Women's voices, women's lives. Great books to pick up on the occasion of International Women's Day.
I Am Because We Are: An African Mother’s Fight for the Soul of a Nation, by Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr
About the book: In this innovative and intimate memoir, a daughter tells the story of her mother, a pan-African hero who faced down misogyny and battled corruption in Nigeria.
Inspired by the African philosophy of Ubuntu — the importance of community over the individual — and outraged by injustice, Dora Akunyili took on fraudulent drug manufacturers whose products killed millions, including her sister.
A woman in a man’s world, she was elected and became a cabinet minister, but she had to deal with political manoeuvrings, death threats, and an assassination attempt for defending the voiceless. She suffered for it, as did her marriage and six children.
I Am Because We Are illuminates the role of kinship, family, and the individual’s place in society, while revealing a life of courage, how community shaped it, and the web of humanity that binds us all.
Okanagan Women’s Voices: Syilx and settler writing and relations, 1870s to 1960s, by Jeannette Armstrong, edited by Janet MacArthur & Lally Grauer
About the book: The writing and relations between Syilx women and settler women, largely of European descent, who came to inhabit the British Columbia southern interior from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries.
Okanagan Women’s Voices features the writing and stories of seven women: Susan Moir Allison (1845-1937), Josephine Shuttleworth (1866-1950), Eliza Jane Swalwell (1868-1944), Marie Houghton Brent (1870-1968), Hester Emily White (1877-1963), Mourning Dove (1886-1936) and Isabel Christie MacNaughton (1915-2003).
Going to Ground: Essays on Aging, Chronic Pain and the Healing Power of Nature, by Luanne Armstrong
About the book: At the age of five, Luanne Armstrong fell in love with the beauty of the land--the late afternoon sun on a field of emerald-green grass, the clucking of hungry chickens as she spread seed for their meals. Her growing years were spent subsistence farming with her family, living closely with the animals of the farm and immersing herself in the surrounding wilderness. Now, at seventy-two, she continues to garden—albeit a bit more slowly and on a much smaller scale—and to observe the world around her, both human and animal.
Going to Ground is a deeply intimate and meditative collection of personal essays exploring the intersections of chronic pain, the myths and stories that make us human, and the unexpected magic of finding your rage and joy reflected back to you by nature. Through these brave and vulnerable vignettes brimming with a lifetime's worth of wisdom and filled with astonishing prose, Luanne Armstrong gets deeply personal about what it means to recover from traumatic brain injuries, grow older when you've fallen in love with being needed, and slow down enough to listen to nature, even when the message isn't what you were expecting to hear.
In this mix of self-reflection, nature-inspired philosophy, and social critique, Armstrong helps us make sense of the complicated relationships between aging parents and their adult children, the changes brought about by climate change and technology, and the slow, surprising process of getting older when you belong to the generation that lived by the motto, "Never trust anyone over 30."
Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism, by Maude Barlow
About the book: In this timely book, Barlow counters the prevailing atmosphere of pessimism that surrounds us and offers lessons of hope that she has learned from a lifetime of activism. She has been a linchpin in three major movements in her life: second-wave feminism, the battle against free trade and globalization, and the global fight for water justice. From each of these she draws her lessons of hope, emphasizing that effective activism is not really about the goal, rather it is about building a movement and finding like-minded people to carry the load with you. Barlow knows firsthand how hard fighting for change can be. But she also knows that change does happen and that hope is the essential ingredient.
So You Girls Remember That: The Memoir of a Haida Elder, by Gaadgas Nora Bellis, with Jenny Nelson
About the book: Collected wisdoms, reflections and stories from Indigenous Elder Naanii Nora of the Haida Nation.
So You Girls Remember That is an oral history of a Haida Elder, Naanii Nora, who lived from 1902 to 1997. A collaborative effort, this project was initiated and guided by Charlie Bellis and Maureen McNamara and was years in the making. The resulting book, compiled by Jenny Nelson, is a window into Nora’s life and her family—from the young girl singing all day in the canoe, bossing her brothers around or crossing Hecate Strait on her dad’s schooner, to the young woman making her way in the new white settlers’ town up the inlet, with music always a refrain—these are stories of childhood; of people and place, seasons and change; life stages and transitions such as moving and marriage; and Haida songs and meanings.
