This month on The Chat we’re back with an interview with award-winning author Michael Christie, whose book If I Fall, If I Die created well-deserved buzz on both sides of the border when it was released in 2015.
If I Fall, If I Die tells the story of Will, a young boy living with his agoraphobic mother in Thunder Bay. As the novel opens, Will ventures forth outside his home for the first time. Through an artistic outsider, Will is introduced to the world of skateboarding and gradually pulled outside the confines of his small world.
The Star calls the novel “A sort of Alice in Wonderland in reverse, where a kid from a place where fantasy reigns clambers out of his rabbit hole and emerges, awestruck, into the real world.”
If I Fall, If I Die was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was selected as a New York Times Editors' Choice. Michael's previous collection of short stories, The Beggar's Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, was a finalist for the Writers' Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. H …
"Growing up, I often wished I lived in Mile End," writes Sigal Samuel of the iconic Montreal neighbourhood that provides the setting for her first novel, The Mystics of Mile End. But part of coming-of-age is also realizing that the places we mythologize have their own fictions of their own, and that there is no ideal setting in which to live the perfect life—except maybe Brooklyn.
Mythologized places are potent settings for literature, however. In this piece, Samuel writes about her own changing relationship with Mile End, which is itself in flux, and about how the neighbourhood is earning a place in the contemporary literary canon.
If you’ve spent time in Montreal (and even if you haven’t), you’ve probably heard about Mile End. This diverse neighborhood is home to hipsters and Hasidic Jews. It’s also a great litmus test for how you feel about different cultures—religious and secular, academic and artsy—at any given moment.
Growing up, I often wished I lived in Mile End. Instead I inhabited Cote-Saint-Luc, a suburb so insularly Jewish that we nicknamed it Cote-Saint-Jew. I wanted to be a Mile Ender because that place, with its cheap rent and charming cafés, had a reputation as an artist hub (Arcade Fire, anyone?). It was a mirror for myself as …
School’s out for the summer, so why not spend the hot and sticky months of July and August with some of CanLit’s most outrageous, funny, and perceptive kid narrators? To compile this list, I have chosen eight of the most memorable and charming kid narrators that I have spent time with. These eight have made me spurt soda in fits of giggles, cry until I gave myself the hiccups, and highlight their books until the pages turned parking-ticket yellow and tacky with fluorescent ink.
It’s not only because I’m a teacher of adolescents and an author of a coming-of-age novel that I am drawn to books with kid narrators. Young people and children have a way of seeing the world that adults are missing. Our days are short, mundane, expected, frazzled, whereas children experience things for the first time much more often than we do. They are surprised, shocked, amazed, scared, bewildered, overwhelmed, and stumped infinitely more often than we are. All of this newness produces wonderfully weird and often outrageous commentary on everything from the ordinary to the extraordinary that life throws their way. Who better to learn from about the world anew than someone who is old enough to know that that over there is a bad guy, but also notice that the bad guy is vulnerable andlost himself.
By age ten, I was traipsing home each New Jersey June with a list of required reading for the summer, pretending to be as vexed about it as the other kids. In truth I was keen for an excuse to hole up in my attic room away from my mother for whom the unabated sight of me on long summer days seemed to be cruel and unusual punishment: You’ve parted your hair like a cow path. Stop twitching your nose. Don’t slouch. You can’t come to the table looking like that.
While attacking the “approved” reading list, however, I was on full alert for signs said mother was outside—the squeak of the clothesline pulley, her exasperated “shoo-shoo” to rabbits in her raspberries. Then I’d steal down the stairs as furtively as Nancy Drew and into the living room where she kept novels on the top shelves of bookcases my father had built (with no help from his carpenter dad, he’d bitterly remind us). The shelves also held the Encyclopædia Britannica from Aak to Zylviec, Webster’s Unabridged with a broken spine, the Merck Manual, the Bible, kids’ books …