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2018 Vancouver Writers Fest: Canadian Reading List
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2018 Vancouver Writers Fest: Canadian Reading List

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All the Canadian authors attending the 2018 Vancouver Writers Fest
Homes

Homes

A Refugee Story
edition:Paperback
tagged :

Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction

In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria - just before the Syrian civil war broke out.

Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuat …

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This Wound is a World

This Wound is a World

edition:Paperback
tagged : lgbt

This Wound is a World slip-slides between poetry and essay to get at the shaky tempos of Indigenous life in a world bent on destroying it. It zeroes in on the world-shaking force of sex and love – when ‘we disappear into each other’ – to figure out how we are able to shoulder sadness like ours and still get through the day. Queer in form and content, This Wound is a World slows down the turbulent colonial present to scavenge for something of an exit route.

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Midnight Light

Midnight Light

A Personal Journey to the North
edition:Paperback

Bestselling and beloved author of On A Cold Road, Dave Bidini uses his stint as guest columnist at the Yellowknifer newspaper to explore the "Gateway to the North," the meaning of community, and the issues facing residents and their daily lives.

As a journalist, author and founding member of the trail-blazing band Rheostatics, Dave Bidini has had the privilege to explore Canada's immense geography. Yet, in all his many travels, he'd never visited the Northwest Territories. After an all-too-brief …

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Original Prin

Original Prin

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary

From the Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author of Governor of the Northern Province and Beggar’s Feast

EIGHT MONTHS BEFORE HE BECAME A SUICIDE BOMBER, PRIN WENT TO THE ZOO WITH HIS FAMILY.

Following a cancer diagnosis, forty-year old Prin vows to become a better man and a better Catholic. He’s going to spend more time with his kids and better time with his wife, care for his recently divorced and aging parents, and also expand his cutting-edge research into the symbolism of the seahorse i …

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Theory

Theory

edition:Hardcover

A smart, sensual and witty novel about what happens when love and intellect are set on a collision course. This compact tour de force affirms Dionne Brand's place as one of Canada's most dazzling and influential artists.

Theory begins as its narrator sets out, like many a graduate student, to write a wildly ambitious thesis on the past, present, and future of art, culture, race, gender, class, and politics--a revolutionary work that its author believes will synthesize and thereby transform the …

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Selah
 
In retrospect, I loved Selah for reasons anyone can understand. First, she loved herself more than she loved me. And this led me to think that I would get some respite from the world, and at the same time receive the little affections I required to complete my life’s work: my dissertation.
 
I wanted Selah to spare me only a few glances and gestures while she took care of her most singular concern—her body. I imagined her thoughts passing over me briefly while she did her eyes or painted her nails red. I believed this oblique affection, like the affection one has for landscapes or animals, would be sufficient for my needs.
 
I don’t require much in the way of attention, you see. All my life I’ve sat at an angle, observing the back and forth of other people’s lives. Even as a child I found myself on the diagonal to events in the living room and the kitchen. I used to sit crouched with my arms around my knees, trying to watch and listen and not be noticed. I used to summon all my stillness to do this because if I were observed, all events would cease and I would become the object of commands to do some job like cleaning a shoe or finding a book to read. Or worse, I would be upbraided for listening in on conversations beyond my years, which it seemed was a sign of immorality. My childhood was spent inhabiting this angle nevertheless, at the risk of beatings and other sanctions. I enjoyed this vantage point because it provided me with a view of the tumult of people’s lives without the involvement. And so I perfected this geometry, I excelled at finding just the right distance from actions and conversations. From there, I learned a great deal about human beings, first at home and then in the world where, I discovered, it was much easier to conceal oneself.

Anyone would be forgiven, I think, for loving Selah. After all, in this world there is a shared aesthetic, however oppressive, however repetitive, of loving a certain manifestation of a woman, and Selah inhab­ited that manifestation. One finds oneself compelled to take part in the aesthetic, no matter the tedium of its repetitions. It is so anaesthetic—well, actually, it is like a hammer and a crowbar, opening your skull and your heart. You can see its manifestation all over the world on billboards—interpretations of a certain symmetry, or to be exact, an asymmetry. Although Selah, I must admit, was not an interpretation; she was the object, the object of interpretation. She was voluptuous, truly. That word—Selah was its owner. A smooth, sumptuous human being. Even-fleshed, tall, athletic, bracing, supple. Her skin, a burnt almond, yet smelled of cinnamon. I do not mean here to invoke the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove, et cetera. And I don’t mean to dissociate Selah, the body, from Selah, the intelligence, in the way that most people do. We are mainly body after all, and the body is intelligence. We turn it into this petty panto­mime of gender, so its beauty is lost on us. I try every day to break out of the pantomime. Nevertheless, I spent hours smelling Selah’s right shoulder. Her skin is so smooth there. She didn’t appreciate my dog’s nose sniffing her, but the cinnamon is most noticeable there, warmed in the bowl of her clavicle. I asked Selah if she rubbed herself in cinnamon. Did she roll around in cinnamon powder each morning, or did she walk through burning branches of cinna­mon trees at night? She looked disgusted with me. Of course not, she said.