This book also contains the larger story of Nora’s times, a representation of changing political relationships between Canada and the Haida people and a personal part of the Haida tale.
What ultimately shines through is Nora’s singular and dynamic voice speaking with the wisdom of years. For example, on giving advice she says: “I like to give anybody advice because when you’re young you don’t know nothing on this world. What’s coming; what’s going … You have to remember it’s a steep hill; you’re right on the top. You slide down anytime if you don’t be careful.”
This is a work of great generosity, expressing Nora’s spirit of living—her joy, humour, spirituality and resourcefulness; her love of children, music and social life; her kindness, strong will and creativity; and her spirit that has nurtured a community and endures to this day.
Any Kind of Luck at All: A Memoir, by Mary Fairhurst Breen
About the book: What was it like growing up as a smart girl in a world of 1970s suburban conformity? What family secrets were hidden behind the vertical blinds and sliding glass doors, or swept under the orange shag carpets? Is it possible to move from married mother-of-two to lesbian feminist activist without passing heartache?
In her bittersweet memoir, Mary Fairhurst Breen sketches scenes from a life darkened by four generations of mental illness and addiction. Despite the odds, Mary’s sense of humor and willingness to practice “radical acceptance” see her through the chaos to a life full of friends, art, and the joys of being a grandmother. Ultimately, she must face her greatest challenge of all when her daughter becomes one of the tens of thousands of people every year to die of opioid poisoning. This is a journey of awakening and activism, and a portrait of a life to be celebrated in all its complexity.
Spílexm: A Weaving of Recovery, Resilience, and Resurgence, by Nicola I. Campbell
About the book: If the hurt and grief we carry is a woven blanket, it is time to weave ourselves anew.
In the Nłeʔkepmxcín language, spíləx̣m are remembered stories, often shared over tea in the quiet hours between Elders. Rooted within the British Columbia landscape, and with an almost tactile representation of being on the land and water, Spíləx̣m explores resilience, reconnection, and narrative memory through stories.
Captivating and deeply moving, this story basket of memories tells one Indigenous woman’s journey of overcoming adversity and colonial trauma to find strength through creative works and traditional perspectives of healing, transformation, and resurgence.
Still Living the Edges: A Disabled Women's Reader, edited by Diane Driedger
About the book: Still Living the Edges provides a timely follow-up to Living The Edges, tracing the ways disabled women are still on the edges, whether that be on the cutting edge, being pushed to the edges of society, or challenging the edges—the barriers in their way. This collection brings together the diverse voices of women with various disabilities, both physical and mental, from nations such as Canada, the United States, Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe. Through articles, poetry, essays, and visual art, disabled women share their experiences with employment, relationships, body image, sexuality and family life, society's attitudes, and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. In their own voices, they explore their identity as women with disabilities, showcasing how they continue to challenge the physical and attitudinal barriers that force them to the edges of society and instead place themselves at the centre of new and emerging narratives about disability.
Mennonite Valley Girl: A Wayward Coming of Age, by Carla Funk
About the book: Carla Funk is a teenager with her hands on the church piano keys and her feet edging ever closer to the flames. Coming of age in a remote and forested valley—a place rich in Mennonites, loggers, and dutiful wives who submit to their husbands—she knows her destiny is to marry, have babies, and join the church ladies’ sewing circle. But she feels an increasing urge to push the limits of her religion and the small town that cannot contain her desires for much longer.
- Teenage (Mennonite) angst at its finest: Carla questions the patriarchal norms of Mennonite society and yearns to break free. She’ll start by lighting her driveway on fire ….
- A family story: the perfect gift for mothers, daughters, sisters, and fathers and sons.
- Pitch-perfect 1980s nostalgia: remember Jordache jeans?
- For readers of Miriam Toews: heart wrenching and humorous descriptions of Mennonite life.
