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Southern Alberta Prairie Perspectives: Theory and Practice

"For those willing to put in the work, this is a treasure," writes Publisher's Weekly of Darcy Tamayose's Ezra's Ghosts, a collection of stories set in a quiet prairie town. 

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Book Cover It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken

It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, by Seth

My first introduction to cartoonist, Seth (a pen name for Gregory Gallant) was in the winter of 2014 when the exhibit, Seth: Dominion was presented at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. I was captivated by the sprawling Canadian cardboard-box town that included over 70 buildings along with related cultural, social, and political art pieces that collectively produced imagined urban space. This experience led to Seth’s graphic novels. It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken: A Picture Novella follows the main character who is in search of an obscure cartoonist from the 1940s timeframe while struggling with the meaning of his simple life. At the end of the book: Seth’s Kalo collection and a wonderful glossary.

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13 Fiction Faves

My personal theory, one I've developed after years of being steeped in the world of CanLit, is that there's no such thing as "CanLit." Instead, I think that CanLit is everything—rich and literary, fun and commercial, regionally focused with universal appeal, hilarious, heart-wrenching, gripping, sweeping, popular, obscure, genre-pushing, and fantastic. These 13 fiction releases run the gamut!

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I Am Billy the Kid, by Michael Blouin

About the book: What if Billy the Kid not only didn't die, but was saved by a woman?

History tells us that the short and violent life of William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, ended at the hand of Pat Garrett on the moonless night of July 14, 1881. But I Am Billy the Kid tells a different story, straight from Billy himself. This revisionist history seen through the lens of a twenty-first century sensibility features the picaresque hero we thought we knew and the unexpected one that we don't; a fearless and determined young woman who is in no mood to be saved and would much prefer exacting her own revenge. Billy has been in an alcoholic haze since a failed attempt to escape notoriety by faking his own death. By 1915, his fame has only increased, and when word of a possible ruse leaks out, Billy finds himself once again on the …

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The Stories that Shaped Me

Book Cover Beneath the Stairs

"Are you always on the lookout for a rich, mystery-riddled haunted house novel for grown-ups? Me too. Jennifer Fawcett's Beneath the Stairs is that book. A thrilling, thoughtful, character-driven crucible that reveals the ways childhood fear clings to us, shapes us, but can also show the one way out of our adult darkness." —Andrew Pyper, author of The Residence and The Demonologist

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As I was preparing this list, I went back to my parent’s house in Eastern Ontario and found myself digging through the old books in my childhood bedroom. The more I thought about what should be on it, the more I found myself returning to old favourites. I’ve always read widely, a habit I understand the value of now that I am also a writer. This list contains short and long fiction, poetry, a play, and several works that defy category. Each of these writers left an imprint on me because they helped expand my understanding of what stories could do.

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Growing Up Ivy, by Peggy Dymond Leavey

Let me start with Peggy Dymond Leavey, or, as I refer to her, Aunt Peggy. I come …

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Books for Black History Month—And All Year Long

I Am Because We Are: An African Mother’s Fight for the Soul of a Nation, by Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr

About the book: In this innovative and intimate memoir, a daughter tells the story of her mother, a pan-African hero who faced down misogyny and battled corruption in Nigeria. 

Inspired by the African philosophy of Ubuntu — the importance of community over the individual — and outraged by injustice, Dora Akunyili took on fraudulent drug manufacturers whose products killed millions, including her sister.

A woman in a man’s world, she was elected and became a cabinet minister, but she had to deal with political manoeuvrings, death threats, and an assassination attempt for defending the voiceless. She suffered for it, as did her marriage and six children. 

I Am Because We Are illuminates the role of kinship, family, and the individual’s place in society, while revealing a life of courage, how community shaped it, and the web of humanity that binds us all.

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Black & White: An Intimate, Multicultural Perspective on “White Advantage” and the Paths to …

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The 49th Shelf Timeless Books Challenge

There is something refreshingly quiet about January in the book world, after the flurry of fall literary awards and a proliferation of year-end books lists. And sure, we're already looking ahead to an exciting books season—stay tuned for our Spring Preview coming soon—but in the meantime there a chance to take a breath. Our towers of new releases aren't quite toppling yet, and maybe here's that rare chance to reach back to celebrated titles of previous years and finally pick up that one  timeless book that's been on your to-be-read list for far too long now.

It's been a rough couple of years, and 2022 is all about taking it easy, so the challenge here is pretty low-stakes. Pick at least one book from this list of fiction that's dazzled us over the last few years, and read it. We hope you love it. And we hope this challenge starts off your literary year on a high note, inspiring you to seek out books from all kinds of places instead of just bestseller lists. We hope you dare to blaze your own literary trails.

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Undercard, by David Albertyn

"I wanted Undercard to have all the aspects of a great sports story, within the context of a great thriller."

About the book: Set over the course of twenty-four exhilarating hours, Undercard is the story of four childhood f …

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CanLit Gets Weird

We've got three copies of Genki Ferguson's Satellite Love up for giveaway!

Don't miss your chance to win.

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I always feel compelled to support weird, in whatever form it might appear. Scorpion pizza at the Calgary Stampede? I’ll take it. Punk shows at the public library? I’ve been. And lately, I feel proud to say, I can add writing CanLit to the list.

