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Religion Christmas & Advent

Better Next Year

An Anthology of Christmas Epiphanies

edited by J.J. Lee

Tidewater Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2023
Christmas & Advent, Cultural Heritage, Canadian
Recommended Age
Recommended Grade
Recommended Reading age
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2023
    List Price

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Christmas is trumpeted as a time of peace, joy, bounty and goodwill. Believers and non-believers alike covet the spirit of the holidays even when circumstances are screwed up.

Recollections from acclaimed Canadian authors combine with emerging voices from across the country in an anthology that debunks the popular depiction of Christmas while delivering its messages of hope and renewal.

Writers marginalized by personal circumstance, faith, and race share memories of surviving bleak Christmases past: holidays spent in shelters, or on the streets; families marred by alcohol and violence; personal struggles with addiction, poverty or grief; isolation and loneliness. Despite these and other obstacles, contributors strive to salvage the spirit of the season.

With contributions from:

  • Tolu Oloruntoba, winner of the Governor-General’s Award and Griffin Prize for poetry
  • Sonja Larsen, winner of the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction
  • Joseph Kakwinokanasum, winner of the PMC Indigenous Literature Award 2023
  • JJ Lee, shortlisted for the Governor General, Hilary Weston and Charles Taylor prizes for non-fiction

About the author

Contributor Notes

JJ Lee is the author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son and a Suit (2011), a finalist for the Governor General’s, Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust and Charles Taylor prizes for nonfiction. His essays have appeared in publications including Elle, Montecristo, The Georgia Straight, Canadian Architect and more. Previously a contributor, reporter, producer and host on CBC Radio, he presents an annual Christmas ghost story for listeners across British Columbia. JJ Lee currently mentors a non-fiction workshop at Simon Fraser University’s The Writer’s Studio.

Excerpt: Better Next Year: An Anthology of Christmas Epiphanies (edited by J.J. Lee)



JJ Lee

About five years ago, with no real reason or instigation, people started sharing with me personal stories of absolutely horrible Christmases. I remember one writer, known both for her memoir and fiction, who recounted an abysmal holiday season involving homelessness, soup-kitchen turkey dinners, and lice, all the while being feted as a rising literary star. This may say too much about me, but I laughed, and maybe even hooted, with every sad twist of the tale.

It was just so horrible and beautiful. Though I’m not Christian nor religious in any way, it reminded me how many times in my life I had pinned outsized expectations of joy and happiness on those final seven days of the year only to be met by disappointment, if not sheer disaster. Over the winter holidays, every plan we make, action we take, and outcome that falls upon us is magnified. Possibly by then the year is so long and old that we enter those final weeks with our nerves raw and frayed, so we feel it all.

I became a collector of these woeful true-life tales set in call centres, shelters, and rehabs with writers finding themselves totally broke, or away from home, alone or stuck with near-strangers, or worse, hostile future in-laws. And three questions kept popping up in my mind: “Why am I laughing?“ “Could this be an anthology?” and “What is up with writers?”

The answer to the first question is I was always astonished and delighted by the lengths to which the storytellers held onto hope and sought out peace, joy, and happiness, in any amounts they could obtain. The answer to the second is in your hands. And the final one, well, I leave that to you to determine. But it’s possible that writers are no different from anyone else. Enjoy.

And Happy Holidays.