Nina Munteanu’s novel Diary in the Age of Water (2019) will not suit every reader. Much of the narrative can also be read in her 2016 work of non-fiction Water Is….
It’s hard to resist identifying the author with Lynna, the most prominent character, who also works as a limnologist, although her employment is increasingly precarious, as her timeline hastens toward ecological devastation.
A predominantly female cast, a mythic framing narrative and, most saliently, the focus on water, all made this an interesting read for me.
The book’s epigraphs are from Maude Barlow and the chapters’ epigraphs from textbook definitions (sometimes excerpts from limnology texts), and there are even cutaway diagrams that you’d expect in a lecture hall.
Ultimately, it exists in an in-between place, some mystical elements of the generational tale possibly alienating the dedicated science-y readers and the instructional elements possibly alienating fiction devotees. And, yet, I read on: strangely compelling.
Nina Lakhani’s Who Killed Berta Cáceres? (2020) is published by Verso Books, an independent publishing house that releases a hundred titles a year. (Lakhani is the Guardian’s first environmental justice reporter.)
Cáceres frequently worked with indigenous Lenca communities across western Honduras, but it was their resistance to the construction of a hydroelectric dam, on the Gualcarque River in the community of Del Blanco, that preceded her murder.
Though just a year after winning the Goldman Environmental Prize, her renown offered no protection. “Seventy million people were killed across the continent for our natural resources, and this colonialism isn’t over. But we have power, compañeros, and that is why we still exist.”
Cáceres’ story also draws attention to the fact that 340 environmental defenders were murdered in the Americas between 2016 and 2019.
Business interests triumph over personal rights. It’s helpful to understand just how pervasive these attitudes are, how essential it is to speak up.
Watch Your Head—an anthology of poems and stories, essays and artwork—is a response to the climate crisis.
For instance, Barry Pottle’s series of photographs, De-Iced, calls attention to global warming from an Inuk perspective.
And Eshrat Erfanian’s series Tres-pass alternates addresses of Middle Eastern oil refineries with polluted landscapes in Ontario and Quebec from the 1950s.
Underpinning the collection is an awareness that “the extractive industrial practices driving global warming…are an extension of a historical colonization built upon the theft of the lands and bodies of Indigenous and Black peoples”.
The contributors are diverse and offer “warnings to be heeded directions given, field notes from the midst of the disaster, offers of refuge, shelter in the storm, high ground marked out, refugia demarcated and carefully tended, pleas, modes, and methods of survival”.
You can peek here. Something for every reader. (Edited by Kathryn Mockler and others.)
Catherine Bush’s second novel, The Rules of Engagement, was one of the first contemporary Canadian novels that I reread as soon as I finished. There’s a precision and density to her prose, consistently.
With four epigraphs for Blaze Island (2020), readers are signalled to anticipate allusions and echoes: T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare (from “The Tempest”, this is one of many Miranda stories), Elena Ferrante, and Tracy K. Smith.
As in Lauren Carter’s Swarm and Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God, the focus is on character over plot, on world-building (re-visioning) over action.
Things do happen, but Bush prioritizes the interior lives of her characters; readers looking an emphasis on another kind of story would prefer Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring or Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
Parenting trumps page-turning, but without the brazen brutality of Diane Cook’s novel (below).
Climate Chaos (2020) is a collection of ecofeminist essays more likely to be found on professors’ bookshelves than in the laps of enthusiastic readers.
Last fall, I started reading Ana Isla’s introduction and the first essay she’s contributed, with the subtitle: “Mother Earth under Threat”: they secured my desire to read on, but it took me about a month to work through the first essay.
Still, for those with an interest in social justice, this volume is an excellent resource for current scholarship; each essay is immediately followed by relevant endnotes and references, inviting those with a keen interest on that particular subject to explore further.
There are names I recognize and expect to find here—like Hannah Arendt, Mary Daly, Naomi Klein, Winona LaDuke and Vandana Shiva—but I’ve been introduced to many more activists and scholars too, and I particularly appreciate the global focus on indigenous protectors.
And now that I’ve adjusted to the academic tone, I can rely on the subheadings and bullet points, bolded text and list-making, to guide me through topics that I yearn to understand but would find overwhelming in a booklength work.
Love after the End (2020) is an anthology of nine speculative stories by two-spirt and queer Indigenous writers, edited by Joshua Whitehead.