I’ve read a fair amount about what makes CanLit, CanLit. You could argue that it’s an affinity for the short story, the search for identity, or even a rugged frontier charm. Our Alice Munros and Timothy Findleys can certainly point to that. I’ll posit another marker here, however. CanLit likes to get weird.

When I wrote my first novel, Satellite Love, I very keenly had this in mind. Satellite Love tells the tale of Anna Obata, a lonely girl in Southern Japan who falls in love with a telecommunications satellite. And while not set in the Great North, I took a certain pride at the puzzled looks the synopsis would receive. A bittersweet coming-of-age story, I knew I wanted to add some weird. And the titles below certainly helped on that journey.

So! Without further ado, a list of the greatest–and strangest–Canadian fiction has to offer:

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2021: Books of the Year

These were the books this year that broke our hearts, made us laugh, posed the difficult questions, made us think, showed us how to connect the dots, provided hours of entertainment, and swept us away to all kinds of fascinating times and places—including (and maybe even especially) right now! 

And best of all? Every single title is up for giveaway right now.

Don't miss your chance to win one of these top-shelf reads!

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Dishonour in Camp 33, by Wayne Arthurson

About the book: Sergeant Neumann and the inmates of Camp 133 are back!

Even thousands of miles from the front lines, locked into a Canadian prisoner-of-war camp at the base of the Canadian Rockies, death isn't far away. For August Neumann, head of Camp Civil Security and decorated German war hero, this is the reality. Chef Schlipal has been found dead in Mess #3, a knife in his back.

Now it's up to Neumann to find out what would drive the men of the camp, brothers-in-arms, to turn on each other. He's learned, of course, that beneath the veneer of duty and honour, the camp is anything but civi …

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Powerful Stories That Matter

Stella's Carpet, a brand new novel from Lucy E.M. Black, is described by award-winning novelist Brad Smith as "a treat—a multi-national, multi-generational gem of a novel about family, loss and the ties that bind. Lucy Black writes with heart, verve . . . and oodles of talent.”

In addition to being a writer, Black is also a prolific reader, and we're pleased to feature her list of other powerful stories.

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The Good Son, by Carolyn Huizinga Mills

The Good Son, by Carolyn Huizinga Mills is an entirely believable suspense novel, with a twist. Zoe, the mid-thirties protagonist, was traumatized by the kidnapping and murder of her six year-old neighbour.  Zoe was herself a child at the time, and knows that she saw something significant. Yet the difference between what Zoe believes she saw, and what she actually saw becomes a defining feature of her life. In addition, the information Zoe shared with adults versus the information she deliberately withheld continues to haunt her, and has lingering consequences for her intimate relationships.  When the col …

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Not Another Afghan Immigrant Story

Logo for the WIWF, a pair of glasses with 2021 in the lenses

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 Rahela Nayebzadah has prepared for them, visit the festival website.

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#FreeAfghanistan, #BlackLivesMatter, #EveryChildMatters, and #StopAsianHate are only some of the hashtags that have been taking over social media in the past year or so. And, only recently has there been an interest in BIPOC voices. What took so long? Don’t get me wrong—BIPOC voices are still underrepresented in literature and popular media. But, at least now, as a mother, I don’t have to worry about my children reading books written only by white authors.

When I wrote Monster Child, it was important that I not only appeal to the Afghan immigrant community, but to immigrants in gen …

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Eavesdropping on Other Lives, Real and Imagined

Historical fiction and books of social history featuring the lives of not really “ordinary” people, recommended by Lesley Krueger, author of the new novel Time Squared

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Most of the books I write are set at least partly in the past, so my reading often takes me back—back into social history and into novels and poems written or set historically. It can be research, but since these are also the type of books I love, work becomes a pleasure. (I try not to think about the pleasure being partly work.)

As a writer, I’m preoccupied with why things happen. How did we get where we find ourselves? We all know the answer sometimes lies in the moment. Impulse. But of course we often act out of long-term beliefs, traumas or societal expectations, whether we’re fulfilling them or fighting them. These eight books by Canadian authors have taken me deep into the question of "Why?"

I also love the way they let me eavesdrop on other lives, real and imagined, since eavesdropping is surely part of reading, too.

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They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Tra …

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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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Green and White Threads: Nigerian-Canadian Writers

From sea to sea, Canadian communities offer immigrants welcoming inclusive spaces. While I started writing as a preteen, I became a published author after our family moved to Canada 17 years ago. As I look forward to the September publication of my seventh book, A Good Name, I remain thankful for the many opportunities this land bestows on newcomers. 

Writers of Nigerian descent are world-renowned for the breadth and vibrancy of their art. I am proud of this heritage. Therefore, I am honoured to shine a spotlight on the following writers whose works add invaluable green and white threads to the grand tapestry of Canadian literature. 

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Butter Honey Pig Bread, by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Ekwuyasi’s debut novel is a story about choices and their consequences, of motherhood, of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind, of finding new homes and mending old ones, of voracious appetites, of queer love, of friendship, faith, and above all, family.

Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize, this novel is a reader’s treat. I’ve always been a fa …

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