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Diversity in CanLit

By monnibo
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Canadians have written a wide range of diverse books — here are a few to add to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. "We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to ... recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities." However, as Léonicka of #DiverseCanLit explains, a lot of the problem is that there is no cross-over in the genres. An immigrant story is marketed as *just* an immigrant story; a sci-fi Aboriginal narrative is marketed as *just* Aboriginal, not sci-fi; or their experiences are used as tropes and clichés. This is part of the problem—that diverse characters and backgrounds aren't reflected in all genres or story types.
Maggie's Chopsticks

Maggie's Chopsticks

by Alan Woo
illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook

In this lovely picture book, a young girl named Maggie gets her own pair of chopsticks. Now everyone insists on telling her how to use them. Her grandmother says, “Do it like me!” while she rapidly works her old wooden sticks with a “click-clack-clicketing.” Her sister instructs, “Be graceful like this!” as she crosses her pair “back and forth, like legs, dancing.” But it's no use. No matter how hard Maggie practices to be like the others, they keep telling her she's doing it wro …

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Something Fierce

Something Fierce

Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER (The Globe and Mail)
A Globe and Mail Best Book [2011]
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year [2011]
A National Post Best Book [2011]
A BBC Radio Book of the Week [October 2011]
One of the CBC’s 15 Memoirs by Canadian Women Worth Reading [2015]
  

Six-year-old Carmen Aguirre fled to Canada with her family following General Augusto Pinochet's violent 1973 coup in Chile. Five years later, when her mother and stepfather returned to South America as Chilean resistance members, …

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Six Metres of Pavement

Six Metres of Pavement

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Winner of the 2012 LAMBDA Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction and of the 2011 Rainbow Awards
Ismail Boxwala made the worst mistake of his life one summer morning twenty years ago: he forgot his baby daughter in the back seat of his car. After his daughter’s tragic death, he struggles to continue living. A divorce, years of heavy drinking, and sex with strangers only leave him more alone and isolated.
But Ismail’s story begins to change after he reluctantly befriends two women: Fatim …

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A Really Good Brown Girl

A Really Good Brown Girl

by Marilyn Dumont
introduction by Lee Maracle
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

On the occasion of the press’s 40th anniversary, Brick Books is proud to present the fourth of six new editions of classic books from our back catalogue. This edition of A Really Good Brown Girl features a new Introduction by Lee Maracle, a new Afterword by the author and a new cover and design by the renowned typographer Robert Bringhurst.

First published in 1996, A Really Good Brown Girl is a fierce, honest and courageous account of what it takes to grow into one’s self and one’s Metis he …

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The Headmaster's Wager

The Headmaster's Wager

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

"What if your sophomore effort is a masterpiece? Lam's hugely impressive first novel . . . has all the markings. It is a project he has nurtured since his teens--the epic story of his own people, ground almost to oblivion on the bloody geopolitical fulcrum of the Vietnam War--and the result is as good a novel as anyone has ever written about those times. . . . A powerful and engrossing work." --The Globe and Mail
   Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. …

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Excerpt

1930, Shantou, China
On a winter night shortly after the New Year festivities, Chen Kai sat on the edge of the family kang, the brick bed. He settled the blanket around his son.
 
“Gwai jai,” he said. Well-behaved boy. “Close your eyes.”
 
“Sit with me?” said Chen Pie Sou with a yawn. “You promised . . .”
 
“I will.” He would stay until the boy slept. A little more delay. Muy Fa had insisted that Chen Kai remain for the New Year celebration, never mind that the coins from their poor autumn’s harvest were almost gone. What few coins there were, after the landlord had taken his portion of the crop. Chen Kai had conceded that it would be bad luck to leave just before the holiday and agreed to stay a little longer. Now, a few feet away in their one-room home, Muy Fa scraped the tough skin of rice from the bottom of the pot for the next day’s porridge. Chen Kai smoothed his son’s hair. “If you are to grow big and strong, you must sleep.” Chen Pie Sou was as tall as his father’s waist. He was as big as any boy of his age, for his parents often accepted the knot of hunger in order to feed him.
 
“Why . . .” A hesitation, the choosing of words. “Why must I grow big and strong?” A fear in the tone, of his father’s absence.
 
“For your ma, and your ba.” Chen Kai tousled his son’s hair. “For China.”
 
Later that night, Chen Kai was to board a train. In the morning, he would arrive at the coast, locate a particular boat. A village connection, a cheap passage without a berth. Then, a week on the water to reach Cholon. This place in Indochina was just like China, he had heard, except with money to be made, from both the Annamese and their French rulers.
 
With his thick, tough fingers, Chen Kai fumbled to undo the charm that hung from his neck. He reached around his son’s neck as if to embrace him, carefully knotted the strong braid of pig gut. Chen Pie Sou searched his chest, and his hand recognized the family good luck charm, a small, rough lump of gold.
 
“Why does it have no design, ba?” said Chen Pie Sou. He was surprised to be given this valuable item. He knew the charm. He also knew the answers to his questions. “Why is it just a lump?”
 
“Your ancestor found it this way. He left it untouched rather than having it struck or moulded, to remind his descendants that one never knows the form wealth takes, or how luck arrives.”
 
“How did he find it?” Chen Pie Sou rubbed its blunted angles and soft contours with the tips of his fingers. It was the size of a small lotus seed. He pressed it into the soft place in his own throat. Nearby, his mother, Muy Fa, sighed with impatience. Chen Pie Sou liked to ask certain things, despite knowing the response.
 
