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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Norma Dunning

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"Tainna: The Unseen Ones is an explosive force of sadness, anger, humour and beauty, full of moments that surprise and pummel and still provide hope. This collection is both vivid and raw but infused with a sparkling poetry and the wisdom of the old ways. Like the spirits Norma Dunning describes in these stunning and original stories, this is a book that will never leave you.” – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee

Dr. Norma Dunning is a writer as well as a scholar, researcher, professor, and grandmother. Her first book, the short story collection, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories (University of Alberta Press, 2017), received the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story and the Bronze for short stories in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. She is also the author of the bestselling poetry collection, Eskimo Pie (Bookland Press, 2020). She lives in Edmonton, AB.

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Tainna: The Unseen Ones is a collection of stories featuring a range of Inuk characters who “meet the prejudice, misogyny and inequity of the Canadian South with humour and tenacity.” Tell us more about how the collection and how it came together.

This collection was written in opposition to Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, in that, it was intentional to have modern-da …

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Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Angelique Lalonde

According to the Giller Prize jury, “Menopausal gods, procreating droids and boys born as foxes are only a modest few of the glorious frazzled beings that populate Angelique Lalonde’s astonishing story collection. Many of the ever-present concerns of the contemporary world—ecology, capital, conservation, gender fluidity, addiction, inequality, indigenous displacement, and the eternal limits of human perspective—find in Lalonde a beguiling literary voice equal to the age, pushing not only at the boundaries of literature but at those of articulation and being. Lalonde gravitates here to the fable and the fairy tale, familiar and estranging in equal measure, to claw at the divide between our world and others—the animal, the alien—while inevitably falling back on, and forgiving, the ever-flawed human being.”

ANGÉLIQUE LALONDE was the recipient of the 2019 Journey Prize, has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, and was awarded an Emerging Writer’s residency at the Banff Centre. Her work has been published in numerous journals and magazines. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Victoria. Lalonde is the second-eldest of four daughters. She dwells on Gitxsan Territory in Northern British Columbia with her partner, two small chil …

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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.

*****

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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Quick Hits: 5 Gems You Don't Want to Miss

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

 

Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, by Norma Dunning

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: University of Alberta Press

What It's About

I woke up with Moses Henry’s boot holding open my jaw and my right eye was looking into his gun barrel. I heard the slow words, “Take. It. Back.” I know one thing about Moses Henry; he means business when he means business. I took it back and for the last eight months I have not uttered Annie Mukluk’s name.

In strolls Annie Mukluk in all her mukiness glory. Tonight she has gone traditional. Her long black hair is wrapped in intu’dlit braids. Only my mom still does that. She’s got mukluks, real mukluks on and she’s wearing the old-style caribou parka. It must be something her grandma gave her. No one makes that anymore. She’s got the faint black eyeliner showing off those brown eyes and to top off her face she’s put pretend face tattooing on. We all know it’ll wash out tomorrow.

— from "Annie Muktuk"

When Se …

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The Richness and Challenge of a Hyphenated Existence

I’ve been a migrant for as long as I can remember.

All my life, I have grappled with the notions of borders, boundaries and belonging. I left my country of birth Bangladesh at the age of one and moved to Saudi Arabia, where I spent twelve years of my life. Thereafter, my family and I immigrated to Canada. As a Bangladeshi Canadian Muslim woman, the search for home is an integral part of my existence. For this reason, I’ve not only been interested in writing stories about the immigrant experience, but also reading them.

Books that portray the richness and challenges of a hyphenated existence, that explore the questions of identity and belonging have always fascinated me and comforted me. Through them, I have felt less alone.

Here are seven books by Canadian authors that I have personally enjoyed and have been moved by.

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Book Cover Jasmine

Jasmine, by Bharati Mukherjee

I remember reading Jasmine in high school for a book project. I had picked it up at the library and was instantly engrossed by the story and Mukherjee’s elegant prose. Jasmine is the story of an India …

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Islands: Perfect Settings for Stories

Islands offer wonderful settings for stories, real and imagined. They’re enisled, separate, away. They inspire intriguing metaphors. They attract interesting, some might say “quirky,” people. Surrounding waters present lulling beauty and hidden danger. And when things happen on islands, insularity stirs up complex social dynamics and demands local solutions. With islands on three coasts and scattered throughout rivers and lakes, it’s hardly surprising that these compelling literary devices have a powerful presence in Canadian fiction and creative non-fiction.

As a rule of thumb (grounded in observation, rather than any systematic analysis) the size of an island tends to shape the nature of the story. Large islands are settings for tales of distinctive communities, defined at least in part by their distance from urbanity. Lucy Maude Montgomery placed her stories of Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island as it encapsulates a nurturing rural lifestyle preserved in a changing world by its sandy shorelines. As Anne says, “Look at that sea, …

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Other Beings, Other Minds

Book Cover Hour of the Crab

Enter for your chance to win a copy of Hour of the Crab and other great book prizes on our giveaways page!

Ever since I was a three-year-old in a small English town, tracing the letters on the greengrocer’s orange crates—or so my mother told me—I’ve loved words. I was brought up on British fairy tales and animal stories—Wind in the Willows, Beatrix Potter, Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book—a tamed and domesticated landscape that was nevertheless full of mystery and yearning. We moved to Canada when I was nine, pitching me into exile. As Doris Lessing says, “When you leave one country, you leave them all.”

