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No Longer a Footnote: Extraordinary Lives

Lauren McKeon's latest book is Women of the Pandemic.

History is too often told through the texture of men’s lives. Women become accessories and footnotes, their struggles and dreams, triumphs and sacrifices inevitably erased. In recent years, the rise of women’s biography and memoir has sought to rectify that, making permanent extraordinary stories about women’s lives, past and present. There is courage in demanding your voice be heard, in telling the world your story matters—that you matter. Today, we celebrate diverse women who’ve boldly told their truths, making us all richer for it.

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Book Cover Mistakes to Run With

Mistakes to Run With, by Yasuko Thanh

Yasuko Thanh tells us what to expect in the title: this is not a tidy book, and she has not had a tidy life. Her memoir is beautifully vulnerable, inviting us into her life as a teen on the streets of Vancouver and showing us how past informs—but doesn’t always define—who a person is constantly becoming. Neither the book, nor Thanh’s story has a neat ending, a reminder that women’s lives don’t have to come pre …

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Launchpad: HAPPY HOUR, by Marlowe Granados

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 Marlowe Granados' debut novel Happy Hour, which is being championed by Jen Sookfong Lee, who writes, "In Happy Hour, Isa, a young woman whose future is stretching out in front of her, moves to New York City, where every chance meeting is an opportunity to start fresh. Funny and complex, Happy Hour is not just a coming-of-age romp, but a loving exploration of young womanhood, of the ways we carry our pasts and identities with us wherever we go, and the deep friendships we accumulate and lose along the way. So often, women, and especially women of colour, in their 20s are dismissed in popular culture, and Granados provides us with the exact opposite experience. Isa is authentic, wry, sad, thoughtful, and joyful, as full a human as a reader could ever want."

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Filling the Gaps, Minding the Gaps: the Unconventional (Mostly) Small Town Girls of CanLit

My latest poetry collection, Gaptoothed, is about my own bashful, lusty Wife of Bath smile. Yet it is also about gaps in identity, memory, history—flaws, holes, spaces and absences, that when looked at from a certain angle, become powerful instruments of poetic expression. The collection, released by Gaspereau Press this past spring, is also about gender, girlhood, and the unconventional and vulnerable girls who too often fall through the cracks—or gaps—in a system that was never built to help the likes of them. The collection is dedicated to my late grandmother; she was supposed to be one of forgotten, cast-aside girls, but her tremendous wit, her razor-sharp tongue, her vitality made her unforgettable. The book is about the beauty of the one-of-a-kind that tells you off for not noticing sooner.

The books listed below have filled in the gaps for me over the years on a literary landscape that so often seemed full of holes—that still seems to be short so many vibrant and vital stories and poems and voices.

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Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

This is …

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Stay Where I Can See You: The List

Book Cover Stay Where I Can See You

I had this idea for a book about a mother and daughter at that moment where they split apart: the emotional separation that must precede the physical one when a child leaves home. I knew the characters right away—17-year-old Maddie, burning to grow up, and her mom, Gwen, devoted yet unknowable—but I needed a world, and a drama, in which to place them. I heard about someone I knew winning a small amount in a lottery, and it shocked me somehow: Why them? What now? I decided that a win like that would be a good place to put my fictional family: a gain to contrast the loss. Stay Where I Can See You became a book about secrets, and the ebb and flow of fortune, and how those fortunes collide and coexist in a city.

I don’t look at books that are too similar to mine when I’m writing but this is a list of kindred stories that I’ve read over the years that circle similar themes, and probably worked their way into my brain and slid onto the page in ways I’ll never fully understand.

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What We All Long For, by Dionne Brand

Brand deploys her poet’s pen t …

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NevertheLIST, she persisted: 8 female protagonists who don’t have time for your sh*t

Book Cover Hysteria

Elisabeth de Mariaffi's new novel Hysteria is a book in which nothing is what it seems, not the perfect summer setting, the safe and caring marriage, the happy family, or the stories Heike tells about the trauma in her past. This isn't your run-of-the-mill unreliable narrator though, and de Mariaffi pulls off the tricky feat of both keeping the reader from being sure of who Heike really is and also establishing something solid at her core. Heike is steely, courageous, and to be messed with at one's own peril.

In this list, de Mariaffi counts down other amazing books whose protagonists who don't have time for your sh*t. 

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8) Girl Runner, by Carrie Anne Snyder

Aganetha Smart is a girl who likes to move…fast. See if you can keep up, speed queen. (Uh, you can’t.)

About the book: 

An unforgettable novel about competition, ambition, and a woman's struggle to earn a place in a man's world, Girl Runner is the story of 1928 Olympic gold medalist Aganetha Smart. Will Aganetha’s undeniable talent help her to outrun the social conventions of her time, or …

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We All Come From Somewhere: On Canadian Immigrant Women's Stories

This month our focus is on books about global experiences, and the new anthology, Wherever I Find Myself: Stories by Canadian Immigrant Women, fits the bill perfectly. Editor Miriam Matejova has put together a diverse collection of stories that form a mosaic of emotions and worldviews that underline the immigrant condition for women. In this excerpt, from the book's introduction, she tells the story of her own coming to Canada, and explains where the impulse to create the anthology came from. 

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As I sit down to write an introduction to this anthology, immigrants from selected countries are being denied entry into the United States. Anti-immigrant attitudes are on the rise in Europe. In the Western world, the far right is clashing with the far left, with immigrants often caught in the middle. Hateful rhetoric and acts of vandalism are aimed at people who are perceived as outsiders, as not belonging, as threatening.

I am an immigrant. I came from Slovakia as an eighteen-year old, wishing to study at a Canadian university. Back then I was an outsider. I did not belong. But far from threatening, I was lonely, clueless and utterly terrified.

At first I lived with my estranged father, a man whom I knew mostly from flashes of childhood memories and stories my grandmoth …

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Intrepid Travellers: Canadian Women in the World

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.

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Book Cover Outside of Ordinary

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. 

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