Another reader’s passion can be contagious.

Unhook your mask and breathe in deeply.

Naomi’s dedication to reading writers from Atlantic Canada ignited my curiosity.

(Check out her project here, along with pages dedicated to the Halifax Explosion and regional literary awards on Consumed by Ink.)

When I checked my reading log for 2019, I realized that only 10% of the Canadian writers I read were Atlantic Canadian writers. Let’s say you’re just thinking in terms of north, south, east and west—to divvy things up roughly, you’d think that a quarter of one’s CanLit reading would come from the east. (In other years, my math might have been different; I’ve been trying to explore Québécois writers.)

Here are some of my recent Atlantic Canadian reads:

Borrowed Beauty is the first collection of poetry by Maxine Tynes, published by Pottersfield Press in 1987.

Often writing in response to people and events which moved her, poems like “Speaking Our Peace” (inspired by the film of the same name) directly acknowledge the debt she feels to other women who have challenged the status quo.

Women like “Marian Dewar / Muriel Duckworth / Bonnie Klein / Terri Nash / Dr. Ursula Franklin / Rosalie Bertell / Kathleen Wallace-Deering / Darlene Keju / Solanges Vincent / Margaret Laurence”. And, also, “all of us / women / and, men and women / and children / speaking our peace”.

Tynes asks hard questions (like “Does one Bob Dylan revival / equal one bowl of infested rice and protein supplement?”) and observes painful truths (like “in the ratings war, terrorism is 10 Neilson points / above world aid for hunger”).

There are a couple of short stories here, too, including “In Service”, which I especially enjoyed, always on the lookout for creative work about our daily work: “With little girl ears where they shouldn’t be, bent to lady-talk. That scary, hushed, exciting lady-talk between my mother and women who came to see her. Tea and talk. Lady-talk.”

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children by Wanda Lauren Taylor (2015) landed on my reading list thanks to a novel by Andrea Gunraj’s The Lost Sister (2019), which I reviewed for The Temz Review earlier this year. Two sisters in that story spent time in the orphanage and I wanted to learn more about the institution. (There’s also an episode of W5, which Canadians can likely access via their public library, called “Forgotten Children” about some of the survivors.)

In under 200 pages, Taylor does a fine job of summarizing, first, the great need for an institution to address the needs of black children who were not protected by the existing child welfare system, and, next, how that need remained unaddressed as many of the residents were vulnerable—economically, physically and psychologically—to exploitative staff members and systemic injustice.

Individual chapters are devoted to specific survivors’ stories and these, in concert with the many photographs, remind readers that these are not simply histories but also memories, still haunting many of the survivors today.

All of this is complicated by the fact that not everyone had the same experiences while housed there—some residents fared better than others and the need for adequate social services still remains. (Naomi writes about Taylor’s and Gunraj’s books as a pair here.)

Jaime Burnet’s Crocuses Hatch from Snow (2020) is an ambitious debut novel which grew out of the author’s personal experience coming-of-age in Halifax and her desire to educate privileged readers about issues of injustice.

If you’ve got a T-shirt in your closet that says “Love is Love”, if you’ve signed a petition about gentrification concerns, if you’ve donated to a bail fund available to anti-racist activists, if you’ve spent time reading the testimony of residential school survivors, you’ll find your passion reflected here.

There’s a lot of heart in this first novel. Burnet’s not short on ambition, and with greater attention paid to supplementary character development and narrative arc structure, her stories will wield more power. (I reviewed this for Herizons in more detail.)

Laura Trethewey’s The Imperilled Ocean (2020) is an accessible and engaging exploration of a wide-ranging topic. She approaches individual experiences that expand into matters of global importance with care and analysis.

One refugee’s experience is fascinating: current statistics about asylum seekers are shocking. A cruise-ship worker’s suicide is a family tragedy: the fact that the increasing rate of these incidents of this goes unreported in an industry because the deaths of their country’s citizens are the only ones tabulated is mind-boggling (particularly because the industry depends upon global citizens).

Tretheway starts so many good conversations here. (This is discussed in more detail, here, as one of my #ReadTheChange books for 2020.)

What area of the world have you been exploring via your TBR lists and stacks?