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Launchpad: HOW TO LOSE EVERYTHING, by Christa Couture

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today we're launching Christa Couture's memoir, How to Lose Everything, which is being championed by... me, Kerry Clare, author and editor at 49thShelf.com. Last spring, I had the opportunity to read this book by Couture, who is an award-winning singer-songwriter, as well as a radio host and writer, and I devoured it in two days. On my phone. And I have a really crummy phone. I have almost never managed to read an entire book on a screen, let alone in two days, so voraciously. But this is a pretty special book. A book you might think would be a bit of a downer, this story that catalogues the monumental losses experienced by Couture throughout her life—she had cancer as a child; she lost her leg in curing that cancer; her first two children died; she got divorced; she got cancer again. And yet. This is a book that sparkles and sings, a memoir as rich with joy as it is with sadness, a story …

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When I’m 64: Dorothy Ellen Palmer on Age, Disability, and CanLit

Book Cover When Fenelon Falls

Novelist Dorothy Ellen Palmer (When Fenelon Falls) makes the case that notions of diversity must be broadened to include seniors and disabled people, and that in order for this change to be meaningful, the literary world (and its people) are going to have to change. We dare you not to be inspired and galvanized by the eloquence, passion and common sense displayed in her guest post today.

 And along those lines, please do have a look at With Age Comes Seniority, our list of authors whose writing careers have been established even beyond their fabulous forties. 

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I was born in 1955. I’m 61. I remember the Kennedy assassination, Expo ’67, Woodstock, the moon landing, watching the Beatles on a rooftop and onEd Sullivan, not to mention the night the Leafs won the Stanley Cup. I saw the first Trudeaumania, the Black Panthers, Vietnam protests, AIDS hysteria, the end of apartheid and the Berlin Wall. I attended my first Woman’s Liberation meeting in 1976 and as a young teacher mourned the murder of women students on December 6, 1989. After three decades in my union, one as Branch President organizing strikes to defend education from Mike Harris, after a career combating high school sexism, racism, sexual harassment, and homophobia, I know what it means to devote …

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Amanda Leduc: On Owning It and The FOLD

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The very first Festival of Literary Diversity turned out be everything that we were hoping it would be. It was galvanizing, thought-provoking and inspiring, starting conversations that we hope will continue on and on. And so to that end, we are pleased to publish this essay by Amanda Leduc, who is The FOLD's Communications, Development, and Accessibility Coordinator about what it meant to be part of this extraordinary event and how it brought about a change in her own point of view. 

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In February of 2016, I started working for the FOLD. The job promised something that was, at long last, in my field—a job that wasn’t pulling espresso shots or taking minutes or picking strawberries or faxing things or opening a locked door for psychiatric patients, as valuable and full of stories as all those jobs had been. A few days after I accepted the job offer I was driving to Brampton, having suddenly become one of Those People who make a semi-regular commute over the 400-series highways.

It was a lovely drive, actually. My training session was lovelier still—we took a walk through PAMA, the museum that would be hosting the festival, we went over the FOLD’s social media accounts, we started to look at what the next few months would look like as we pulled the festiva …

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Books On Disability

In 2012, close to four million Canadians reported having a disability—13.7% of the population. The incidence of self-reported disability spikes dramatically with age, with more than one-sixth of Canadians aged 45–64 having a disability, one-quarter aged 65–74 having one, and more than four in ten having a disability when they pass the age of 75.

These are huge proportions. When one is able-bodied, unaffected by serious physical or mental challenges, it can be difficult to understand the barriers inherent in our society and infrastructure that can make life incredibly frustrating at times for the disabled. But the line between abled and disabled is fine in many ways, much as we tend to forget or look away from this.

Here is a list of books to consider, whether you're disabled, someone who loves/lives with/teaches a disabled person, or simply interested in or engaged with the question of how to better accommodate disability and difference in our communities. The books' focuses span a range of challenges, mental and physical, which individual readers will consider as relating to disability or to difference. The list is by no means comprehensive, and we welcome your suggestions for additions (tweet @49thShelf).

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The Question of Access, by Tanya Titchkosky

Values …

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The Interruption: Sean Cranbury Interviews Kaleigh Trace

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Hi everyone! Welcome back to The Interruption, a 49th Shelf–Books on the Radio collaboration in which I interview Canadian writers about the surprising things that inform, inspire, and even interrupt their creative process.

Today I chat with Halifax resident Kaleigh Trace. Kaleigh is a disabled, queer feminist; sex educator; and author of Hot, Wet, and Shaking, How I Learned to Talk About Sex, published by Invisible Publishing. Her work has appeared in The Coast, The Huffington Post, CRIT, The Tide, and her own blog: The Fucking Facts (thefuckingfacts.com).

The Interruption always features two podcast selections for your listening enjoyment: the first podcast features my interview with Kaleigh. The second podcast features her reading from an early chapter in Hot, Wet, and Shaking.

Thank you for listening.

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How Far Is Too Far? Theresa Shea on Motherhood and Reproductive Technology

Book Cover The Unfinished Child

From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Becoming a mother was not on my list of things to do, so I find it amusing now that I would have three children before I would publish a book. That’s amazing to me not just because the time has sped by (this is my 15th year of celebrating Mother’s Day) but also because for many years I had assumed I would remain childless. When that assumption changed, I found myself, like many women today, beginning a family in my mid thirties.

Despite being well educated and politically engaged, I had paid little attention to how the medical terrain surrounding pregnancy had changed. I had no clue, for instance, that there was a label for women like me. According to the medical profession, I was in the category of “advanced maternal age.” Suddenly, before I’d even had an examination, I had a big red RISK stamped onto my file. I felt as if I’d failed pregnancy 101 before I’d even shown up for the class.

Without a doubt, reproductive technologies have changed our ideas and practices about creating new human life. Google the words Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and read about the various procedures now available, and you might well wonder if you’re in Victor Frankenstein’s “workshop of filthy creation …

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Imperfect People: A Book List by Caroline Adderson

Caroline Adderson's headshot

Caroline Adderson is the author of two internationally published novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice), two collections of short stories (Bad Imaginings, Pleased To Meet You), and three books for young readers (Very Serious Children, I, Bruno, Bruno For Real).Her work has received numerous prize nominations including the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Rogers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. A two-time Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and three-time CBC Literary Award winner, Caroline was also the recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement. Her latest novel is The Sky is Falling.

I am partial to imperfect characters, the kind of people we sidestep in real life because they make us uncomfortable, because we are afraid of them, because we are afraid of being them. How much easier to turn and face them when they are between the covers of a book! This embracing of the imperfect exemplifies, I think, what the act of reading (and for that matter writing) actually is -- an act of compassion: com + pati = to suffer with. Through literature we gain privileged access to the private thoughts and feelings of a character and so become them and suffer with them. Oddly, only as …

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