For My Feminist Friend Who Dreams of Revolution

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.

thien-do-not-say-we-have-nothingAngie 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.

So, yes, I read Ethel Wilson and Marian Engel. And L.M. Montgomery and Mazo de la Roche. And Lee Maracle and Pauline Holdstock and, and, and….

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.

Invite conversation.



  1. Naz @ Read Diverse Books February 2, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    I only recognize a few of these, so I appreciate the list! Do Not Say We Have Nothing is definitely on my 2017 TBR.

    • Buried In Print February 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Naz. They’re all Canadian, so perhaps not immediately accessible down there. I wholeheartedly recommend Monoceros to you, though. Suzette Mayr is always up to cool stuff. And this one is just a little bizarre in all the right ways!

  2. iliana January 29, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    This is terrible but I don’t recognize most of these. I’m certainly taking notes and will be looking for some of these.

    • Buried In Print February 1, 2017 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      There are so many fine American writers whose names I don’t recognise either, Iliana; I’m often surprised by how few titles cross our border with any degree of fanfare (if they cross at all).

  3. Alley January 26, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this list. I’m now off to add more books to my TBR. I am blanking on other titles but will return when I can make my brain work again

    • Buried In Print February 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      I bet you could find Lauren B. Davis’ book, which was published originally by an American indie press before it was picked up in Canada (and later nominated for a national prize here). It’s also very inviting style-wise (you can hardly look away) and I think you’d love the variety of voices.

  4. Booker talk January 25, 2017 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    glad to see one of my favourite books from 2016 on the list – Madeleine Thien. But I dont recognise most of the others….

    • Buried In Print February 1, 2017 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      You might be able to find Dennison Smith’s The Eye of the Day, because it’s been published by Periscope Books in the U.K. (originally by HarperCollins in Canada). BTW, Periscope’s books smell so good: like real books, not chemicals!

  5. Wendy January 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    thanks for the list. I too am always looking for new reads. I’d like to suggest adding Miriam Toews ” All My Puny Sorrows”

    • Buried In Print January 25, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Wendy. That’s a great suggestion: talk about sisterhood! And about finding ways to reconcile the irreconcilable!

  6. Naomi January 24, 2017 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    I love this list! Maybe it should be my next project… I can cross off a few of them already. 🙂

    • Buried In Print January 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      It’s fun to have a combination of known titles and unknown titles on a list, isn’t it? I’m not sure you’ve read Hiromi Goto’s Half World yet, and I think you might like it, especially as you could read it with/recommend it to your kids too. She’s an unassuming heroine and the struggle she faces is more complicated than it appears at first (not your typical “villain”, although you don’t quite get the breadth of that until the follow-up novel). Not that you need any help adding to your CanLit reading list!

      • Naomi January 26, 2017 at 8:00 am - Reply

        I haven’t read Half World – I don’t tend to gravitate toward graphic novels (I don’t know why!), but I like what you have to say about it…
        There’s only one other on the list I haven’t heard of (The Eye of the Day), but quite a few I haven’t read yet.

  7. Stefanie January 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Except for the first title on the list I don’t recognize any of them, and I find that really exciting given how you have connected them! My mind is drawing up blank for anything to add at the moment. I do agree with you though, we need more “and’s”! 🙂

    • Buried In Print January 25, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Knowing your taste, I would recommend Katherena Vermette’s novel for you in particular (but that’s also because I know you’re already heading in Madeleine Thien’s novel, which would also be my choice for youj – and and and). Such a strong voice and I’m so keen to see what she does next.

      • Stefanie January 27, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the recommendation! I am in the holds queue at the library for Thien 🙂 No libraries in my area have Vermette’s book. Hopefully they will soon!

        • Buried In Print January 27, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

          The Break was nominated for a couple of things, so maybe that’s made international rights more of a “thing”: hope it results in easier access for you in time. You could also try for her previous book of poetry, which won a national award a couple of years back, as I know you love verse too, and maybe it’d be easier to get. But I know you’ve got plenty to read in the meantime!

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