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Shattering Effects: Living With Violence and War

Peacekeeper’s Daughter is the astonishing story of a French-Canadian military family stationed in Israel and Lebanon in 1982-1983. Told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl, Peacekeeper’s Daughter parchutes the reader into the Lebanese Civil War, the Palestinian crisis, and the wave of terrorism—including the bombing of the American Embassy—that ravaged Beirut at the height of the siege. This novelistic memoir moves from Jerusalem to Tiberius, from the disputed No-Man’s Land of the Golan Heights to Damascus, and on to Beirut by way of Tripoli, crossing borders that remain closed to this day.

In this list, Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt shares five works of fiction and five memoirs about terrorism and war.

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Rue des Rosiers, by Rhea Trebegov

Winner of the Nancy Richler Award for fiction, Rue des Rosiers is an engrossing historical coming-of-age story with a timely examination of hatred’s long consequences. The novel is set in Toronto, Winnipeg and Paris in the spring and summer of 1982. Its 25-year-old protagonist, Sarah Levine, finds …

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Struggling Through Pandemonium

(We've got Donna Morrissey's memoir Pluck is up for giveaway right now! Don't miss your chance to enter to win.)

While writing Pluck I was drawn to the stories of others struggling through pandemonium and learning to quieten its crazed babel. We all have a have memoir in us, we talk it out every time we sit with family, friends or shrinks, trying to make sense of whatever the hell just happened back there, and why’s it still happening.

We find patterns of behaviour in all of us, and in our relationships and workplaces and the towns we live in.  We are all living out the stories of our ancestors going back thousands of years. Which is why I varied my reading to include more objective works as well as personal memoir. God knows, we need all the help we can in navigating this terrible wonderful life bestowed upon us.  

These are only some of the books from which I learned of new questions to ask, and found answers to those I hadn’t thought of asking.

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Care Of: Letters, Connections, and Cures, by Ivan Coyote

As deep as it is poignant, Care Of is a co …

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8 Books that Explore Memory and Place

Fawn Parker—whose latest novel Dumb-Show has been described by Adnan Khan as “vivid and vicious”—recommends eight books of fiction, memoir, and poetry exploring themes of memory and physical place.

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Householders, by Kate Cayley

The stories in Householders are haunting and enigmatic, with a clarity of emotion that cuts through the dreamlike atmosphere Cayley has crafted. With the first sentence of the opening story, “A Crooked Man,” we are introduced to the feeling of isolation that runs throughout the book: “Martha regarded herself skeptically and assumed skepticism from the other mothers at the table.” In “A Beautiful Bare Room” a strange infectious rash spreads among Palo Alto. A woman in a bunker considers whether she is “there to be amusing to languid virtual people, if the distinction between virtual and actual was meaningful anymore.” With incredible attention to the nuance of interpersonal relationships—whether familial, romantic, situational, dysfunctional—each story in Householders is a window into an eerie but …

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Genre-Bending Memoirs

Every September since 1997, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival presents THIN AIR, a celebration of books and ideas. Their curated line-up is a perfect fit for curious readers who are ready to discover strong voices and great storytelling in practically every genre. This year, they're presenting a hybrid festival featuring 60 writers, live events, and a dynamic website.

To watch video content Rowan McCandless has prepared for them, visit the festival website.

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Book Cover Persephone's Children

While there are many memoirs on the market, the majority adhere to a linear form and narrative. Recently, more genre-bending memoirs have proven successful, and my first book, Persephone’s Children: A Life In Fragments pushes those boundaries even further.

Persephone’s Children, is a hybrid memoir that chronicles my leaving a domestic abuse situation as a black and biracial woman and how writing sustained me during that difficult process. Through a series of essays that are often nonlinear and experimental in form, readers explore themes such as intergenerational trauma, racism, …

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16 Indigenous Reads: A List from Kobo

This is a list of eBooks and audiobooks to help readers celebrate the cultures of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples through a mix of fiction and nonfiction that shines light on painful moments in history (much of which is hardly past) while highlighting the talents of some of the best writers working today.

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Call Me Indian, by Fred Sasakamoose

Fred Saskamoose emerged from the brutal residential school system to become the first Indigenous person with Treaty status in the NHL—before First Nations people obtained the right to vote in Canada. But there’s more to the story of “Fast Freddy” than the dozen games he played for the Chicago Black Hawks, including a life serving his community and fighting to reclaim Indigenous pride.

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A History of My Brief Body, by Billy-Ray Belcourt

This poetic and challenging memoir leaves impressions on readers’ minds that may take a lifetime to interpret. We spoke with the author about his work on the Kobo in Conversation podcast.

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On Telling the Truth in Politics

The Queer Evangelist is Cheri DiNovo's story of her life as a queer minister, politician and staunch activist for LGBTQ rights. She shares how she went from living on the streets as a teenager to performing the first legalized same-sex marriage registered in Canada in 2001. From rights for queer parents to banning conversion therapy, her story will inspire people (queer or ally) to not only resist the system—but change it.

The following excerpt takes place during her time as an MPP for Parkdale-High Park in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, where she served from 2006 to 2017.

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There’s an old saying, “If you’re going to dine with the Devil, you’d better have a very long spoon.” The maneuvering included timing the introduction of bills, getting the press involved if an important human rights bill wasn’t going to be put forward, and as always bringing activist pressure to bear on the process. It all took a lot of work and my terrific team to carry it off. In that regard, politics, like most careers, involves, well, politics. Once you lose your idealism about partisanship, you can actually accomplish an amazing amount on behalf of the marginalized. As a socialist, I should have had no illusions about capitalist governments, and I only really harbo …

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How Does a Woman Become a Writer?

