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Alcuin Society’s best-designed CDN books of 2017

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The Alcuin Society has announced the winners of its 36th annual competition, The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, held Saturday March 17th, 2018. Awards will be presented this fall in both Toronto and Vancouver. The winning books will be entered in the international book design competition in Leipzig, Germany in February 2019. They will be exhibited in Germany at the Frankfurt and Leipzig Book Fairs; in Japan, at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, in conjunction with the Tokyo International Book Fair; and in almost every province of Canada. The venues are listed on the Alcuin web site. This year’s judges, Sue Colberg, Shelley Gruendler, and Frank Viva, selected 38 winning titles from 235 submissions, from 10 provinces and 107 publishers. This year’s book design winners are:
Demi-Gods

Demi-Gods

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Winner of the 2018 Quebec Writers' Federation Award for the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 
Bold and provocative, Demi-Gods explores a girl's attempt to make a life of her own choosing in a world dominated by men, in this story of love, lust, and the spaces in between.


     It is 1950, and Willa's mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa's summer home signals the end of her safe childhood. As her entrancing older sister Joan pairs off with Kenn …

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Excerpt

Patrick didn’t tell me to follow him, but I understood he wanted me to. He slid through the French doors, away from their bick- ering, and meandered down the lawn, onto the dirt path that wound to the beach. Here, he dangled a whip of kelp at his side and slashed empty crab shells from the rock. I imagined the beach stones were lava and leapt from log to log to avoid melt- ing my shins. I was nine years old, he was eleven. He didn’t speak as we walked. By now Mom and Eugene would be hurl- ing insults at each other, which I hated more than when they petted each other’s hands. So I trailed after him, springing between logs, kneeling for balance if I landed an unsteady one, tiptoeing along the lip of a trunk that had been hollowed by lightning. Long ago, a blue rowboat had been dumped on the beach grass beside the fort, the turf grown over it now, as if trying to reclaim the wood. Instead of climbing inside the fort, Patrick stopped at the boat and dropped his pack.
     Help me lift this, he said.
     Rust etched over the gunwale like dry blood; prongs of grass wedged through a gap in the bottom planks.
     Why do you want it?
     He crouched and dug two hands under the stern of the boat. —Get the other side, he said.
     I was scared to find what lived under there. Joan said there were water snakes and I imagined cords of them nesting under the hull. I didn’t mind snakes if I couldn’t see them, but worried they would shoot from the grass up my ankles.
     I’m waiting.
     It’s not going to float, if that’s what you’re thinking.
     He didn’t reply. Finally I leaned forward and slid the smallest segments of my fingers under the gunwale. We pried the boat from the grass that had clamped around it. If I looked down, I would panic and fling my side of the boat, even if I saw only shadow or beach crabs, so I trained my eyes on Patrick opposite me, who lifted his end of the boat higher than I could. Together, we flipped it onto the keel. No snakes shook from the grass, but in a pocket of rubbery beach weed sat a clutch of two eggs. Each was no larger than the butt of my palm, the shells clay green, murmured with black splashes.
     Patrick swooped down and pinched one between his finger and thumb. —You think it’s hot enough to fry eggs on the rock?
     Put that back. Why?
     It’s a baby.
     He opened his mouth and lay the egg on his tongue, kissed his lips around it. After a moment, he parted his teeth and pushed the wet egg back into his palm.
     What will you do for me?
     He closed his fist around the egg and started to squeeze.
I worried the scent of his sweat and saliva would scare the mother. The thought of these two green eggs abandoned under the rowboat with no mother’s belly to warm them welled tears in my eyes. I didn’t want him to see.
     Stop that.
     What will you do?
     Just put them down.
     He smiled. In a smooth motion, he tucked the egg back in the nest, wiped his hand on his jeans and nipped a crushed cigarette from his pocket. He massaged the paper to reshape it and struck a match on the rock.
     Come on, he said, pulling on the cigarette with his girlish lip. —Let’s go for a sail.
     He dragged the grass-chewed, wind-rattled boat to the water. He pushed the bow into the seafoam. Liquid sucked through the gap in the bottom planks and the hull filled an inch.
     You don’t mind getting a little wet, do you? he asked and held the stern steady for me to climb in.
     It’ll sink.
     You scared, then?
     I trained my eyes on him to test if he was serious. He wore a white T-shirt stuffed into blue jeans, which he had rolled around his knees. With the cigarette hanging from his mouth, he looked like a hobo from the desert who hunted rattle- snakes and skinned them for boots. I stepped carefully into the boat and sat in the nearest wood seat. The hull sank deeper. He climbed in and pushed the boat from the shore with his forearms, perching opposite me on the middle bench. The hull filled with more water, but we managed to float, as if the salt pushed us up and down at the same time. The sea filled my socks, the cold unravelling a shock up my back. I resolved to visit the eggs the next day for signs of the mother. I’d sit on them myself if I had to.
