time” assembly and furnishing of thirty-eight private meeting rooms, which the Americans and Chinese had ordered up with only three days left in the negotiations, that really showed his troops at their best.
Deep within the cavernous halls of Arne’s Bella Center, where 192 nations struggled to quite possibly remake the world, it was in the seclusion of these rooms that a select group of world leaders leapfrogged the whole process and created what they called the Copenhagen Accord. Then they quickly saddled up their private jets and headed home to nations where the poor are clamoring for their fair share of the world’s wealth or, in the case of President Obama, into a violent Washington snowstorm where the clamoring comes from a moneyed elite of “legal persons” with names like Goldman Sachs, Exxon, Chevron and Koch—the pillars of America’s corporate democracy.
These private meeting rooms were where the Western powers attempted crudely and very publicly to bribe a defiant developing world into submission; where they tried but failed to sideline China and in the process reinforced the Communist country’s overwhelming influence in the Third World; and where, as many scientists would conclude, the world’s climate systems inched much closer to collapse.
Soon after they had gone, Arne’s army swept away the evidence of failure in order to host another event in the annual rotation of fashion, holiday and car fairs. Within a week, the crime scene had been cleansed, erased. “Back to normal,” Arne said. As if nothing had ever happened.
I followed the climate talks from 2009 to 2011, including the meetings in Bonn, Bangkok and Barcelona that led up to the Christmas pantomime in Copenhagen and then, one year later, the sun-splashed conference in the paradise of Cancún.
Initially, I was a parachutist landing amid a conversation carried on in an unfamiliar coded English. Words such as “Lu-Lu-CFs” (meaning Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry), “Napas” (National Adaptation Programs of Action), “Redd” (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries) or, my favorite, “BINGOs” (Business and Industry Non-government Organizations) were bandied about with the easy fluency of the insider. So arcane were these negotiations that I had to go to school in the language. Indeed, the United Nations supplied such a training for neophytes like me.
What was important, of course, was not so much the army of acronyms but the history behind them, something most delegates had long since forgotten. What had brought them to these meetings in the first place?
The answer was science. Relegated to trade show status, it had become a commodity you could take or leave depending on your needs. My journey through the science of climate change— particularly my trek over the Arctic glaciers to study their primal warnings—revealed the utter desperation of scientists as they pile proof upon proof only to see it disappear into the smoke of denial or crash against the excuse of political and economic expediency. Science presents us with an assessment of risk. It tells us that climate change is the “defining challenge of our times,” as UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres put it in the months leading up to the 2010 meeting in Cancún. “What is at stake here is none other than the long-term sustainable future of humanity . . . The milestone science has set . . . requires nothing less than an energy revolution both in production and in consumption.” To achieve this, she said, nations need to grasp “the politically possible at every step.”
Canada, which exhibits one of the more extreme cases of national cognitive dissonance, has turned back the clock on its greenhouse gas commitments, cranking up its tar sands production and even expanding coal-fired power plants. But the country is not unique. Australia, China, India and Brazil are all eagerly expanding their carbon footprints. These negotiations involve thousands of conflicting economic, social and political interests across individual, local, national and international levels that have so far defied a solution as each country marches along according to its greed.
Perhaps this is because the rich industrialized West is actively in denial as to what the stakes are. We act as if these negotiations are about politics as usual—Figueres’s politics of the possible. Or, as Jonathan Pershing, the tall, self-assured American negotiator, told me: “The politics of the negotiations does not speak in any way to what has to be done.” The science is overwhelming and frightening. But the reality is that the pace of political progress is a question only of achieving “milestones.” Pershing is a scientist with a doctorate in geology and geophysics and an expertise in petroleum geology. He had previously worked as a climate change negotiator in the Clinton administration and also served as an author of the International Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. So he should know better. Yet he sticks to the political mantra. While the politics is regrettable, he says, that is the way things are. The possible is always what’s at issue.
Nations may find meaning in the politically possible, but climate change does not. It is a rising sea, a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane, a flood, a drought that sweeps away society’s backup plans. It is a reminder that the way we live is not at all grounded in nature. The gap between what the science is asking us to do and what most people are willing to accept—what they claim is “possible”—gives you vertigo. “When you are at the table and you are negotiating a bit more tons or a bit less, it’s insignificant compared to what you would need to do if you believe all these scientists,” Canada’s former environment minister Stéphane Dion told me.
Yet whether governments such as Canada’s believe in the dangers of climate change hardly matters. What’s important to them is economic stability so they can maintain social equilibrium and get re-elected. Laying down a carpet of deceit to calm social fears over global warming becomes a moral imperative.  How can you say you believe in the science and at the same time campaign against what the science proves is necessary to reduce the risk of runaway climate change? I asked Michael Martin, Canada’s chief negotiator and ambassador for climate change, during an interview in Bonn in 2009.
“That’s what these negotiations are for,” he replied, adjusting his rimless glasses. “It’s all about what is possible.”
What about what is necessary?
“That’s up for negotiation too.”
If there is one inescapable issue in this entire affair, one question that encapsulates the whole sordid business of haggling over pollution, it is the matter of atmospheric space. How many more tons of greenhouse gases can we afford to put up there without causing catastrophic climate change, and which countries will get to emit them? Without a resolution of this issue, there may never be a deal.
The atmospheric space is the new frontier whose borders have gradually been defined over decades of scientific research. Like surveyors sent out to map new colonies and their potential to support human populations, scientists have charted the capacity of the atmosphere, the oceans and the forests—the earth’s main reservoirs of greenhouse gases—to maintain a stable climate. They have discovered natural boundaries that they define in parts per million of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide. The normal carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is 280 ppm. Our present level: 387 ppm, which puts us in the danger zone. We reach 450 ppm and we burn.
So far, our emissions have increased the mean temperature of the globe slightly less than one degree Celsius. But a global mean can be misleading. Arctic and equatorial temperatures have risen much more than that, and Canada’s overall mean temperature has risen 1.3 degrees Celsius since 1945.1 The issue at the climate talks is whether we should aim to limit the global rise to 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees. These are the numbers, by now familiar to most people who have followed the issue, that rattle around the halls and corridors of the negotiations. Rich nations argue for 2 degrees, the poor for 1.5. The motives are self-serving.
