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On Our Radar: Dancing Chickens, Pregnancy Loss, Powerful Poetry, and Pandemic Days

"Dumont employs her signature razor-sharp wit and impeccable comedic timing to this wildly entertaining novel."

The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour, by Dawn Dumont

Recommended by Iron Dog Books' Hilary Atleo at CBC British Columbia

About the book: The hilarious story of an unlikely group of Indigenous dancers who find themselves thrown together on a performance tour of Europe

The Tour is all prepared. The Prairie Chicken dance troupe is all set for a fifteen-day trek through Europe, performing at festivals and cultural events. But then the performers all come down with the flu. And John Greyeyes, a retired cowboy who hasn't danced in fifteen years, finds himself abruptly thrust into the position of leading a hastily-assembled group of replacement dancers.

A group of expert dancers they are not. There's a middle-aged woman with advanced arthritis, her nineteen-year-old niece who is far more interested in flirtations than pow-wow, and an enigmatic man from the U.S.—all being chased by Nadine, the organizer of the original tour who is determined to be a part of the action, and the handsome man she picked up in a gas-station bathroom. They're all looking to John, who has never left the continent, to guide them through a world that he knows nothing about. As the gang makes its way from one stop to another, absolutely nothing goes as planned and the tour becomes a string of madcap adventures.

The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour is loosely based—like, hospital-gown loose—on the true story of a group of Indigenous dancers who left Saskatchewan and toured through Europe in the 1970s. Dawn Dumont brings her signature razor-sharp wit and impeccable comedic timing to this hilarious, warm, and wildly entertaining novel.

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"For all those living silently through infertility, multiple miscarriages, and other reproductive issues, A Womb in the Shape of a Heart will be a lifeline."

A Womb in the Shape of a Heart, by Joanne Gallant

Reviewed by Anne Thériault in Quill & Quire

About the book: A thirty year old pediatric nurse with dreams of motherhood, Joanne Gallant was confident that she and her partner would conceive soon after they married—it was a matter of when, not if. And yet. Her first pregnancy, a set of twins, is riddled with dangerous complications that endanger her life, and results in devastating loss. After emergency surgery, Gallant is diagnosed with biconuate uterus, a rare condition also known as a heart shaped womb. There is no cure, no pill, no surgery that can alter her fate. What is happening to her now was preordianed long before her own birth.

As motherhood continues to elude her, Gallant and her partner navigate the world of infertility—up until the pregnancy that results, to their astonishment, in the premature birth of their son. What follows are not the blissful, pastel day of early motherhood, but months of severe post-partum anxiety and post traumatic stress; she is sure her son will be taken from her. It is a matter of when, not if.

Punctuated by moments of incredible joy as she raises her young son, A Womb in the Shape of a Heart is the intimate story of Gallant's journey through miscarriage and motherhood, holding space for the complicated paradoxes of grief and gratitude, of life and death, and the impenetrable depths of a mother's love.

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"In short, H. Nigel Thomas continues to solidify his legacy as the premier Vincentian writer of the queer Vincy experience."

The Voyage, by H. Nigel Thomas

Paid a gorgeous Twitter tribute by the Journal of West Indian Literature

About the book: The Voyage is a collection of poems culled from a lifetime of meditations on self, family, time, and aging; it also reflects on political and social aspects of human lives, such as hubris, abuse of power, racism and oppression.

About the earlier poems in this collection, George Elliott Clarke said: ". . . at times stunning work. Rich and powerful poems. I especially like the political and biographical verses as well as the obvious wit and intellect in play."

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"This is a powerful and compelling book that captures the complex and intersectional experiences of the pandemic through children and young people's perspectives"

Book Cover Sunny Days Inside

Sunny Days Inside, by Caroline Adderson

Reviewed by Rabia Khokhar at her website

About the book: When the “grownup virus” hits, kids who live in the same apartment building must cope with strange new rules and extended time at home with parents and siblings.

And they survive brilliantly, each in their own way. Twin boys throw themselves into an independent research assignment on prehistoric people and embrace their own devolution. A budding track star is encouraged to run laps on his balcony by a neighbor who has a secret crush on him. A classroom troublemaker reaches out to a teacher when his own father begins to exhibit signs of mental illness. A young entrepreneur saves himself and his hairdresser mother from financial collapse by renting out the family dog. And a girl finds a way to communicate with her hearing-impaired neighbor so that they can spy on the rest of the building. 

The stories follow the course of the pandemic, from the early measures through lockdown, as the kids in the building observe the stresses on the adults around them and use their own quirky kid ingenuity to come up with ways to make their lives better. Funny, poignant and wise, this book will long outlive even the pandemic.

September 8, 2021
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