Back to the body as intelligence: the body is, after all, a living organism—with its own intention, sepa­rate from the parsed out, pored over intentions that one can say come from the mind. The mind’s inter­pretation of the body is irrelevant. The body pursues its own needs and its own desires with fibre optic precision not even yet detailed by scientists. Selah’s body, for example, has decided on cinnamon and it has, to my way of thinking, synthesized all of the atmosphere around it to the smell of cinnamon. Or let me withdraw that previous statement. Perhaps it is my body, my olfactory nerve, that decided on cin­namon at the appearance of Selah, and so it collected the smell of cinnamon around the presence of Selah. On the other hand, there might be a third theory unknown to both Selah and me that accounts for the cinnamon. Whatever the truth of this, Selah smelled of cinnamon.

Let me say at the beginning that I do not know anything about Selah. I do not know where she was born, I do not know about her upbringing or her schooling. Nor do I know any detail about her father or mother. Selah kept all this a secret from me—or not so much a secret as she thought it was none of my affair. I would pry and poke around, asking her about her life before me—to which she would give elliptical answers, not filling in the true details. When I inquired further, in that way I have of forecasting that I am trying to dig out a secret, Selah immediately grew suspicious and stared at me like a star from a distant constellation. It was as if she already saw my plan for superficial analysis and found it boring. Selah also did not care that I analyzed her silence in this same pathetic way. At least, she said, there was nothing in the silence except my imagination, so I could specu­late all I wanted.

Back again to the idea of the body itself as intelli­gence: when I made love to Selah—for that is what she said I did—Selah’s body was discerning in every (for want of a better word) touch. In those moments she could tell if I was sincere or not in my life and in my intentions. In those moments life is truthful, it has a core, an honesty; it is a plain act and there is no deception. The body then is like a surveillance machine with nerve endings and light scanners, sound detectors and particle analysis. Whatever is transmitted cannot be reinterpreted or taken back. Selah pointed out to me that it was on her body that these acts took place, not on mine. That is, I made love to her, she did not make love to me. This euphemism, make love, is not how she put it. She said, “It is my body that is at work.” This statement was at once stunning for its clarity; somewhat embarrassing for me, as it pointed out an unobserved tendency on my part; and truthful. My embarrassment at these words is still present even a decade later. Selah’s body was the body at work. I preyed upon Selah’s body. Her body was the central terrain and I, like some bird with taloned feet and beak, attacked her flesh and bones. Or I was like a forensic scientist, but a scientist of love, or an undertaker or a surgeon of love—whatever I may call it, I was dissecting her muscle from her blood vessels in my experiment of love.

I thought Selah liked my lovemaking, my atten­tions to the most minute areas of her skin. It had seemed this way to me until her declaration. I said as much to Selah, in an unavoidably wounded tone. I did not catch myself before that tone emerged and so I foreclosed whatever else Selah had to say. I regret this, but her declaration had confirmed a doubt I always had, namely, What did Selah see in me? Why had she acquiesced to being with me at all? Still to this day I cannot fathom why Selah took me on as a lover.

I am not avoiding the question of why Selah rarely made love to me, but there is so much more to say about her and about our life together that it would be unworthy to dwell on that or to suggest that it was in any way pivotal to the outcome. Selah always told the truth. That is certain. I, however, never truly listened to her until I was faced with my self-delusion. And meanwhile, I always lied to Selah. I thought I was saving her from the harshness of situations. She, to her credit, never believed me. She went on in her own reality. Selah was much better at being in the world than I was. She knew and assumed the conventions of normalcy that I only paid lip service to, which brings me once again to the question of why I was in love with Selah. I cannot confirm that Selah was in love with me; I could never tell. Sometimes she dis­played a great warmth for me. She would leave off her preening and embrace me, especially when I brought her a gift of some kind, or when I suggested, desper­ately, we go on a trip to a warm place.

Once we went to Seville in August. Selah fought me the whole month, but she also picked figs in the mornings and walked through the Sierpes in the late afternoons looking gorgeous. In Seville, we house-sat for a professor of mine, a professor of philology with whom I had taken a graduate course and had become quite close. Selah and I would emerge each day from our house-sit at the wrong hour—the hour when the sun was strongest and all of Seville was asleep. We drifted through the orange-hot streets trying to find a café, the sun baked us, we felt glorious and invin­cible. Then, finding a shaded resto, we would eat pes­cado a la plancha and I would drink a beer while Selah examined her skin. I would try to engage Selah in some talk about Spanish colonialism, or the obvi­ous Arab qualities of Seville, and she would barely respond, as if to say, What does that have to do with my holiday? Selah, of course, was right: it had noth­ing to do with it. My overbearing teaching often leeched the pleasures of the moment. Selah merely wanted to “be.” And how could I blame her? I wanted to “be” also.