The 2-degree figure gives the rich more elbow room to pollute; 1.5 degrees reduces the risk to poor countries who are absorbing the brunt of climate change and who have the fewest financial resources to adapt to its impacts.
The rich countries have historically and quite innocently claimed this atmospheric space for themselves. As they built their massive economies on the burning of fossil fuels, they dumped monumental amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere unknowingly, at least in the beginning, reaching the limits of excess. The question now is whether the carbon space is full. If not, the rest of the world wants what’s left. If the space is full, they want the rich countries to pull back drastically and surrender the carbon space to them. For the industrialized world, this would mean a major retreat in the face of the advancing emerging economies so that China and India and all the other countries that want our lifestyle can have their day. Alf Wills, a scientist and the chief negotiator for South Africa, said: “Until you can resolve . . . this linkage between ambition, global goal and equitable sharing of the remaining carbon space, there will be no agreement.” Unfortunately, he said, developed countries have “no ambition” to go there.
And with reason. Because what they are negotiating, whether they like it or not, is a new world order. It’s hardly something rich countries take lightly. A more egalitarian planet dictated by the carbon space reallotment means little to the Canadian tar sands worker or the American or Australian coal miner staring at unemployment. Such realignment might be far more morally and ethically defensible than our current predatory economic system, but it doesn’t help these people. Nor does it answer the nervousness over tinkering with an economic system that has produced such enormous wealth and high standards of living in a matter of a few generations, if only for a relatively small proportion of the world’s population. What would help is a willingness on the part of governments to face up to the realities of our time by preparing for a post–fossil fuel future, devoting massive resources towards technological development as well as harnessing the proven ability of society to change when change is needed. But this is not happening.
Instead, we march ahead in total denial, licking our lips at the fossil fuel reservoirs buried in the melting Arctic and hoping the invisible hand of capitalism will save us. So far we have not even seen its fingertips.
If the West accepted a carbon space allotment, it would amount to a recognition of the enormous inequality that exists between rich and poor countries. It would constitute a voluntary retreat from economic dominance and signal a readiness to re - distribute wealth. In the absence of a technology breakthrough which would replace fossil fuels with an energy system that can meet the ever-increasing demands of society and business, this is—for the next few decades at least—a zero-sum game. One country’s loss is another’s gain.
There are those who think otherwise. They believe that if industrialized nations greatly reduce their consumption and build clean-energy systems with the urgency that characterized the massive production scales of the Second World War, a quick transformation to 100 percent renewable energy is possible and everybody wins. But it’s probably too late for that now. The size of the necessary reduction in emissions has become too big and the time frame is too narrow. In a world of limited atmospheric space where carbon is king and the best you can offer to replace it is sunshine and a windmill, zero-sum is the only outcome. For many poor countries already suffering under the strain of climate change, if the rich countries have to pull back, well, tough; there appears to be no other option, at least for the short term.
But the rich countries argue that if their economies suffer, everyone suffers; that any let-up in the pursuit of wealth will bring the global economy down on our heads like a house of cards, in which case there will be chaos. They deny the possibility of an orderly retreat. In lieu of any surrender of the atmosphere, they offer the climate change equivalent of sub-prime mortgages: a bundle of cash and technology transfer promises of dubious value to help poor and developing countries convert to clean energy and mitigate the effects of climate change. In return, the rich countries get to forge ahead with business as usual and the time-honored practice of screwing the weak.
Climate change negotiations have a unique political dynamic. Power at these negotiations does not derive simply from the size of your economy; it comes out of a chimney stack or an exhaust pipe. The more you emit, the more you can bring to the table. One of the sad realities in the struggle to meet the challenges of climate change is that the countries that pollute the most—the rich countries—hold all the cards. Within this group are the elite polluters: the United States, the European Union and China.
They are the ones who have chips to deal, and so they rule the game. Countries such as Canada stand on the sidelines cheering for Team Industry. The rest of the world simply has the moral high ground, and rare is the historical moment when that has carried much weight. It is an undeniable fact that the countries who are the worst affected by climate change are too often poor countries who didn’t cause the problem in the first place. There is, however, one leveler: climate change itself. Eventually, no country can escape that reality.
There is no end to the ironies created by climate change. The most powerful of these is the rising importance of the onceforgotten Arctic. The lure of great wealth plus control of new shipping lanes that could dominate commercial transportation in the northern hemisphere has the Arctic countries dreaming of a new world order run by them. Canada, Russia, Norway, the United States and Denmark are all rubbing their hands waiting impatiently for the big melt to release its spoils of minerals, oil and gas.
Meanwhile, central Africa endures a rotation of unusual droughts and flooding depending on the time of year, but too often at the wrong time for crop planting. So populations scatter or die. Winners and losers face off at the climate change talks. The danger is the ultimate destruction of the global commonwealth.
Deniers, who constitute only a handful of ultra-conservative commentators, some political scientists and a sprinkling of scientists with dubious climate change credentials, keep repackaging debunked material and badgering legitimate scientists with irrelevant concerns. They speak to an audience of oddballs, happily angry at the world. Witness these messages sent by deniers to prominent climate scientists after the stolen emails from the climate research center at the University of East Anglia were made public:
you, sir, are a nazi. go gargle razor blades, you fucking bastard!!!!!!!! You are a fucking douchebag. You pathetic fucking Phony. I hope there is an earthquake right under your fucking house and swallows you into hell.
As a Lying worthless AGW [anthropogenic global warming] scammer, isn’t it time you resigned and swam back to New Zealand. As a US taxpayer I want a fucking refund of all the wages you have fraudulently collected you asshole. Same goes for Jim THE FUCKING RAT Hansen [the NASA climate scientist]. Considering the state of our economy, maybe the public should begin the collection process.
We live in a public cyberspace where the scientific opinions of an oil company executive, a politician or a television commentator carry as much weight for the general public as the scientific knowledge of a geophysicist. Psychologists theorize that ultimately what drives many deniers is the obsessive need to be the smartest guy in the room even when they have no idea what they’re talking about. The deniers can’t dance, but they are convinced they’re Fred Astaire. It’s a world where the only important question is this: Why do people believe things that are patently false?