At once a coming-of-age story, a contemplation on meaning, morality, and destiny, and a hilarious time capsule of 1980s adolescence, Mennonite Valley Girl offers the best kind of escapist reading for anyone who loves small towns, or who was lucky enough to grow up in one.
A Womb in the Shape of a Heart: My Story of Miscarriage and Motherhood, by Joanne Gallant
About the book: An intimate memoir of miscarriage, premature birth, and motherhood from a bold and brilliant new voice in Atlantic Canada
I am the space between motherhood and longing for it, but it’s a space that doesn’t exist. I can’t be both fertile and infertile, our language doesn’t allow for it. So, this is the space I have created for myself. This is where I live. Forever fertile and infertile. A mother to six, a mother of one. I am childless, and with child. Barren and fruitful. Pregnant and then not. Lucky, unlucky.
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 a bicornuate 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 preordained 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 days of early motherhood, but months of severe post-partum anxiety and post-tramatic 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.
Best Young Woman Job Book: A Memoir, by Emma Healey
About the book: Emma Healey just wants to be a writer.
As a teenager, she is introduced by her actor/playwright mother to the role of “standardized patient,” performing illness as a living training dummy for medical students. In university, she joins a creative writing program, cultivating a poet’s interest in language while learning lessons about the literary world that have more to do with survival than art. Through her twenties, she writes software manuals for the world’s leading producer of online pornography, masters search engine optimization for a marketing firm run out of a bedroom by two Phish-loving brothers, narrowly escapes death as a research assistant for a television drama, and works the night shift captioning daytime TV. Along the way, as she navigates dating apps, tumultuous relationships, and the evolution of a voice that she is slowly learning to trust, she begins writing personal essays for money—and finds herself embroiled in a content economy that blurs the boundaries between day job and art-making even further.
Through the stories of several very odd jobs, each related to—but also achingly far from—the job she really wants, poet and essayist Emma Healey creates a unique snapshot of the gig economy that is also a timeless meditation on identity, value and language.
For a writer trying to pay the bills, life can be a work in progress.
Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #MeToo Movement, by Toufah Jallow
About the book: An incandescent and inspiring memoir from a courageous young woman who, after she was forced to flee to Canada from her home in The Gambia, became the first woman to publicly call the country’s dictator to account for sexual assault—launching an unprecedented protest movement in West Africa.
In 2015, Toufah Jallow was a nineteen-year-old dreaming of a scholarship. Encouraged by her mother, she entered a presidential competition designed to identify and support the country’s smart young women, ands he won.
Which brought her to the attention of Yahya Jammeh, the country’s dictator, who styled himself as a pious yet progressive protector of women. At first, he behaved in a fatherly fashion towards his winner, butthen he proposed marriage. When Toufah turned him down, he drugged and raped her.
She could not tell anyone what happened. Not only was there no word for rape in her native language, if she told her parents, they would take action and incur Jammeh’s wrath. Wearing a niqab to hide her identity, she gave his security operatives the slip and fled to Senegal, eventually making her way to safety in Canada.
Then Jammeh was deposed. In July 2019, Toufah Jallow went home to testify against him in a public hearing, sparking marches of support and a social media outpouring of shared stories among West African women. Each bold decision Toufah made helped secure the future Jammeh had tried to steal from her, and also showed her a new path of leadership and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence.
Alexa!: Changing the Face of Canadian Politics, by Stephen Kimber
About the book: Alexa McDonough’s impact on Canadian politics cannot be measured solely by election victories or seat tallies. As the first female leader of a mainstream Canadian political party, she helped transform Nova Scotian and Canadian politics. In the process, she transcended party affiliation and gender to become simply "Alexa" to Canadians across the country.