     Patrick grabbed the two chipped paddles that hung from the oarlocks. —What are you waiting for? You have to bail.
     He started to row. I folded my fingers together and scooped water with my hands.
     My dad owns a boat, he said. Twenty times bigger than this one.
     That’s impossible.
     He lets me sail it on my own. You’re fibbing.
     What do you know?
     Our vessel drifted, half-submerged, from the shore. We bobbed past the harbour light, toward the more open stretch of ocean that linked the islands. It was a warm day, the bay sluggish around us—vitamin green, unbroken by waves. I swam here often; from the harbour light I could still front-stroke to shore. After ten minutes, Patrick’s rowing started to flag. No matter how vigorously he heaved the oars, or I pushed out water, we continued to droop into the sea. Finally, he steered us to a rocky point where the island tongued underwater and the boat could rest in its own shallow pool. I felt embarrassed for him. I unbuckled my Mary Janes and tipped out the water. If the leather dried with salt streaks, Eugene would take one of the shoes and bend me over his knee and whack my bum.
     When I looked up, Patrick was watching me with a hooked smile. His jeans were drenched and the water had splashed up his shirt, the cotton slick to his stomach, an air bubble at his navel.
     What? I said.
     His stare flickered to the space beside me. I turned to find a ruddy, fifteen-inch jellyfish bumping over the sunken lip of the boat. I gasped and pressed myself to the opposite side. I heard a soft plashing and imagined the jelly wobbling at my waist, but I couldn’t bring myself to look, and it might have been water shushing over the rocks. After a moment, I worried Patrick had stopped talking to stall me, the creature inching closer without my notice. I glanced down. At the same instant, the tide nudged the jelly over the lip of the boat. Its mass wafted toward my lap.The bell sprawled the water like an open wound, the net of stingers grazing my thighs. I could feel the weight of them above my trousers. A low howl built in my throat, but I was too scared to cry in case the movement drew it closer.Then I knew the jelly didn’t sting my legs through the pedal pushers, because I could feel it now—my right forearm where the ten- tacles seared my wrist. That’s when I leapt from the water and clambered the rocks to the bluff ten feet above, where I buckled and pressed my burning arm into the dry grass. The creature still crashed into my mind, and I imagined it enfolding me, tangling my arms in its lattice. Patrick climbed the bluff a few minutes later with a handful of wet sea lettuce. He took my wrist and pressed the weeds onto the sting, which had started to blister. The pressure of his hand and the cool plants relieved the burn for a moment, but soon it started all over.
     You know what kind of jelly that was?
     I ignored him, clutching his hand tighter to ease the pain and my shaking, the jagged breath in my chest.
     Lion’s mane, he said. The biggest species of jellyfish in the world. One specimen measured a hundred and thirty feet. Longer than a blue whale.
     I tried not to listen to him and focused on my breath, my heartbeat, how far we had floated, the direction of the house. Behind us, a branch cracked in the wood. We both turned. Something scampered into the undergrowth—a rabbit or deer, probably. I continued to scan the trees behind us. After a moment, he spoke again.
     I’ll pee on it if you want.
     I snatched my arm from his grip. —Oh scram. I’ve had enough of your ideas.
     Jellyfish tentacles have thousands of sting cells called nematocysts. To deactivate them on the skin it’s best to apply vinegar. Urine’s second best.
     This is your fault. Let’s go back. How long will that take?
     I sighed. My irritation with him was increasing the pain. A string of bumps had flushed up my forearm. A sob welled in my throat. I bent over and let the warm tears spill on my wrist to soothe the burn.
     Why don’t you pee on it, then? he said. It won’t work.
     It’s better than nothing. I won’t look.
     He rotated on the rock and squatted in the opposite direc- tion, out to sea. I realized I did have to pee, that I hadn’t gone since that morning. I sniffed and wiped my eyes with my good wrist. Patrick whistled. A pretty tune I couldn’t place, maybe a hymn. It comforted me—our silence, his whistling, the waves turning below. The sting hurt, but no more than the time I disturbed a wasp nest and got nipped three times on the thigh. Patrick continued to survey the sea. I fingered the button on my pedal pushers, then pressed it through the hole and pulled my pants around my knees. I pushed my underwear out of the way and released a stream of urine onto my forearm. It burned more, but that felt okay—like it sealed the sharper, isolated burns. A hot trickle dropped down the rock toward Patrick. I could tell we were both listening. Finally, I pulled up my pants. The damp spread in the crotch of my underwear, beads of it smearing onto my thighs. I felt proud. As if I had passed his test.
     I think we’re that way. He pointed left, where the bluff receded into dark needling trees.
     He did not congratulate me as we walked, or acknowledge how brave I was. He stopped whistling and hiked a few paces ahead on the rock.
 