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All the Voices Cry

All the Voices Cry

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"There is something Mansfieldian about these stories, though Petersen's are more sparely peopled O Where the stories in All the Voices Cry are going is secondary to the grasping, the almost- reaching, for a change in destiny O is an honest portraitist, and a kind puppeteer." - Montreal Review of Books

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Tell It to the Trees

Tell It to the Trees

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

One freezing winter morning a dead body is found in the backyard of the Dharma family’s house. It’s the body of Anu Krishnan.
For Anu, a writer seeking a secluded retreat from the city, the Dharmas’ “back-house” in the sleepy mountain town of Merrit’s Point was the ideal spot to take a year off and begin writing. She had found the Dharmas’ rental through a happy coincidence. A friend from university who had kept tabs on everyone in their graduating year – including the quiet …

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One of the searchers spotted two ravens yanking at something and walked over to investigate. I watched as he squatted and peered down at the ground, raised his arm and waved the others over. They had found her.
The birds, they told us later, were tugging at her red and gold earring that was glinting up at them. We also heard she’d taken her jacket off even though it was thirty below that night. Sounds like a crazy thing to do, but I know it’s true. It’s what happens before you die from hypothermia, the blood vessels near the surface of your skin suddenly dilate making you think you are on fire and so you tear off your clothes to cool down. It’s quite a paradox really: the body starts to feel too hot before it dies of cold.
But by that time your brain is hallucinating, creating images of longed-for warmth, making you believe all kinds of weird things. I think it would be right to assume she died happy, believing she was in the tropics, warm as toast.
She was lying not too far from our door, past the spot where in a few months, when all the snow has melted, five rose bushes with bright pink flowers and giant thorns will mark the boundary between our land and old Mrs. Cooper’s. Several years ago, before she went off to live with her son in Vancouver, Mrs. Cooper sold her house to some developers who planned to turn it into a set of holiday homes, but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s shuttered and falling apart and I know ghosts live in it. I used to like hanging out in that whispering house, but some of the dumb boys from school discovered it and decided it was the perfect place to drink beer, smoke pot and giggle like fools and ruined it for me.
“Why on earth did she have to go out in such horrible weather?” my stepmother Suman asked for the nth time since the discovery of the body. She was stationed at the dining room window which provides almost as good a view as the one Hem and I had from the living room.
“Didn’t she know how dangerous cold can be? Hanh? Do you know why she did such a thing?”
She looked stricken. That’s the word for it, the exact one. As if a giant hand had smacked the joy out of her. Not that she’s a very cheerful person to begin with, but for a while this summer she’d gone back to being the way she was when she first came to Merrit’s Point—young and happy. I almost feel sorry for her.
I shook my head. “We were asleep, Mama,” I said gently, again. “I’ve no idea why she had to go out. If I was awake maybe I could have stopped her.”
Beside me Hem pushed his small, warm body closer. I hugged him hard. Hemant is my half-brother, Suman’s son, but entirely mine. I love him more than anything and anybody, more even than air and water and food, and just a bit more than Papa.
Out there things were winding down, the searchers loading the wrapped body onto a stretcher. We watched them carry it carefully to the waiting ambulance. An ambulance seemed kind of pointless since she was already dead, but people always hope for the best. Not me. I know that disaster lurks around every corner.The ambulance churned away in a spray of snow and
beside me Hem began to sob.
“Stop crying, you wuss,” I whispered, poking his cheek with my finger. He worries me sometimes. He is too much like Suman—no backbone, all emotion and weak. I have to make sure he doesn’t remain that way. For now, though, I can take it—he is only seven years old after all.
“I’m scared,” Hemant said. “I wish Akka was here.”
“Well she isn’t, is she?” I said, even though I too miss our grandmother. She’s in the hospital and not coming home. She’s too old and too sick.
“What will happen now?” Hem whispered.
“Nothing. They’ll take her to the morgue and a doctor will sign a certificate saying she’s dead, then Papa will notify her family. That’s all.” For the first time it occurred to me that she also had family. Just like us. A mother and brother and two nephews and a sister-in-law and cousins and aunts and uncles and maybe a grandma like Akka.