“He pried it from the Gold Mountain in a faraway country. This was the first nugget. Much more was unearthed, in a spot everyone had abandoned. The luck of this wealth brought him home.”
 
It was cool against Chen Pie Sou’s skin. Now, his right hand gripped his father’s. “Where you are going, are there mountains of gold?”
 
“That is why I’m going.”
 
“Ba,” said Chen Pie Sou intently. He pulled at the charm. “Take this with you, so that its luck will keep you safe and bring you home.”
 
“I don’t need it. I’ve worn it for so long that the luck has worked its way into my skin. Close your eyes.”
 
“I’m not sleepy.”
 
“But in your dreams, you will come with me. To the Gold Mountain.”
 
Chen Kai added a heaping shovel of coal to the embers beneath the kang. Muy Fa, who always complained that her husband indulged their son, made a soft noise with her tongue.
 
“Don’t worry, dear wife. I will find so much money in Indochina that we will pile coal into the kang all night long,” boasted Chen Kai. “And we will throw out the burned rice in the bottom of that pot.”
 
“You will come back soon?” asked Chen Pie Sou, his eyes closed now. Chen Kai squeezed his son’s shoulder. “Sometimes, you may think I am far away. Not so. Whenever you sleep, I am with you in your dreams.”
 
 “But when will you return?”
 
“As soon as I have collected enough gold.”
 
“How much?”
 
“Enough . . . at the first moment I have enough to provide for you, and your mother, I will be on my way home.”
 
The boy seized his father’s hand in both of his. “Ba, I’m scared.”
 
“Of what?”
 
“That you won’t come back.”
 
“Shh . . . there is nothing to worry about. Your ancestor went to the Gold Mountain, and this lump around your neck proves that he came back. As soon as I have enough to provide for you, I will be back.”
 
As if startled, the boy opened his eyes wide and struggled with the nugget, anxious to get it off. “Father, take this with you. If you already have this gold, it will not take you as long to collect what you need.”
 
“Gwai jai,” said Chen Kai, and he calmed the boy’s hands with his own. “I will find so much that such a little bit would not delay me.”
 
“You will sit with me?”
 
“Until you are asleep. As I promised.” Chen Kai stroked his son’s head.
 
“Then you will see me in your dreams.”
 
Chen Pie Sou tried to keep his eyelids from falling shut. They became heavy, and the kang was especially warm that night. When he woke into the cold, bright morning, his breath was like the clouds of a speeding train, wispy white—vanishing. His mother was making the breakfast porridge, her face tear-stained. His father was gone.
 
The boy yelled, “Ma! It’s my fault!”
 
She jumped. “What is it?”
 
“I’m sorry,” sobbed Chen Pie Sou. “I meant to stay awake. If I had, ba would still be here.”
 
1966, Cholon, Vietnam
It was a new morning towards the end of the dry season, early enough that the fleeting shade still graced the third-floor balcony of the Percival Chen English Academy. Chen Pie Sou, who was known to most as Headmaster Percival Chen, and his son, Dai Jai, sat at the small wicker breakfast table, looking out at La Place de la Libération.
 
The market girls’ bright silk ao dais glistened. First light had begun to sweep across their bundles of cut vegetables for sale, the noodle sellers’ carts, the flame trees that shaded the sidewalks, and the flower sellers’ arrangements of blooms. Percival had just told Dai Jai that he wished to discuss a concerning matter, and now, as the morning drew itself out a little further, was allowing his son some time to anticipate what this might be.
 
Looking at his son was like examining himself at that age. At sixteen, Dai Jai had a man’s height, and, Percival assumed, certain desires. A boy’s impatience for their satisfaction was to be expected. Like Percival, Dai Jai had probing eyes, and full lips. Percival often thought it might be his lips which gave him such strong appetites, and wondered if it was the same for his son. Between Dai Jai’s eyebrows, and traced from his nose around the corners of his mouth, the beginnings of creases sometimes appeared. These so faint that no one but his father might notice, or recognize as the earliest outline of what would one day become a useful mask. Controlled, these lines would be a mask to show other men, hinting at insight regarding a delicate situation, implying an unspoken decision, or signifying nothing except to leave them guessing. Such creases were long since worn into the fabric of Percival’s face, but on Dai Jai they could still vanish—to show the smooth skin of a boy’s surprise. Now, they were slightly inflected, revealed Dai Jai’s worry over what his father might want to discuss, and concealed nothing from Percival. That was as it should be. Already, Percival regretted that he needed to reprimand his son, but in such a situation, it was the duty of a good father.

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Changing Lives

Changing Lives

Women and the Northern Ontario Experience
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

This book provides a glimpse of Aboriginal women in Northern Ontario and it reflects primarily the impact of the European churches and systems on Aboridinal peoples' way of life. The words of the Aboriginal women are gentle, but these words convey the displacement of their way of life in the most powerful way. The power of this book is not only in the stories and history that are told, but also in how all women in Northern Ontario share a respectful life together in a way that I have not witness …

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Three Souls

Three Souls

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Paperback

Leiyin has to make a choice: Should she save her only child or forever relinquish her own afterlife?

Civil war China is fractured by social and political change. Behind the magnificent gates of the Song family estate, however, none of this upheaval has touched Leiyin, a spoiled and idealistic teenager. But when Leiyin meets the captivating left-wing poet Hanchin, she defies her father and learns a harsh reality: that her father has the power to dictate her fate. Leiyin’s punishment for disobedi …

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The Book Of Negroes

The Book Of Negroes

A Novel
tagged :

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave th …

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