In this authorized biography, veteran author Stephen Kimber chronicles Alexa’s life and political career and with it, weaves a narrative of the changing attitudes towards women in politics, from her early battles as the lone female MLA in a hostile Nova Scotian legislature to her leadership of the federal NDP to her role as senior stateswoman in Jack Layton’s shadow cabinet. Along the way, Kimber delves into McDonough’s personal life to uncover the origins of her political career: her upbringing in a wealthy family committed to progressive politics, her tightknit circles of female friends, her personal metamorphosis from "wife-of" to "leader-of," and her emergence as a political leader whose importance goes beyond partisan politics. The result is an engrossing story of one of Canada’s most beloved politicians, whose common touch and lifelong advocacy of progressive causes made her a significant player in Canadian public life.
Original Sisters: Portraits of Tenacity and Courage, by Anita Kunz
About the book: Original Sisters was born from the COVID-19 quarantine. In early March 2020, locked down in her home-studio in Toronto and longing for inspiration, artist Anita Kunz started researching women on the Internet. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but she soon found an array of astonishing people who had done amazing things—some of whom she had heard of, but most of whom she had not. And then she began to paint their pictures and write down their stories. The result is a jaw-dropping feat of historic and artistic research. The wide variety of lives, occupations, time periods, and achievements is absolutely mind-bending.
From Joan of Arc to Josephine Baker, from Hippolyta to Greta Thunberg, from Anne Frank to Misty Copeland: these women made and changed history. But there are just as many whom you’ve never heard of, who were never recognized in their lifetimes, whose achievements need to be brought to light. They include the anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, who was executed at age twenty-one by the Third Reich, and Alice Ball, a young African American scientist who discovered a treatment for leprosy but died tragically before she could receive credit for it.
This is not only a breathtaking art book. Original Sisters also recounts a secret history that must be told so that it is a secret no more.
Women, Peace, and Security: Feminist Perspectives on International Security, edited by Caroline Leprince & Cassandra Steer
About the book: Greater participation by women in peace negotiations, policy-making, and legal decision-making would have a lasting impact on conflict resolution, development, and the maintenance of peace in post-conflict zones. Women, Peace, and Security lays the groundwork for this enhanced participation, drawing from insightful research by women scholars and applying a feminist lens to contemporary security issues.
This timely collection of essays promotes the adoption of a feminist framework for international security issues and presents the voices of some of the most inspiring thinkers in feminist international relations in Canada. Women, Peace, and Security provides insightful recommendations to researchers conducting fieldwork, as well as methodological insights on how to develop feminist research design in international relations and how to adopt feminist ethical considerations. Contributions include gender-based analyses of the challenges faced by the Canadian military and by families of serving members. From Canada's Famous Five to the women's marches of 2017, lessons are drawn to inform new generations of women activists, concluding with a clarion call for greater allyship with Indigenous women and girls to support decolonization efforts in Canada.
Offering a unique range of perspectives, narratives, and contributions to international relations and international law, this volume brings women's voices to the forefront of vital conversations about fundamental peace and security challenges.
Flora!: A Woman in a Man's World, by Flora MacDonald & Geoffrey Stevens
About the book: Flora Isabel MacDonald—politician, humanitarian, adventurer, and role model for a generation of women—was known across Canada and beyond simply as Flora. In her memoir, co-authored by award-winning journalist and author Geoffrey Stevens, she tells her personal story for the very first time.
Flora! describes her amazing journey from her childhood and her time at secretarial school in Cape Breton, through her years in backroom Progressive Conservative politics, to elected office and her appointment as Canada’s first female minister of foreign affairs. Finally, she details her exceptional humanitarian work in India and in war-torn Africa and Afghanistan. Flora was driven by a lifelong conviction that there is nothing a woman cannot achieve in a world controlled by men, and she pursued this conviction in everything she did, carving a path for women in Parliament. She won international acclaim for bringing 60,000 Vietnamese refugees to Canada, and for engineering the rescue of six American hostages in Tehran in a top-secret collaboration with the CIA known as the Canadian Caper. She exposed the inhumane treatment of inmates at Kingston’s Prison for Women. She defied male chauvinists in the Progressive Conservative party by running for its leadership, and she introduced the Employment Equity Act to guarantee women equal access to federal jobs.
Flora was brave. She was relentless. She was controversial. She was a force of nature. In her own words and drawing from interviews with those who knew her, Flora! grants us insight into this exceptional woman who changed the course of history.