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They Desire a Better Country / Ils desirent une patrie meilleure

They Desire a Better Country / Ils desirent une patrie meilleure

The Order of Canada in 50 Stories / L'Ordre du Canada en 50 histoires
edition:Hardcover
tagged :

Twice a year, in summer and in winter, appointments to the Order of Canada are posted in newspapers across the country. The range of professions represented is often dizzying, but there are common themes in the choices: excellence, service to the nation, passion, innovation, commitment, dedication, brilliance. The order's motto effectively captures the generous and selfless spirit of these people: Desiderantes meliorem patriam-they desire a better country.

The Order of Canada-our nation's highest …

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The Inconvenient Indian Illustrated

The Inconvenient Indian Illustrated

A Curious Account of Native People in North America
edition:Hardcover

An illustrated edition of the award-winning, bestselling Canadian classic, featuring over 150 images that add colour and context to this extraordinary work.

"Every Canadian should read [this] book." —Toronto Star

Since its publication in 2012, The Inconvenient Indian has become an award-winning bestseller and a modern classic. In its pages, Thomas King tells the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Native and Indigenous people in the centuries since the two first encountered …

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Birds Art Life

Birds Art Life

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

A seminal work, Birds Art Life recounts Maclear's year-long adventure of discovering inspiration in the intricacies of birds, bird-searching and bird-watching in a big city.

     The natural world has played muse to generations of poets, writers and artists alike, inspiring them to step away from their work, even for a short while, and observe its rhythmic phenomena. From the pastoral evocations of Wordsworth to Sylvia Plath's fascination with bees, to Monet's artistic renderings of his resident …

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Excerpt

One winter, not so long ago, I met a musician who loved birds. This musician, who was then in his mid-thirties, had found he could not always cope with the pressures and disappoint­ments of being an artist in a big city. He liked banging away on his piano like Fats Waller but performing and promoting himself made him feel anxious and de­pressed. Very occasionally his depression served him well and allowed him to write lonesome songs of love but most of the time it just ate at him. When he fell in love with birds and began to photograph them, his anxieties dissipated. The sound of birdsong reminded him to look outwards at the world.
 
That was the winter that started early. It snowed end­lessly. I remember a radio host saying: “Global warming? Ha!” It was also the winter I found myself with a broken part. I didn’t know what it was that was broken, only that whatever widget had previously kept me on plan, running fluidly along, no longer worked as it should. I watched those around me who were still successfully carrying on, organizing meals and careers and children. I wanted to be reminded. I had lost the beat.
 
My father had recently suffered two strokes. Twice—when the leaves were still on the trees—he had fallen and been unable to get up. The second fall had been particularly frightening, accompanied by a dangerously high fever brought on by sepsis, and I wasn’t sure he would live. The MRI showed microbleeds, stemming from tiny ruptured blood vessels in my father’s brain.
The same MRI also revealed an unruptured cerebral aneurysm. An “incidental finding,” according to the neurologist, who explained, to our concerned faces, his decision to withhold surgery because of my father’s age.
 