“What if they ask us questions?” Hem’s breath made a patch of mist on the windowpane.
 “What if they do? We were asleep, how are we supposed to know what happened, you noodle? Now stop crying all over me, I’m here, nothing will happen to you.”
He pressed closer to me, wrapped both his arms around my waist and held me tight. I love the smell of him—milky and sweet. I am not a sentimental sort of girl, but with Hem I turn into everything I do not wish to be. “Will you always be here with me, Vashi?” He gazed up at me with his big brown eyes that unfortunately always remind me of Suman. Like a puppy begging for love, for approval, soft and silly.
“Of course, where else would I be?”
“When you’re grown up also?”
“Well, I do plan to go away to university, Hem. But that isn’t for five whole years.”
“What if I feel like talking to someone when you’re away at university?” Hem asked anxiously.
“You’ll be a big boy by then—you won’t need me around so much,” I said.
“But I might still feel like talking to someone, then what?”
“You can always call me.”
“If you aren’t there?”
I knelt and wrapped my arms around him. “Talk to Tree, that’ll help, won’t it?” I felt his heart jumping against mine, in sync—thump-thump-thump—almost one.
“Tree will always be here, Hem. It’s ours and it will never tell on us.”
I am Varsha Dharma, granddaughter of Mr. J.K. Dharma, late, and his wife Bhagirathi otherwise known as Akka. Daughter of Vikram and Harini (or Helen as my mother preferred to be called—she liked disguises). Stepdaughter to Suman, and sister to Hemant.
I am thirteen years old, almost fourteen. I love reading. I love my family. I prefer to have no friends. I plan to go to university. When I grow up I will be a lawyer. Maybe a writer. A scientist even. I can be anything I set my mind to be. I am super smart. Even Miss Frederick the English teacher who takes us for art as well and who is not fond of me concedes I am precocious beyond my years. She and the other teachers also feel I have an attitude issue—of course I do—and anger issues, according to reports they send to Papa citing complaints from the town mothers and their stupid children.
“Gene problem,” Akka says. “Like your father and his father. I am telling you, Varsha, learn to control that temper. Don’t turn into your Papa. Don’t turn bad like him.”
And I come from a long line of dead people. I know everyone in this world does, but our family tree is knotty with folk who died in odd ways, almost all of them on my grandfather’s side of the family.
“We all die quietly in our own beds of old age or boredom,” Akka claims. “But Mr. J.K. Dharma’s people— ho, you won’t believe how some of them died. I tell you, enough to fill a book!” Then she counts off her favourite deaths on her fingers. “First there was your grandfather’s oldest cousin Ranjini the Raving Beauty, she who got bitten by a rabid dog before her wedding, didn’t tell anyone, showed up at the marriage hall in all her finery, foaming at the mouth, had a seizure, fell into the sacred fire and terrified the groom so thoroughly that he ran out of there and never got married. And since he was an only son, his parents died without grandchildren, calling down curses on the head of Ranjini the Raving Beauty.
“Then there was that other cousin on your grandfather’s side again—the one who finished a satisfying and forbidden dinner of mutton biryani at the military hotel in the Muslim area of the town in which he lived, was crossing the road to finish things off with a betel leaf stuffed with sugar beads and betel nut shavings and a touch of opium, when he stepped right into an open manhole and drowned in filth. And your grandfather Mr. J.K. Dharma, small man with a big ego, froze into a pillar of ice right outside our front door when he was forty-seven years old. He forgot his keys, came home really late, really drunk one winter night, couldn’t wake me and turned into an ice sculpture. He deserved what he got, the drunken lout. He brought me nothing but tears.”
He was too young to die, Akka adds quickly of her frozen husband. But I can tell she’s not sorry about it. He was a blot on the family name.
Last but not least is my own traitor mother Harini, who called herself Helen and hated living here with me and Papa and Akka, so she just took off without explanation one fine morning.
I don’t think Papa has forgiven my mother for leaving him even after all these years. She was a bad wife and a wicked mother, he said after she was gone. She deserved her death.
You were a bad husband,” Akka shouted at him.
“She didn’t deserve the misery you brought her and she certainly didn’t deserve her death.” She held me close to her and glared at Papa, who looked like he wanted to hit her the way he did my mother and sometimes me too when I am naughty.
My father controlled himself then, but he had torn up all of my mother’s photographs and burned them in the fireplace. He told me I was to forget her absolutely. I was never to talk about her. Ever. She was a traitor. She had abandoned us. She was a bad wife and a wicked mother. She was an Unmentionable. We’ve not forgiven her, Papa and me.