Persephone's Children: A Life in Fragments, by Rowan McCandless
About the book: After years of secrecy and silence, Rowan McCandless leaves an abusive relationship and rediscovers her voice and identity through writing.
She was never to lie to him. She was never to leave him; and she was never supposed to tell.
Persephone’s Children chronicles Rowan McCandless’s odyssey as a Black, biracial woman escaping the stranglehold of a long-term abusive relationship. Through a series of thematically linked and structurally inventive essays, McCandless explores the fraught and fragmented relationship between memory and trauma. Multiple mythologies emerge to bind legacy and loss, motherhood and daughterhood, racism and intergenerational trauma, mental illness and resiliency.
It is only in the aftermath that she can begin to see the patterns in her history, hear the echoes of oppression passed down from unknown, unnamed ancestors, and discover her worth and right to exist in the world.
Vagabond: Venice Beach, Slab City and Points In Between, by Ceilidh Michelle
About the book: A captivating memoir of living on the streets along California’s Highway 1, for fans of Mistakes to Run With and Nearly Normal.
At twenty-one, Ceilidh Michelle was homeless, drifting through countercultural communities along California’s coast, from Venice Beach to Slab City to Big Sur. This restless and turbulent time began when she was sleeping on her sister’s couch in Vancouver and decided to become a yoga disciple in California. Denied entry at the US border in Washington state, and stuck overnight in the Greyhound station, her already shaky pilgrimage began to take another direction, away from the inward sanctuary of an ashram and toward the sea and light and noise of Venice Beach, and eventually up Highway 1 to the desert.
Having spent much of her youth outrunning family turmoil, the peripatetic lifestyle once key to Michelle’s survival is now a habit she can’t or won’t break—unless it breaks her first. Sleeping in parking lots, camping out in abandoned beach cottages and mansions, she finds community, easy and fraught, with fellow travellers: musicians, veterans, ex-cons, addicts, drug dealers, artists and con artists. Still, dreams and fleeting notions of home fuel and shadow every encounter, haunting the places she stays, offering moments of both grace and violence.
Told with deadpan humour and insightful lyricism, Vagabond is an observant and at times shimmering narrative suspended between a traumatic past and an as yet unimagined future. Coursing through it is the story of an emergent writer just beginning to find sanctuary in her own creative instincts.
Open Every Window: A Memoir, by Jane Munro
About the book: When Jane Munro’s husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the Griffin-award-winning poet must chart a path through the depths of grief, learning to live with loss and to take solace and find freedom in the restorative powers of writing.
Open Every Window is a genre-bending prose account of the unravelling of a life—two lives—when Jane Munro’s husband, Bob, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Evoking Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, this memoir charts a path through sorrow—the pain of seeing a partner age and approach death, the exhaustion of caretaking, and the regret in seeing life’s scope narrow and diminish.
Writing with courage and love, Munro grapples with what it means to care for a husband who is gradually but devastatingly deteriorating while her own identity is eclipsed by a single word—caregiver. Even a doctor admonishes, “What job could be more important than caring for your husband?”
In this portrait of the myriad lives contained in a single life, Munro ultimately finds respite in the power of writing, Iyengar yoga and in the rhythms of the moon—not to heal but to face grief without breaking.
A poignant evocation for anyone who has experienced loss, Open Every Window reveals the pain and power inherent in loving and being loved. Framed with short observations of the moon—from a New Moon in Pune, India to the following New Moon in Vancouver, Canada—this memoir will entrance with its lyricism and comfort with the writer’s hard-won warmth and wisdom.
My Privilege, My Responsibility: A Memoir, by Sheila North
About the book: In September 2015, Sheila North was declared the Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), the first woman elected to the position. Known as a bridge builder, North is a member of Bunibonibee Cree Nation. Norths work in advocacy journalism, communications, and economic development harnessed her passion for drawing focus to systemic racism faced by Indigenous women and girls. She is the creator of the widely used hashtag #MMIW. In her memoir, Sheila North shares the stories of the events that shaped her, and the violence that nearly stood in the way of her achieving her dreams. Through perseverance and resilience, she not only survived, she flourished.
