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11 Life Stories To Read This Spring

This assortment of memoir, biography, and autobiography brings real life to the page, and into the minds of readers. 

*****

Homes: A Refugee Story, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung

About the book: In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria—just before the Syrian civil war broke out.

Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy—soccer, cousins, video games, friends.

Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone—and found safety in Canada—with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria.

*

The Never-Ending Present, by Michael Barclay

About the book: In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also a tabula rasa onto which fans could project their own ideas: of performance, of poetry, of history, of Canada itself.

In the first print biography of the Tragically Hip, Michael Barclay talks to dozens of the band’s peers and friends about not just the Hip’s music but about the opening bands, the American albatross, the band’s role in Canadian culture, and Gord Downie’s role in reconciliation with Indigenous people. When Downie announced he had terminal cancer and decided to take the Hip on the road one more time, the tour became another Terry Fox moment; this time, Canadians got to witness an embattled hero reach the finish line. 

This is a book not just for fans of the band: it’s for anyone interested in how culture can spark national conversations.

**

I've Been Meaning to Tell You, by David Chariandy

About the book: When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly heated era of both struggle and divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. David is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one's birth. In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to help cultivate within her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.

**

Against the Current, by Cathy Converse

About the book: Agnes Deans Cameron was an extraordinary woman who was ahead by a century. Born in Victoria in 1863, she was the first female school principal in the province, but she worked tirelessly to achieve work equality and voting rights for women. One of Canada's most well known writers of her time, she put western Canada on the map through her writing, which was published internationally including in the Saturday Evening Post. She was also a trailblazer in sports, becoming the first “Lady Centurion” in the West.

A consummate trailblazer, in the summer of 1906, Cameron travelled 10,000 miles down the Mackenzie River and out into the Beaufort Sea—something no other European woman had done—in one short season.

Cameron was named one of the top 150 most significant individuals in the history of the province of British Columbia. This is the first book commemorating her life.

**

Punching and Kicking, by Kathy Dobson

About the book: People don't ever leave The Point, even if they move far away. Or at least, that's how it seems to journalist Kathy Dobson. Growing up in Point St. Charles, an industrial slum in Montreal, she sees how people get trapped in the neighbourhood. Dobson shares her journey of trying to escape what was once described as the toughest neighbourhood in Canada, as she and her five sisters—raised by their single mother—deal with slum landlords, "pervy uncles," and their father—a mostly absent police officer who does occasional work on the side for the local mob. As Kathy grows up and starts attending college outside the Point, she has to learn how to survive in a new world where problems aren't solved by a good punch to the head.

**

Love Me True, edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam and Jane Silcott

About the book: Modern love confessions and reflections just in time for Valentines Day, written by award-winning writers like Lorna Crozier, Susan Olding, Yasuko Thanh, Samra Zafar, and Michael Crummey. What keeps us together? What breaks us apart? In Love Me True, 27 creative nonfiction writers and 16 poets explore how marriage and committed relationships have challenged, shaped, supported and changed them. The stories and poems in this collection delve deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds. The authors cover a gamut of issues and ideas—everything from everyday conflicts to deep philosophical divides, as well as jealousy, adultery, physical or mental illness, and loss. There's happiness here too, along with love and companionship, whether the long-term partnering is monogamous, polyamorous, same-sex or otherwise. From surprise proposals, stolen quickies, and snoring to arranged marriage, affairs, suicide, and much more, the wide-ranging personal stories and poems in Love Me True are sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing, and always engaging as they offer their intimate and varied insights into the complex state that is marriage.

**

The Flower Can Always Be Changing, by Shawna Lamay

About the book: "A lamp and a flower pot in the center. The flower can always be changing."—Virginia Woolf. From the bestselling author of Rumi and the Red Handbag comes a new collection of brief essays about the intersection of poetry, painting, photography and beauty. Inspired by the words of Virginia Woolf, Lemay welcomes you into her home, her art and her life as a poet and photographer of the every day. Lemay shares visits to the museum with her daughter, the beauty in an average workday at the library, and encourages writers and readers to make an appointment with flowers, with life.

**

Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot

About the book: Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
    
Mailhot "trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain and what we can bring ourselves to accept." Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people and to her place in the world.

**

Heroes in My Head, by Judy Rebick

About the book: In this riveting memoir, renowned feminist Judy Rebick tells the story of the eleven personalities she developed in order to help her cope with, and survive, childhood sexual abuse. In Heroes in My Head, Rebick chronicles her struggle with depression in the 1980s, when she became a high-profile spokesperson for the pro-choice movement during the fight to legalize abortion. It was in the 1990s, when she took on her biggest challenge as a public figure by becoming president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, that her memories began to surface and became too persistent to ignore.

Rebick reveals her moment of discovery: meeting the eleven personalities; uncovering her repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse; and then communicating with each personality in therapy and on the page in a journal—all of this while she is leading high-profile national struggles against a Conservative government. 

Heroes in My Head is a fascinating, heartbreaking, but ultimately empowering story. With courage and honesty, Rebick lays bare the public and private battles that have shaped her life.

**

Imprint, by Claire Sicherman

About the book: The emotional unravelling of a mind, body and soul—a remarkably new and original take on surviving the Holocaust three generations later. Imprint is a profound and courageous exploration of trauma, family, and the importance of breaking silence and telling stories. This book is a fresh and startling combination of history and personal revelation.

When her son almost died at birth and her grandmother passed away, something inside of Claire Sicherman snapped. Her body, which had always felt weighed down by unknown hurt, suddenly suffered from chronic health conditions, and her heart felt cleaved in two. Her grief was so large it seemed to encompass more than her own lifetime, and she became determined to find out why.