But it’s hard to forget. And she refused to leave me. She was everywhere in the house. I would wake up at night sometimes, sure she was sitting in a corner of my room—a loud and strong and beautiful ghost. I tried to hate her but I couldn’t. I wanted to reach out and hold her tight, I wanted to rub my face against her belly, and kiss her and feel her softness. And then I’d remember that she’d left me without a backward glance, and the rage would come rushing in. I’d push her away. Not needed here, she is not. Go away monster mother, leave us alone, I’d yell, we’ve found somebody else to love, a new mother who will always be here, for as long as ever.
 “It was your father’s temper that chased your poor mother away,” Akka said once. “And if he doesn’t watch out, your stepmother might leave as well.” She paused for a bit and then added, “Poor thing. Poor thing. She must be cursing the gods for bringing her here to this Jehannum.”
I always became anxious when Akka talked like this about Suman running away. When Suman first came here, she tried so hard to fit into the space my real mother left behind, but failed every single time. That made Papa mad. And that made me worry—what if she too went away like Akka said she might. Would she take us with her? Or would she leave us behind with Papa? What if she left me and took only Hemant? After all, he is her son, I’m nothing more than her stepdaughter. Then I’d tell myself she would never do such a thing: she loves me. She is mine. Papa brought her for me all the way from India. I am grateful to her for giving me my brother and for keeping the house clean and for cooking yummy food. I try hard to make sure she has no reason to leave—I am good as gold, I help her with chores, and I hug her every morning and at night before bed. I try, I do try to make her feel loved. It is my job to tie her to me tight so that she will never ever leave.
So that’s it—our family—Akka, Papa, me, Hemant, and Suman—three generations of us, crammed together, typical Indian-style, in a small house built by my grandfather on five acres of land on the edge of a rotten little town called Merrit’s Point. It’s in the middle of nowhere and is full of gossips and bores and kids with snotty names like Celia and Mason. If land in our town is cheap now, Akka says that when Grandfather bought it about forty-five years ago it cost less than a handful of dirt. He was dead before I was born and Akka says she has no idea why he moved all the way up here into this back of beyond. He didn’t even leave a record of his thoughts—I know because I looked everywhere—just a few words scratched with purple ink in an empty little notebook: “This is all mine. Silence at last.—J.K. Dharma.” What was he claiming? I asked Akka. But she couldn’t tell me.
“Who knows, and why should I care?” she said. She never wanted to speak of him anyway, the frozen husband who’d robbed her of her happiness. So I have to imagine it. I imagine him living in a crowded place in India—I haven’t been there yet, but I read in one of Papa’s books that there are millions and millions of people there. Maybe Grandfather was tired of all those people. Maybe it didn’t matter to him that he was in a place where hardly anybody else wanted to live unless they had to—like the people in town who came here to mine copper and then to work in the lumber mill. I think what mattered was that he owned this piece of the earth, paid for by him with his first savings, and when he opened a window he could hear the wind instead of a thousand chattering voices, he could see the starry sky instead of dust, and all around him his eyes landed only on quiet mountains and giant trees standing in silent clusters, bearing in their wooden hearts the secrets of all the creatures that live here.
 “We are cursed,” Akka wailed. “We are cursed with the family we have, and the family we have lost, we are cursed because we have to live in this town. We are cursed because we are who we are.”
“If you hate it so much, why did you come here?”
I demanded. Sometimes my grandmother confuses me with her contradictions. She loves my father, but she blames him for my mother leaving. She is fiercely protective about our family and hates “prying eyes,” as she calls them, but she says my grandfather was a demon and my Papa is one too. She shoots a fist up in the direction of the sky. “It’s their fault, those fancy-dress monkeys up there, those gods your silly father loves so much these days! They’re blind and deaf all of them.”
But even though Akka says these things about Papa and Grandfather, it is only in private, to me or to Suman. She’d never let our family down in public. Neither would I or Hem or Papa. Tight as a fist, we are, and as hard if you get in our way. Suman is the only weakness, the little finger, but Papa and I knew right away we’d have to hold her hard in our grasp. That way she wouldn’t have a chance to do anything silly.
That’s how we were until Anu Krishnan moved into our lives. Then everything changed.

