This month at 49thShelf, we're Writing the World, exploring travel guides and memoirs, and books with global issues and international themes. And this week in particular, in the run-up to International Women's Day, we're celebrating women's stories, beginning with this cross-genre list—memoir, fiction, and poetry—of Canadian women's travel tales.
Outside of Ordinary: Women's Travel Stories, edited by Lynn Cecil and Catherine Bancroft
Thirty-two Canadian women writers—including Alison Pick, Sharon Butala, and Lorna Crozier—tell their travel stories in this anthology of stories in which lives are challenged spiritually, physically, emotionally, and otherwise, as well as deeply enriched. Elaine K. Miller cycles across the Southern United States, Janet Greidanus climbs to Everest Base Camp, and Jane Eaton Hamilton, on vacation in Mexico with her partner, contemplates whether to join the fight for same-sex marriage in Canada. For it seems that travel doesn't just change one's view of the world, but it changes also how one sees one's own self, and also notions of home.
"The books that I have responded to most over the many years of 'reading myself Canadian' are those written by immigrants. Not necessarily diasporic writers but immigrants of the soul. Those who, like me, are always looking for a place to land. Those who circle writing like a runway. Those who touch down, take off."
When I was a graduate student taking a class with the incomparable Robert Kroetsch, a charismatic and intuitive teacher, I remember in particular a gnomic phrase that he uttered in the middle of one of our Wednesday afternoon seminars at the University of Manitoba. Now that I think of it, much of Kroetsch’s tremendous impact as a teacher came from the terseness of his declarations—his utterances on literature were aphoristic, oracular and always provocative. After one of his Delphic pronouncements there was inevitably a pause and then (how long after? minutes, years?) a babble—of dissent, agreement, agony, epiphany, despair.
It was the winter term and there always seemed to be a blizzard raging outside the seminar room with its clanking radiators and ice-blooming windows. Sometimes I felt as if the wind had tugged us loose from our moorings in that classroom on the third floor of the old Arts Building and was spinning us high above the prairies in …