Sicherman grew up reading The Diary of Anne Frank and watching Schindler's List with almost no knowledge of the Holocaust's impact on her specific family. Though most of her ancestors were murdered in the Holocaust, Sicherman's grandparents didn't talk about their trauma and her mother grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia completely unaware she was even Jewish. Now a mother herself, Sicherman uses vignettes, epistolary style, and other unconventional forms to explore the intergenerational transmission of trauma, about the fact that genes can be altered and carry memories, which are then passed down via genetic imprinting.

With astounding grace and strength, Sicherman weaves together a story that not only honours her ancestors but offers the truth to the next generation and her now nine-year-old son. A testimony of the connections between mind and body, the past and the present, Imprint is devastatingly beautiful and ultimately a story of love and survival.

*

Being Prime Minister, by J.D.M. Stewart

About the book: Canada has had 23 prime ministers, all with views and policies that have differed as widely as the ages in which they lived. But what were they like as people? Being Prime Minister takes you behind the scenes to tell the story of Canada’s leaders and the job they do as it has never been told before.

From John A. Macdonald to Justin Trudeau, readers get a glimpse of the prime ministers as they travelled, dealt with invasions of privacy, met with celebrities, and managed the stress of the nation’s top job. Humorous and hard working, vain and vulnerable, Canada leaders are revealed as they truly were.

May 28, 2018

Books mentioned in this post

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Homes

A Refugee Story

by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook Audiobook (CD)
tagged:

Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Politcal Writing. Audience choice winner of Canada Reads

In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria — just before the Syrian civil war broke out.

Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was te …

rated!
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The Never-Ending Present

The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip

by Michael Barclay
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback Audiobook (CD)
tagged: individual composer & musician, rock, composers & musicians

 

The #1 National Bestseller

Shortlisted for the 2019 Speaker’s Book Award

Nominated for the 2019 Heritage Toronto Book Award

“Barclay combines his admiration of the band with his knowledge of the music industry to make a clever, touching, and very informative book that may well be the definitive work on an important piece of Canadian pop culture. …

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I've Been Meaning to Tell You

A Letter to My Daughter

by David Chariandy
edition: Hardcover
tagged: personal memoirs, cultural heritage, discrimination & race relations

In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today.

When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-ol …

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Against the Current

The Remarkable Life of Agnes Deans Cameron

by Cathy Converse
edition: eBook
also available: Hardcover
tagged: post-confederation (1867-), women, historical

Received an Honourable Mention for the 2018 Lieutenant Governor's Medal for Historical Writing

 

The first book on Agnes Deans Cameron, BC’s first female principal, itinerant traveller, and journalist.

Agnes Deans Cameron was an extraordinary woman who was ahead by a century. Born in Victoria in 1863, she was the first female school principal in the …

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Punching and Kicking

Leaving Canada's Toughest Neighbourhood

by Kathy Dobson
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: editors, journalists, publishers, social classes, personal memoirs

People don't ever leave The Point, even if they move far away. Or at least, that's how it seems to journalist Kathy Dobson. Growing up in Point St. Charles, an industrial slum in Montreal, she sees how people get trapped in the neighbourhood. Dobson shares her journey of trying to escape what was once described as the toughest neighbourhood in Cana …

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Love Me True

Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Marriage

edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam & Jane Silcott
edition: Paperback
tagged: marriage

Modern love confessions and reflections just in time for Valentines Day, written by award-winning writers like Lorna Crozier, Susan Olding, Yasuko Thanh, Samra Zafar, and Michael Crummey. What keeps us together? What breaks us apart? In LOVE ME TRUE, 27 creative nonfiction writers and 16 poets explore how marriage and committed relationships have c …

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Flower can Always be Changing, The

by Shawna Lemay
edition: Paperback
tagged: women authors, essays

Finalist: 2019 Wildrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction at the 2019 Alberta Literary Awards

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Heart Berries

A Memoir

by Terese Marie Mailhot
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged: native americans, women, personal memoirs

*Canada Reads 2019 Longlist
*National Bestseller
*New York Times Bestseller
*Finalist for the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
*Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards
*Longlisted for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize
*Winner of the Blue Metropolis First Peoples Prize
*Winner of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion o …

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Heroes in My Head

A Memoir

by Judy Rebick
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook Audiobook Audiobook
tagged: social activists, personal memoirs, women

A courageous, moving, and powerful memoir from a renowned feminist activist, Heroes in My Head is the incredible untold story of Judy Rebick’s struggle with depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

In this riveting memoir, renowned feminist Judy Rebick tells the story of the eleven personalities she developed in order to help her cope with, …

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Imprint

A Memoir of Trauma in the Third Generation

by Claire Sicherman
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: personal memoirs

The emotional unravelling of a mind, body and soul - a remarkably new and original take on surviving the Holocaust three generations later. IMPRINT is a profound and courageous exploration of trauma, family, and the importance of breaking silence and telling stories. This book is a fresh and startling combination of history and personal revelation. …

rated!
rated!

Being Prime Minister

by J.D.M. Stewart
edition: eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged: political, canadian, post-confederation (1867-)

Behind the politics, discover the lives of Canada's leaders.

“What a life it is to be prime minister!” — John Diefenbaker

Canada has had twenty-three prime ministers, all with views and policies that have differed as widely as the ages in which they lived. But what were they like as people? Being Prime Minister takes you behind the scenes to te …

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