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Urban Grit
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Urban Grit

By kileyturner
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tagged: urban, city
AN UPDATED LIST (2017): We called out to friends on Twitter and Facebook to provide us with Canadian books memorable for their depiction of "urban grit": books concerned with the darker, seedier, dirtier, sordid, sometimes violent, sometimes sexual, often exciting side of city life. Here's the list.
Brother

Brother

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

The long-awaited second novel from David Chariandy, whose debut, Soucouyant, was nominated for nearly every major literary prize in Canada and published internationally.

     An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991. 
     With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precisio …

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Excerpt

The world around us was named Scarborough. It had once been called “Scarberia,” a wasteland on the out­skirts of a sprawling city. But now, as we were growing up in the early ’80s, in the heated language of a chang­ing nation, we heard it called other names: Scarlem, Scarbistan. We lived in Scar-bro, a suburb that had mush­roomed up and yellowed, browned, and blackened into life. Our neighbours were Mrs. Chandrasekar and Mr. Chow, Pilar Fernandez and Clive “Sonny” Barrington. They spoke different languages, they ate different foods, but they were all from one colony or the other, and so they had a shared vocabulary for describing feral children like us. We were “ragamuffins.” We were “hooligans” up to no good “gallivanting.” We were what one neighbour, more poet than security guard, described as “oiled crea­tures of mongoose cunning,” raiding dumpsters and garbage rooms or climbing up trees and fire-exit stairs to spy on adults. During winters we snowballed cars on Lawrence Avenue, dipping into the back alleys if the drivers tried to pursue us. A Pinto Wagon once shaving past my face, its wake tugging hard upon my body, Francis’s hand upon my shoulder pulling me safe.

During the day, we had more formal educational opportunities. Our school was named after Sir Alexander Campbell, a Father of Confederation. But we the stu­dents of his school had our own confederations, our own schoolyard territories and alliances, our own trade agree­ments and anthems. We listened to Planet Rock and carried Adidas bags and wore stonewashed jeans and painter caps. You could hear us whenever there were general assemblies in the auditorium, our collective voices overwhelming whatever politely seated ceremony we were supposed to be attending.

Hey Francis, homeboy, my man.

Rudebwoy Francis! Gangstar!

Francis and I each served out long sentences in class­rooms beneath the chemical hum of white fluorescent lights, in part out of fear of our mother, who warned us, upon pain of something worse than death, not to squan­der “our only chance.” But Francis actually liked to learn. He read books, and he was a good observer.

And after class was out there were other institutions to learn from. A dozen blocks west of the towers and housing complexes of the Park, at the intersection of Markham and Lawrence, there lay a series of strip malls. There were grocery shops selling spices and herbs under signs in foreign languages and scripts, vegetables and fruits with vaguely familiar names like ackee and eddo. There were restaurants with an average expiry date of a year, their hand-painted signs promising ice cream with the “back home tastes” of mango and khoya and badam kulfi, a second sign written urgently in red marker promising that they’d also serve, whenever asked, the mystery of “Canadian food.”

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The Break

The Break

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

2017 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Literature Finalist

Winner, Amazon.ca First Novel Award

Winner, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction

Winner, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

Winner, McNally Robinson Book of the Year

A Canada Reads 2017 finalist

National Bestseller

2016 Governor General’s Literary Award Finalist

2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalist

National Post 99 Best Books of the Year

CBC Best Canadian Debut Novels 2016

Globe and Mail Best 100 Books of 2016

Quill & Qu …

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Cataract City

Cataract City

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

Owen and Duncan are childhood friends who've grown up in picturesque Niagara Falls--known to them by the grittier name Cataract City. As the two know well, there's more to the bordertown than meets the eye: behind the gaudy storefronts and sidewalk vendors, past the hawkers of tourist T-shirts and cheap souvenirs live the real people who scrape together a living by toiling at the Bisk, the local cookie factory. And then there are the truly desperate, those who find themselves drawn to the borde …

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The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback
tagged : literary

From the author of the international bestseller Lullabies for Little Criminals, a coming-of-age novel set on the seedy side of Montreal’s St. Laurent Boulevard

Gorgeous twins Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on St. Laurent Boulevard. They are hopelessly promiscuous, wildly funny and infectiously charming. They are also the only children of the legendary Québécois folksinger Étienne Tremblay, who was as famous for his brilliant lyric …

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Scarborough

Scarborough

edition:Paperback

Trillium Book Award and City of Toronto Book Award finalist; Edmund White Debut Fiction Award finalist; A Globe 100, National Post and Quill and Quire Best Book of the Year; Longlisted for Canada Reads

Scarborough is a low-income, culturally diverse neighbourhood east of Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America; like many inner-city communities, it suffers under the weight of poverty, drugs, crime, and urban blight. Scarborough the novel employs a multitude of voices to tell the story of …

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De Niro's Game

De Niro's Game

by Rawi Hage
introduction by Colm Toibin
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Paperback Hardcover

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. In Rawi Hage's unforgettable novel, winner of the 2008 IMPAC Prize, this famous quote by Camus becomes a touchstone for two young men caught in Lebanon's civil war. Bassam and George are childhood best friends who have grown to adulthood in war torn Beirut. Now they must choose their futures: to stay in the city and consolidate power through crime; or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have kn …

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Light Lifting

Light Lifting

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

This was the day after Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. You remember that. It was a moment in history – not like Kennedy or the planes flying into the World Trade Centre – not up at that level. This was something much lower, more like Ben Johnson, back when his eyes were that think, yellow colour and he tested positive in Seoul after breaking the world-record in the hundred. You might not know exactly where you were standing or exactly what you were doing when you first heard ab …

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The Dead Are More Visible

The Dead Are More Visible

edition:Paperback

An astoundingly original and tightly curated collection of stories from the award-winning author of Every Lost Country and Afterlands.
 
It is remarkably easy to accept Al Purdy's assertion that Steven Heighton--renowned for his craftsmanship, risk-taking, insight and range--"is one of the best writers of his generation, maybe the best." The Dead Are More Visible highlights his strengths at writing fiction that does not sacrifice humour, depth and emotion for the sake of brevity. These 11 profou …

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