During those autumn months, when my father’s situation was most uncertain, I felt at a loss for words. I did not speak about the beeping of monitors in generic hospital rooms and the rhythmic rattle of orderlies pushing soiled linen basins through the corridors. I did not deliver my thoughts on the cruelty of bed shortages (two days on a gurney in a corridor, a thin blanket to cover his hairless calves and pale feet), the smell of hospital food courts and the strange appeal of waiting room couches—slick vinyl, celery green, and deceptively soft. I did not speak of the relief of coming home late at night to a silent house and filling a tub with water, slipping under the bubbles and closing my eyes, the quiet soapy comfort of being cleaned instead of cleaning, of being a woman condi­tioned to soothe others, now soothed. I did not speak about the sense of incipient loss. I did not know how to think about illness that moved slowly and erratically but that could fell a person in an instant.

I experienced this wordlessness in my life but also on the page. In the moments I found to write, I often fell asleep. The act of wrangling words into sentences into paragraphs into stories made me weary. It seemed an overly complicated, dubious effort. My work now came with a recognition that my father, the person who had instilled in me a love of language, who had led me to the writing life, was losing words rapidly.
 
Even though the worst of the crisis passed quickly, I was afraid to go off duty. I feared that if I looked away, I would not be prepared for the loss to come and it would flatten me. I had inherited from my father (a former war reporter/professional pessimist) the belief that an expectancy of the worst could provide in its own way a ring of protection. We followed the creed of preventive anxiety.
 
It is possible too that I was experiencing something known as anticipatory grief, the mourning that occurs before a certain loss. Anticipatory. Expectatory. Trepi­datory. This grief had a dampness. It did not drench or drown me but it hung in the air like a pallid cloud, thinning but never entirely vanishing. It followed me wherever I went and gradually I grew used to looking at the world through it.
 
I had always assumed grief was experienced purely as a sadness. My received images of grief came from art school and included portraits of keening women, mourners with heads bowed, hands to faces, weeping by candlelight. But anticipatory grief, I was surprised to learn, demanded a different image, a more alert posture. My job was to remain standing or sitting, monitoring all directions continually. Like the women who, according to legend, once paced the railed rooftop platforms of nineteenth-century North American coastal houses, watching the sea for incom­ing ships, hence earning those lookouts the name widow’s walk. I was on the lookout, scouring the horizon from every angle, for doom.

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Remembering Air India

Remembering Air India

The Art of Public Mourning
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

On June 23, 1985, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 killed 329 people, most of them Canadians. Today this pivotal event in Canada’s history is hazily remembered, yet certain interests have shaped how the tragedy is woven into public memory, and even exploited to advance a strategic national narrative. Remembering Air India insists that we “remember Air India otherwise.” This collection investigates the Air India bombing and its implications for current debates about racism, terrorism, an …

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Memoirs of a Muhindi

Memoirs of a Muhindi

Fleeing East Africa for the West
edition:eBook

In Memoirs of a Muhindi, Mansoor Ladha bears witness to what happens when nations turn against entire religious and ethnic groups.

When Ugandan president Idi Amin expelled Africans of Indian descent from the country in 1972, he unleashed an intolerance that set off an exodus from the entire region. In Tanzania and Kenya, businesses were nationalized, properties taken, people harassed, and livelihoods upended.

Mansoor Ladha, who was living in Nairobi at the time, had to decide whether to stay or go …

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The Preservatory

The Preservatory

Seasonally Inspired Recipes for Creating and Cooking with Artisanal Preserves
edition:Hardcover

Lee Murphy, a passionate and knowledgeable jam master and owner of Vista D'oro Farms & Winery, presents a vibrant look at the pleasures of creating and using beautiful, seasonal preserves.

A short drive from Vancouver, and an even easier trip over the border from Washington, The Preservatory is located on the bucolic ten-acre farm and winery in South Langley, British Columbia, Canada, and is home to a growing international brand where the star of the show is the in-season, locally grown fruit. A …

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The First Mess Cookbook

The First Mess Cookbook

Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons
edition:Hardcover

National Winner for Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2017 - Blogger category
Winner of the 2018 Taste Canada Awards - Health and Special Diet Cookbooks, Silver
The creator of the popular Saveur award-winning blog The First Mess shares over 125 seasonal, plant-based, and beautifully prepared healthy recipes in her eagerly anticipated debut cookbook

Home cooks head to The First Mess blog for Laura Wright's simple-to-prepare, seasonal vegan recipes, but stay for her beautiful photographs and enchantin …

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