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We, Beasts

We, Beasts

tagged : canadian

Winner of the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry from the Quebec Writers' Federation

With undeniable verve, Oana Avasilichioaei upends expectations of literature and poetry in this fascinating collection. We, Beasts is a fairy tale; a book within a book; a collection of verse; a mediation on language, real and imagined and a sly social commentary all in one.

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also available: Paperback

With wit and sensitivity, these tales portray moments of suffering, confusion and discovery. Also, the reader is introduced to a wide variety of worlds, worlds that reveal Abray's deep understanding of how people engage with-and become obsessed by-activities such as Japanese kite-making, bees, daycare, alcohol, and motorcycle maintenance. How does the activity reveal the person? How the problem? Abray's stories push full-on into the world of obsessions. A new vacuum cleaner becomes a new pawn in …

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Rapids, The

Rapids, The


Poems that navigate the turbulent passages of our lives, returning to them transient joys, persistent sorrows, openings to tenderness.

Urgent and precarious, the poems in The Rapids, Susan Gillis' third collection, take us to places lost and reclaimed: a balcony high over the St. Lawrence River in downtown Montreal, upstream to the Lachine Rapids, and beyond, to landscapes as far apart as Greece and the B.C. coast. In the same way that Hokusai depicted the sacred Mount Fuji from different vantage …

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