Diana Davidson’s debut novel, Pilgrimage, opens with Mahkesîs Cardinal trying to conceal her pregnancy on the Lac St. Anne Métis settlement during the winter of 1891. Pilgrimage, just released by Brindle & Glass, was inspired by a real-life account of a century-old woman’s corpse found in an abandoned well on the prairies.
Here, Davidson lists her ten favourite recent books about women and Canada’s history. Most are novels but three are incredible non-fiction reads that she couldn’t leave out.
The Birth House by Ami McKay: McKay’s gorgeous novel was inspired by the real-life stories of Mrs. Rebecca Steele, an elderly midwife McKay befriended shortly after moving to a farmhouse in the Bay of Fundy. The Birth House tells the story of Dora Rare, a a skilled and gifted midwife in rural Nova Scotia who takes on the male medical establishment and their attempts to undermine women's community by institutionalizing the birth process. Interesting that McKay’s book was published right on the cusp of a pendulum swing in North American attitu …
I am, or at least, I view myself as being a private person. My friends wouldn’t agree with this, but almost every interaction I have is veiled in elsewhere. ‘My father looks sad when he’s happy, how can I act that?’ or, ‘How would I describe this feeling between my friend and I, sitting in the car, on this Sunday when we can’t talk?’
In conversation, I have mastered the difficult art of learning a lot about you while revealing very little about me. I like to get under the skin and understand why people do what they do. But I have a hard time understanding why I do what I do. On some level, I write and act to answer these questions about myself, and therein lies a danger for a very consuming romance. Acting and writing (fiction) allows me to be honest in a way I will never be in reality.
Let’s backtrack. For me, there is a thin line between clever and stupid and there is never any trap so deadly as the trap I set for myself. I started writing when I turned twenty. It was a slow period in my acting career, that time between teens and twenties, when characters fit into less definite boxes. I had been busy working as an actress since I was eight when suddenly, I was stuck in the no-man’s land of lean years. Who was I when I wasn’t on a set?
I was si …
Things weren’t looking good. I was hitchhiking on a lonely, secondary road in the Maritimes, it had just started to rain, and the night was quickly sinking into the landscape around me, colours taking on ever-dimmer shades of grey. I heard a minivan hissing over the horizon and turned to walk backwards, a half-hearted thumb held out into the road, knowing that, in terms of getting a ride, the odds were certainly not in my favour. A family car, the rain, the dark, the isolation, my beard. I’d be lucky if the driver didn’t speed up just to better spray me on the fly-by.
But this minivan, which looked to be fresh out of a showroom, slowed down, swerved, and came to a stop right in front of me. I opened the door to a hesitant, middle-aged man. “I… I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker before,” he admitted. “Is there some… protocol, something I should be asking you?”
“Uh. Well, generally you ask where I’m headed. Then, if we’re going the same way, you tell me where you’ll likely let me off. And that’s it. So I’ll start. I’m heading to PEI.”
He nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “PEI. I think I might be going there too.”
So we drove, through the long, quiet dark, and we talked for hours. He was balding, slightly overweight, and was living out the quintessential mid-life crisis. The second his divorce papers had been finalized, he sold his house, quit his job, bought a van, and filled three Rubbermaid containers with pricey outdoor gear he had yet to u …