Selah had a beauty that was unanswerable, unlearnable. After all, what is the response to beauty? I had nothing to offer in response to this beauty. How do you answer the smell of cinnamon? How can smoothness have a reply? What do you do when you glimpse Selah in a far-off store window crossing a cobbled square with a gnome beside her? You see Selah, she is wearing black, she has dark glasses, she is carrying a bag, she is like a sharp dagger or a bolt of lightning striking the air and you are struck in the forehead, you lose sight in one eye. And then you observe the gnome beside her, the gnome who is you, and the gnome is arguing with Selah. “One month,” the gnome is saying, and the sight makes you shut up. But the gnome goes on nevertheless, “One month, you cannot give me one month of peace!” The gnome is haranguing Selah and Selah is indifferent, so the gnome shuts up and creeps along beside Selah. Why is Selah walking with that gnome, you remark out loud to no one. Our days in Seville invariably con­tained a moment like this. Selah had the dissatisfac­tion of beauty, because of course beauty can never be satisfied and can never be satisfactory to the beauti­ful. The imperfect is always more rewarding, more active, since it is striving for perfection. So Selah always seemed dissatisfied to me. Though I could be wrong and perhaps it is my probing personality that casts a doubt on beauty. Yes, my own dissatisfaction infected Selah’s contentment.

Selah was content, I realize now. I came home sometimes to find her singing along with the radio, the sound of some inane popular song booming against the walls. Ashanti, Mary J. Blige and Nelly. Selah would be cooking one of her specialities—the pots bubbling on the stove, the smell of smoked corn, fried grouper, all the aromas I loved—yet I could not help myself, the stupid songs dominated my atten­tion. They annoyed me immediately and I could not resist asking Selah how old she was, and when would she let go of that teenage stuff? Clearly I loved Selah much more than I loved her ways. Though, to take that back, I loved Selah’s ways, despite my objections to them. I loved how Selah remained attentive to pop­ular things while I made up theories for them. Selah ignored me. She said how old-fashioned I was, how out of time, how queer. She was right. I know I am out of time. Everything about our different tastes made me question why we were together, but I still ignored this question.

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How to Avoid Huge Ships

How to Avoid Huge Ships

edition:Paperback

Both "grave and brave, serious and hilarious"--new poems from a Governor General's Award-winning poet.

 

How to Avoid Huge Ships, Julie Bruck's fourth collection of poetry, is a book of arguments and spells against the ambushes of age. This is, of course, a pointless exercise with a rich history. Bruck's new poems excavate a middle zone?as old parents wither and regress, while the young declare their independence. Parents grow down, children up, and it's from the uncomfortable in-between that t …

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I've Been Meaning to Tell You

I've Been Meaning to Tell You

A Letter to My Daughter
edition:Hardcover

In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today.

When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly h …

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Excerpt

The Occasion

Once, when you were three, we made a trip out for lunch. We bussed west in our city, to one of those grocery-store buffets serving the type of food my own parents would scorn. Those overpriced organics laid out thinly in brushed-steel trays, the glass sneeze guard just high enough for you, dearest daughter, to dip your head beneath it in assessing, suspiciously, the “browned rice” and “free-range carrots.” And in that moment, I could imagine myself a father long beyond the grip of history, and now caring for his loved one through kale and quinoa anda soda boasting “real cane sugar.”
     But we’re both dessert people, a soda won’t cut it, and so we shared a big piece of chocolate cake. “It’s good for you,” you giggled. “Chocolate cake is very, very good for you.” You squirmed away as I tried to wipe your mouth, laughing at all of my best efforts. It was an ordinary moment. And an ordinary thirst was brought on by the thick sweet of the cake, and so I stood and moved towards the nearby tap to get us both a glass of water, encountering a woman on her way to do the same thing. She was nicely dressed, a light summer cream suit, little makeup, tasteful. We reached the tap at roughly the same time. I hesitated out of a politeness, and this very gesture seemed only to irritate her. She shouldered herself in front of me, and when filling her glass of water, she half turned to explain, “I was born here. I belong here.”
     Her voice was loud. She meant to be overheard, to provoke agreement, maybe, although the people lunching around us reacted only by focusing harder upon their own bowls and plates. And you, my daughter, sitting closest, didn’t understand, or else you didn’t even hear. You were still in a moment of joy, your own laughter filling your ears, the dark frosting between your teeth, and so I decided. I waited patiently to fill our glasses. I walked carefully back to you, never spilling a drop. I sat. I might have tried to match your smile. I might have attempted once more to wipe your mouth, or asked you to take a sip of water to prevent dehydration, the latest foolish fear of parents like me. I don’t remember. I sometimes find myself in this state during the course of an ordinary day. I was lost in thought and quiet, even after I caught your hand waving beforemy eyes. Your face now cross and confused. “Hey,” you asked, “what happened?”

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The Plague

The Plague

edition:Paperback

A modern retelling of the Camus classic that posits its story of infectious disease and quarantine in our contemporary age of social justice and rising inequity.

At first it's the dead rats; they start dying in cataclysmic numbers, followed by other city creatures. Then people begin experiencing flu-like symptoms as well as swellings in their lymph nodes. The masses react in disbelief when the official diagnosis comes in and later, when a quarantine is imposed on the increasingly terrified city.

I …

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