Award-winning author Wayne Grady writes, “As a geneticist, Margaret Nowaczyk has seen ‘the enduring misery of the human condition.' But as a writer, she has turned that misery into pure art. Chasing Zebras is a brilliant testimony to the healing power of words.”
And, unsurprisingly for someone who's crafted such a compelling narrative from her own life experiences, Margaret Nowaczyk is a reader with an eye for story. In the following fabulous reading list, she recommends some of her favourite short fiction collections.
Ever since Ursula LeGuin’s “Mazes” broke my heart forty years ago, I have admired short story writers. There is nothing more devastating, more poignant than a short story that packs an emotional wallop in four pages. I love how it leaves me wanting more, how it leaves me thinking about it for days, weeks, some for years.
After years of writing and reading innumerable short stories, I am left with seven published stories and twice as many in various stage of undress. No collection to my name. Which is why I especially admire writers who not only write great short stories but who also produce complete and cohesive collections.
Here are a few that stoked my admiration by subject matt …
As I began writing what would become Fuse (a memoir of mental health and mixed-race identity) I became desperate to find Iranian Canadian voices to help ground and situate my own—a task that proved somewhat more difficult than I thought it would be.
Or should be.
After all, hundreds of thousands of Iranian people call Canada home, and Iran is the birthplace of Rumi, one of the most celebrated poets of all time. The Iranian people have created a fine, strong tradition of poetry, story-telling and literature. My father, much like the endearingly zealous father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, never let me forget this: Persian poetry is the most beautiful. The stories, the most compelling.
So, where were all the Persian Canadian writers? It turns out, here all along, but not as represented as one might hope; as they deserve to be.
This reading list is part of my attempt to bring more of the work of Persian-Canadian writers to light; to give people a taste of the organoleptic artistry that I feel is at the singular heart of so much of the Iranian writing.
Lezzat bebarid! Enjoy!
But there are bats
who catch fish
and slime molds that sing
and ancient Greenland sharks
who don’t even reach sexual maturity
until they are 150 years old.
This is what I want to say
to those who believe
the Earth is already doomed:
at the capacity
gloriously complex planet
I suspect you know who I mean—the ones brave enough to acknowledge the existential angst of living and working through a planetary emergency. We see it in students who appear to have everything going for them yet are so desensitized by environmental despair, they are simply done with feeling; or the ones so saturated with doom-and-gloom messages, they honestly believe no future exists. We hear it in adults grieving for the world their children will live in. We watch it echo around the world through the voices of the million and a half students joining Greta Thunberg in school strikes against climate change.
Whenever I speak about environmental solutions and positive global conservation trends, I encounter people so hungry for hope, they line up to talk to me. They follow up with long, thoughtful emails telling me they honestly believe the state of the planet is past the point of no return. They …
Firefly is up for giveaway right now along with three other fab books in the DCB Middle Grade Bundle—Trip of the Dead, by Angela Misri; Birdspell, by Valerie Sherrard; Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer, by Leslie Gentile. Enter for your chance to win!
What is it like for a child who lives with a parent or who knows an adult struggling with a crisis of mental health, addiction, or homelessness?
Canadian children’s authors have written many moving, thoughtful books about kids coping with parents or adults in crisis. While writing my latest book Firefly, I read a lot of them (mostly pretty choked up).
I couldn’t include them all, but here is a list of some of my favourite titles from recent years.
Aunt Pearl, by Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Dan, Marta and their mother try to help their Aunt Pearl, who is homeless, by giving her a home. But Aunt Pearl is different. She collects garbage and lives in a messy, jumbled way, and yet she shows the children that recycled items can have a purpose, that we can help each other in way …
Today we're launching Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best, which Christy Ann Conlin calls, "An unlikely page turner replete with hushed surprises, unexpected crescendos, endless love and boundless vitality."
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
It’s a literary novel set in both 1960 and 1975 Nova Scotia about one woman’s journey through mental illness and the ripple effects of her illness on those around her.
Describe your ideal reader.
Enjoys character driven stories, a glass of wine at the end of the day, walks along the beach and dark chocolate—maybe an occasional Mars bar.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/ your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
I was surprised by my ability to feel compassion for a character whose actions totally contradicted my preconceived ideas of what makes a good mother.
What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
My hope is that readers will gain a better understanding of people suffering from mental illness, that they will not just see the illness but the person behind that …
Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!
I’ve always been a worrier. In elementary school, I was afraid of speaking in class, and dreaded being called upon, even if I knew the answers. Well-meaning grownups would often say, “Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You just need to think positive.” I appreciated their reassurances, but you can’t get rid of anxiety with breezy bromides.
You can help ease fears by opening the door to a conversation, and here are some books that I wish I had growing up—both for myself and for the adults in my life. The following authentic and non-didactic picture books, middle grade, and teen fiction titles show realistic, nuanced characters who work on navigating their fears. These are books in which kids can feel seen and understood, and realize that they aren’t alone. Educators can make a profoundly positive difference in the life of a child, and these engaging stories also offer prescient insight into mental wellness supports.
Healing power of art
On the night before the first day of school, Molly Akita can’t sleep because it feels like there’s a pack of rabble-rousing dogs running wil …
Fawn Parker—whose most recent publication is the novel Set-Point, which “takes us to the very edge of identity, virtual and lived,” according to poet Kateri Lanthier—recommends eight books dealing with issues of identity, sexuality, and mental health.
Heroine, by Gail Scott
A Montreal woman masturbates in her bathtub, musing on her involvement with the '70s leftist movement, a polyamorous romance with a man always just out of reach, and her own personal identity cast against other women, other artists. Gail Scott blends poetic prose, stream of consciousness and “new narrative” (term coined by Soup magazine) to bring the reader right into the room with her protagonist. The line blurs between tense, story, character, and body.
Sodom Road Exit, by Amber Dawn
Starla Mia Martin moves back home to what feels like a ghost town (C …
"Talking History" is a biweekly series made possible through a special funding grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The series focuses on a wide range of topics in Canadian history, exploring the notion of history as a compelling form of storytelling of interest to large audiences. These articles by Canada's foremost historians and history experts use the power of narrative to bring the past to life, drawing connections between then and now to show how these stories are not just relevant, but essential to our understanding of Canada and the world today.
Ann Douglas is the author of a number of bestselling books about pregnancy and parenting (including The Mother of All Pregnancy Books and The Mother of All Baby Books) and a magazine writer who specializes in writing about parenting and health. This month, HarperCollins publishes her new book, Parenting Through the Storm: Handling the Highs, the Lows, and Everything In-Between, a guide to parenting a child who is struggling with a mental, neurodevelopmental, or behavioural challenge.
If you’ve got kids, you’ve got guilt—parental guilt, that is. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong—or at least that’s how it can feel.
But here’s a bit of good news for the guilt-ra …