Cultivating Community: Women and Agricultural Fairs in Ontario, by Jodey Nurse
About the book: For close to two hundred years, families and individuals across Ontario have travelled down country roads and gathered to enjoy seasonal agricultural fairs. Though some features of township and county fairs have endured for generations, these community events have also undergone significant transformations since 1850, especially in terms of women’s participation.
Cultivating Community tells the story of how women’s involvement became critical to agricultural fairs’ growth and prosperity. By examining women’s diverse roles as agricultural society members, fair exhibitors, performers, volunteers, and fairgoers, Jodey Nurse shows that women used fairs’ manifold nature to present different versions of rural womanhood. Although traditional domestic skills and handicrafts, such as baking, needlework, and flower arrangement, remained the domain of women throughout this period, women steadily enlarged their sphere of influence on the fairgrounds. By the mid-twentieth century they had staked out a place in venues previously closed to them, including the livestock show ring, the athletic field, and the boardroom.
Through a wealth of fascinating stories and colourful detail, Cultivating Communities adds a new dimension to the social and cultural history of rural women, placing their activities at the centre of the agricultural fair.
About the book: Molly Peacock uncovers the history of neglected painter Mary Hiester Reid, a trailblazing artist who refused to choose between marriage and a career.
Born into a patrician American family in the middle of the nineteenth century, Mary Hiester Reid was determined to be a painter and left behind women’s design schools to enter the art world of men. After she married fellow artist George Reid, she returned with him to his home country of Canada. There she set about creating over 300 stunning still life and landscape paintings, inhabiting a rich, if sometimes difficult, marriage, coping with a younger rival, exhibiting internationally, and becoming well-reviewed. She studied in Paris, traveled in Spain, and divided her time between Canada and the United States where she lived among America’s Arts and Crafts movement titans. She left slender written records; rather, her art became her diary and Flower Diary unfolds with an artwork for each episode of her life.
In this sumptuous and precisely researched biography, celebrated poet and biographer Molly Peacock brings Mary Hiester Reid, foremother of painters such as Georgia O’Keefe, out of the shadows, revealing a fascinating, complex woman who insisted on her right to live as a married artist, not as a tragic heroine. Peacock uses her poet’s skill to create a structurally inventive portrait of this extraordinary woman whom modernism almost swept aside, weaving threads of her own marriage with Hiester Reid’s, following the history of empathy and examining how women manage the demands of creativity and domesticity, coping with relationships, stoves, and steamships, too. How do you make room for art when you must go to the market to buy a chicken for dinner? Hiester Reid had her answers, as Peacock gloriously discovers.
What Was Said to Me: The Life of Sti'tum'atul'wut, a Cowichan Woman, by Ruby Peter, with Helene Demers
About the book: A narrative of resistance and resilience spanning seven decades in the life of a tireless advocate for Indigenous language preservation.
Life histories are a form of contemporary social history and convey important messages about identity, cosmology, social behaviour and one's place in the world. This first-person oral history—the first of its kind ever published by the Royal BC Museum—documents a period of profound social change through the lens of Sti'tum'atul'wut—also known as Mrs. Ruby Peter—a Cowichan elder who made it her life's work to share and safeguard the ancient language of her people: Hul'q'umi'num'.
Over seven decades, Sti'tum'atul'wut mentored hundreds of students and teachers and helped thousands of people to develop a basic knowledge of the Hul'q'umi'num' language. She contributed to dictionaries and grammars, and helped assemble a valuable corpus of stories, sound and video files—with more than 10,000 pages of texts from Hul'q'umi'num' speakers—that has been described as "a treasure of linguistic and cultural knowledge." Without her passion, commitment and expertise, this rich legacy of material would not exist for future generations.
In 1997 Vancouver Island University anthropologist Helene Demers recorded Sti'tum'atul'wut's life stories over nine sessions. She prepared the transcripts for publication in close collaboration with Sti'tum'atul'wut' and her family. The result is rich with family and cultural history—a compelling narrative of resistance and resilience that promises to help shape progressive social policy for generations to follow.
Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory, by Sarah Polley
About the book: Sarah Polley’s work as an actor, screenwriter, and director is celebrated for its honesty, complexity, and deep humanity. She brings all of those qualities along with her exquisite storytelling chops to these six essays. Each one captures a piece of Polley’s life as she remembers it, while at the same time examining the fallibility of memory, the mutability of reality in the mind, and the possibility of experiencing the past anew, as the person you are now but were not then. As Polley writes, the past and present are in a “reciprocal pressure dance.”
Polley contemplates stories from her own life ranging from stage fright to high risk childbirth to endangerment and more. After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley met a specialist who gave her wholly new advice: to recover from a traumatic injury, she had to retrain her mind to strength by charging towards the very activities that triggered her symptoms. With riveting clarity, she shows the power of applying that same advice to other areas of her life in order to find a path forward, a way through. Rather than live in a protective crouch, she had to run towards the danger.
In this extraordinary book, Sarah Polley explores what it is to live in one’s body, in a constant state of becoming, learning, and changing.
It Should Be Easy to Fix, by Bonnie Robichaud
About the book: In 1977, Bonnie Robichaud accepted a job at the Department of Defence military base in North Bay, Ontario. After a string of dead-end jobs, with five young children at home, Robichaud was ecstatic to have found a unionized job with steady pay, benefits, and vacation time.
After her supervisor began to sexually harass and intimidate her, her story could have followed the same course as countless women before her: endure, stay silent, and eventually quit. Instead, Robichaud filed a complaint after her probation period was up. When a high-ranking officer said she was the only one who had ever complained, Robichaud said, “Good. Then it should be easy to fix.”
This timely and revelatory memoir follows her gruelling eleven-year fight for justice, which was won in the Supreme Court of Canada. The unanimous decision set a historic legal precedent that employers are responsible for maintaining a respectful and harassment-free workplace. Robichaud’s story is a landmark piece of Canadian labour history—one that is more relevant today than ever.
Demanding Equality: One Hundred Years of Canadian Feminism, by Joan Sangster
About the book: For one hundred years women fashioned different dreams of equality, autonomy, and dignity; yet what is Canadian feminism? In Demanding Equality, Joan Sangster explores feminist thought and organizing from mid-nineteenth-century, Enlightenment-inspired writing to the multi-issue movement of the 1980s.She broadens our definition of feminism, and—recognizing that its political, cultural, and social dimensions are entangled—builds a picture of a heterogeneous movement often characterized by fierce internal debates. This comprehensive rear-view look at feminism in all its political guises encourages a wider public conversation about what Canadian feminism has been, is, and should be.
Stories I Might Regret Telling You: A Memoir, by Martha Wainwright
About the book: Born into music royalty, the daughter of folk legends Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and sister to the highly acclaimed, genre-defying singer Rufus Wainwright, Martha grew up in a world filled with incomparable musical legends—Anna McGarrigle, Leonard Cohen, Suzzy Roche, Richard and Linda Thompson, Emmylou Harris—and struggled to find her voice in a milieu in which every drama was refracted through song. Then, in 2005, she released her critically acclaimed debut album, Martha Wainwright, containing the blistering hit, “Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole,” which the Sunday Times called one of the best songs of that year. That release, and the albums that followed, such as Come Home to Mama and I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too, showcased Martha’s searing songwriting style and established her as a powerful voice to be reckoned with.
Martha digs into her life with the same emotional honesty that has come to define her music. She describes her tumultuous public-facing journey from awkward, earnest, and ultimately rebellious daughter, through her intense competition and ultimate alliance with her brother, Rufus, to finding her voice as an artist and the indescribable loss of their mother, Kate. With candor and grace, Martha writes of becoming a mother herself, finally understanding and facing the challenge of being a female artist with children. Stories I Might Regret Telling You is a thoughtful, moving account of the extraordinary life of one of the most talented singer-songwriters in music today.