I grew up loving the works of Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro. Traditional? Perhaps. Maybe my CanLit taste is old-fashioned.
And in their time, these were women who dared. Not ‘but’, ‘and’.
This remains their time. And beyond the page. In the recent furor surrounding the efforts to encourage institutional accountability on matters of justice at UBC in western Canada, Margaret Atwood’s voice on social media was as courageous and bold and provocative as it is in Handmaid’s Tale and Year of the Flood.
And what if you’re up-to-date with Margaret Atwood, even with her Twitter stream? And what if you simply crave more recent writing?
And so, my feminist friend asks me for CanLit suggestions. Living authors, she says. Which I understand to be about dates but also vibrancy.
My first list is compiled in email, mostly poetry and short fiction: fierce and principled and strange, books which come to mind immediately and easily as choices for her.
And she says that she is craving novels (and I get that), and she reminds me that she has some old-fashioned European favourites too (which I’d forgotten).
And, so, she asks again. For another list of CanLit novels. And she suggests that I share, here.
Angie Abdou’s Between (2014)
Catherine Bush’s Accusation (2013)
Lauren B. Davis’ Our Daily Bread (2011)
Hiromi Goto’s Half World (2009)
Tamai Kobayashi’s Prairie Ostrich (2014)
Tracey Lindberg’s Birdie (2015)
Jennifer LoveGrove’s Watch How We Walk (2013)
Elaine McClusky’s Hello, Sweetheart (Stories, 2014)
Suzette Mayr’s Monoceros (2011)
Olive Senior’s The Pain Tree (Stories, 2016)
Dennison Smith’s The Eye of the Day (2014)
Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016)
Katherena Vermette’s The Break (2016)
Alissa York’s Effigy (2007)
When I consider the works by women writers which have shaped me, on any given day the thread which I view as connecting them might be a different one viewed within the web.
These books – these writers – ask hard questions and sometimes leave their readers in a mess. Sometimes the shape of their stories is untraditional. Sometimes perspectives are unusual. Sometimes there is immersion in a single voice which is deliberately disorienting. Sometimes they are conventionally shaped but approach the matter of resolution from an unexpected direction. Every single one of these books takes something you believe in (or once believed in or want to believe in) a good hard shake.
So what connects them?
Today, I am thinking that it has to do with the way in which these women have embraced and challenged, accepted and resisted, fought and transformed darkness.
That because their relationship with darkness (within and without) is complicated in their fiction, it creates a complicated reading experience, affords the opportunity for complexity, shapes a space in which the way we consider the world can alter.
There are many shades of daring, and I want to inhabit a bookshelf and a world in which we speak more of ‘and’s than ‘or’s.
My Bookfriend will tell me what she thinks of this list the next time we meet for coffee.
And what do you think of it? Is there a book you would like to add for her?
Oh, yes, please do!
Offer an ‘and’ here.