So it’s probably not surprising that themes of home and exile imbue my stories in Hour of the Crab, along with the presence of other dimensions where trees can communicate with humans and the world is filled with mysterious presences. Such fiction, for me, is not so much magic realist as heightened realism, an acknowledgement of how little we really know and how much wiser the older beings on our planet are. I’m trying, in my latest stories, to find ways to allow those voices to enter, voices we’ve shut out in our techno-industrial world but that we are in desperate need of listening to.

 

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Such fiction, for me, is not so much magic realist …

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Exciting Fiction to Read This Spring

New books by Camilla Gibb, Marissa Stapley, Wayne Grady, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more! These are some of the novels and short fiction collections we're excited about reading this spring

*****

Bleeding Light, by Rob Benvie

About the book: A howl into the void, a ghost story, and a bit of a metaphysical hellride.

A misanthropic ghostwriter roams an island off the Kenyan coast. An Arizona teenager awaits the next stage in a secretive covenant. A renowned poet retraces her past amid a baffling netherworld. An international arms dealer’s son drifts through time, atoning for the death of the man he loved.

For readers who take their contemporary fiction with a tinge of the otherworldly, Bleeding Light is about mystical experiences, the symbolic fabric connecting us all, and desperate people seeking affirmation—through religious, cosmic, chemical and other means—of a world beyond their own. It’s a grimly funny and often trippy take on transcendence in a hypercommodified age.

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Constant Nobody, by Michelle Butler Hallett

About the book: The time is 1937. The pla …

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For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that might be just what you're looking for right now.

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FOR FANS OF JOHN GRISHAM

Thirst for Justice, by David R. Boyd

"Fast and fierce."—Kirkus Reviews

Michael MacDougall is a talented trauma surgeon whose life in Seattle is slowly unravelling. Frustrated as an ER doctor and with his marriage in trouble, he volunteers with a medical aid charity in the Congo. Disconsolate at the lives he cannot save in the desperate conditions of the region, he is shattered by a roadside confrontation with the mercenary Mai Mai that results in unthinkable losses.

Back home in Seattle, he is haunted by his experiences in Africa and what he sees as society’s failure to provide humanitarian aid to those who most desperately need it. Locked in a downward spiral, he becomes obsessed with making his government listen to him and dreams up an act of terrorism to shock his nation awake.

Activist and lawyer David Boyd’s debut novel is a taut political thriller that begs the question: how far is too far when you’re seeking justice?

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2020 Fiction: Books of the Year

If ever there was a year to get away (while staying right where you are) 2020 was the one, and this is why our Books of the Year list puts its focus on fiction.

These are the books that rose to the occasion of this most peculiar moment and helped us to escape for a while and to see the world a little more clearly at once.

Enter to win these amazing titles through our Books of the Year Giveaway Bonanza!

*****

Keepers of the Faith, by Shaukat Ajmeri

About the book: Keepers of the Faith is set within a small Muslim sect of India, ruled by an avaricious priesthood that demands absolute submission while enforcing archaic social customs. When a section of the community rebels, it is summarily excommunicated, shunned by friends and family and denied religious rites. The peaceful community is split into two.

The novel follows the fates of two blissful young lovers, Akbar and Rukhsana, in the historic city of Udaipur. When the communal split occurs, their families are on opposite sides; the lovers' dream of a happy life together is shattered, and they are forced into separate destinies. Akbar, from the rebel group, goes on to become a writer and family man in Mumbai, while Rukhsana gets married to an immigrant engineer from the United States fanatically devoted to the pries …

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Stories that Excavate the Underworld

Some books reveal layers. Dizzying layers about characters, and why they are reckless, why they fall in love, why they wear basketball shorts in the rain, or lay down in the pond with the koi fish. There is a layer of topsoil over a layer of subsoil, over sand, silt and clay all with its own colour and texture. I have an insatiable desire to know about who and why. In my book, The Crooked Thing, I keep going down to the underworld, excavating, trying to scoop up the dark into the light. For my list I have chosen writers and stories that build worlds that reveal character. Who they are and what they want.

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The Love of a Good Woman, by Alice Munro 

Nobody does it better to my mind than Alice Munro. She makes it look so easy. “The Love of a Good Woman,” would become the title story of her story collection that would go on to win the Giller Prize and National Book Critics Circle Prize. The story is one of Munro’s most famous works, one written about endlessly, because it is so masterful. With her literary lens focused on small towns and seemingly "or …

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Giller Prize 2020 Special: The Chat with David Bergen

David Bergen

We’re thrilled to begin this year’s special Scotiabank Giller Prize coverage in conversation with David Bergen. David appears on this year’s shortlist for his short story collection Here the Dark (Biblioasis).

Jury citation:

"A dying woman asks an aging rancher to become her last lover. A fishing boat sputters to a halt off the coast of Honduras, compelling its owner to decide the fate of his repellent client. A young woman in a puritanical religious community glimpses the coloured world outside, and must choose whether to close her eyes, or to run. Sexual loneliness and moral confusion pull at the delicately wrought characters in David Bergen’s latest work, a story collection of masterly skill and tension. His third appearance on the Giller shortlist—including the 2005 winner, The Time in Between—affirms Bergen among Canada’s most powerful writers. His pages light up; all around falls into darkness.”

David Bergen has published eight novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Impac Dublin Literary Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He won the Giller Prize for his novel The Time in Between. In 2018, he was given the Writers’ Trust Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Lif …

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