I loved memoirs, autobiographies, and collections of letters as well as fiction I thought autobiographical. While my little boys were choosing the books they’d bring home from the library, I was seeking out what I myself wanted to read. I admired Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, and everything Margaret Drabble wrote.

I read and reread Drabble’s early novels—A Summer Bird-Cage, The Garrick Year, The Millstone—as though every word were not only true, but addressed to me personally. A talented and accomplished woman with a degree from Cambridge, Drabble knew all about the challenges of combining motherhood and a career. With three children to bring up, she had somehow managed to become a celebrated novelist. There was a husband, who was an actor, and I was not surprised when I learned they eventually divorced.

The writers who mattered to me were all older than I was—Margaret Drabble and Margaret Atwood are about ten years my senior—and the ones who mattered most—Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, and Mavis Gallant— were from my mother’s generation. They all had some- thing in common with me, as well, in their familiarity with corners of the world once controlled by the British, and in t …

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Poetry Feels Like Memory to Me

I often marvel at how particularly suited poetry is for memoir. Something of the intensity of feeling, sparseness of narrative and intricacy of images in poetry feels like memory itself to me. The multiplicity that can be found in poetry hits on the bigger truth that our own histories have so many meanings resting on top of and running parallel to each other in the beautiful chaotic free fall that is our lives.

This is a list of books similar to my debut collection Run Riot: Ninety Poems in Ninety Days in which poetry is the medium through which the past is explored, and what raucous, solace-full explorations they are. I hope you get the chance to read at least a few of these great books.

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The Pit, by Tara Borin

Take a trip up north to Dawson City and pull up a barstool at the local watering hole with this little gem of a collection. When I finished reading The Pit I felt as though I could walk into Dawson City’s local bar and feel right at home. Borin’s poetic storytelling brings the ghosts of that old hotel in the north to life. When you finis …

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No Longer a Footnote: Extraordinary Lives

Lauren McKeon's latest book is Women of the Pandemic.

History is too often told through the texture of men’s lives. Women become accessories and footnotes, their struggles and dreams, triumphs and sacrifices inevitably erased. In recent years, the rise of women’s biography and memoir has sought to rectify that, making permanent extraordinary stories about women’s lives, past and present. There is courage in demanding your voice be heard, in telling the world your story matters—that you matter. Today, we celebrate diverse women who’ve boldly told their truths, making us all richer for it.

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Book Cover Mistakes to Run With

Mistakes to Run With, by Yasuko Thanh

Yasuko Thanh tells us what to expect in the title: this is not a tidy book, and she has not had a tidy life. Her memoir is beautifully vulnerable, inviting us into her life as a teen on the streets of Vancouver and showing us how past informs—but doesn’t always define—who a person is constantly becoming. Neither the book, nor Thanh’s story has a neat ending, a reminder that women’s lives don’t have to come pre …

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Persian-Canadian Writers You've Got to Read

As I began writing what would become Fuse (a memoir of mental health and mixed-race identity) I became desperate to find Iranian Canadian voices to help ground and situate my own—a task that proved somewhat more difficult than I thought it would be.

Or should be.

After all, hundreds of thousands of Iranian people call Canada home, and Iran is the birthplace of Rumi, one of the most celebrated poets of all time. The Iranian people have created a fine, strong tradition of poetry, story-telling and literature. My father, much like the endearingly zealous father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, never let me forget this: Persian poetry is the most beautiful. The stories, the most compelling.

So, where were all the Persian Canadian writers? It turns out, here all along, but not as represented as one might hope; as they deserve to be.

This reading list is part of my attempt to bring more of the work of Persian-Canadian writers to light; to give people a taste of the organoleptic artistry that I feel is at the singular heart of so much of the Iranian writing.

Lezzat bebarid! Enjoy!

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Book Cover Through the Sad Wood Our Corpses Will Hang

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12 Books for International Women's Day

Can you hear them now? If you can't, you're not listening. Recent memoirs and biographies about remarkable women would make great picks for International Women's Day.

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Can You Hear Me Now?: How I Found My Voice and Learned to Live with Passion and Purpose, by Celina Caesar-Chavannes

About the book: Celina Caesar-Chavannes, already a breaker of boundaries as a Black woman in business, got into politics because she wanted to make a bigger difference in the world. But when she became the first Black person elected to represent the federal riding of Whitby, Ontario, she hadn't really thought about the fact that Ottawa wasn't designed for someone like her. Celina soon found herself both making waves and breaking down, confronting at night, alone in her Ottawa apartment, all the painful beauty of her childhood and her troubled early adult life. She paid the price for speaking out about micro-aggressions and speaking up for her community and her riding, but she also felt exhilaration and empowerment. As she writes, "This is not your typical leadership book where the person is placed in a situation and miraculously comes up with the right response for the wicked problem. This is the story of me falling in love, at last, with who I am, and finding my voice in the unlike …

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Dazzling Memoirs

In my book on memoir, Memoir: Conversations and Craft, I had the great good fortune of interviewing seven distinguished Canadian writers who have written memoirs. They were my “dream team” of authors, chosen because I admire their writing and referred to them often when I taught memoir workshops. With luck, I thought half of the group would say yes to my request of an interview to be included in my book. To my delight, all seven said yes.

I heartily recommend their memoirs.

BONUS: Enter to win a copy of Memoir: Conversations and Craft at our giveaways page!

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Writing Style and Focus

Causeway: A Passage From Innocence, by Linden MacIntyre

Can a writer be both punchy and elegant? Yes, they can. I have always enjoyed Linden MacIntyre’s writing style. I read Causeway: A Passage From Innocence, MacIntyre’s "hauntingly bittersweet memoir of home, fathers and sons, and the bridge between dreams and demons,” when I had been living in Cape Breton for about ten years. I couldn’t put the book down. It appealed to me as a "Caper-in-training" (how I ref …

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