Co-Winner of 2022 Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First 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.
A RARE MACHINES BOOK
Rowan McCandless is an award-winning author of fiction and creative non-fiction, and serves as the creative non-fiction editor for The Fiddlehead. She has been longlisted for the Journey Prize, won the Constance Rooke Creative Non-fiction Prize, and received gold for One of a Kind Storytelling at the National Magazine Awards. Rowan lives in Winnipeg.
Women understand the story of Persephone, abducted by her uncle Hades while her mother Demeter’s grief creates a winter where nothing grows — each of us is Persephone. Rowan McCandless fled an abusive marriage but it meant leaving a beloved garden behind and she still negotiates with the systemic racism that confines her every day. But she brought these essays up out of the underworld, each one a gleaming pomegranate seed. Deftly written and structurally innovative, Persephone’s Children is a heartbreaking debut.
Rowan McCandless is a masterful storyteller. These compelling offerings create a spell-binding book of revelations — riveting, inspiring, and enchanting. Brimming with lush language and a powerful voice, full of sentences crafted with surgical precision and captivating pages containing soul-soaring insight, this memoir ushers in an exhilarating era for readers and writers everywhere.
A powerful, moving book that will haunt you.
In Persephone's Children, Rowan McCandless redefines what's possible with creative nonfiction. She shows us how many ways one person's story can be told and re-told, how many entry points there can be, and therefore, how many ways we can reflect on what makes each of us who we are. Her use of form is sometimes surprising, often ingenious, and always wondrous. This is a book that you will revisit again and again, always finding new moments of insight as you track the kaleidoscopic shifting McCandless effortlessly dazzles us with.
Emotional connection for the reader. The invocation of the Persephone myth ties the material together.
Persephone’s Children is a book like no other — a beautifully strange collection that defies literary conventions and dazzles with ingenuity and vitality. With luminous, lyrical prose, Rowan McCandless boldly tells the story of her rise from an abusive relationship, weaves the historical with the deeply personal, and explores themes of identity, religion, colonialism, mental illness, and racism. Rowan McCandless is a fierce writer, and her writing will move and haunt you.
In Persephone’s Children, Rowan McCandless innovates, challenges, and dares. Here is an interrogation on race, kinship, history, and future, told with a poetic whimsy that refuses boundaries of genre and theme. McCandless’s writing is incisive and inventive, a true literary gift. A brilliant, meditative, necessary book.
A powerful, moving book.
Persephone's Children is genius in its containers for storytelling. The misshapen ways in which our own worlds unfold scream for McCandless's knowing hands. Blood memory, truth, pain, and reconciliation with self pour through these pages. Piecing together fragments of history, residual trauma, and hope, Rowan McCandless not only discovers how to exist in this world made new, but she shows us how to suture our own wounds with expertise and love.
Winnipeg author Rowan McCandless's glowing debut, Persephone's Children, pushes the boundaries of memoir and personal essay… The result is a deeply moving literary life 'in fragments.'
[McCandless] doesn’t have the answers and she’s not meant to, which is what makes this thoughtful book so powerful.
In Persephone's Children, Rowan McCandless stands up and says, "Enough!" And in the process of disentangling herself from relationships of abuse, she reinvents herself to reclaim herself. She sets boundaries that center her needs as a form of self-love. With these raw, real, and personal stories, she constitutes a statue of her personhood — humanizing herself — blending her scars with her strengths and her vision for herself, rejecting the lies that had previously depicted her as lesser than. In Persephone's Children, McCandless rises and becomes a revolutionary scaffold that centers her Self. Her own healing and self-validation: a form of resistance. She takes control of her story and tells it in her own way. She reminds us that it is okay to love yourself and to lose yourself in your own embrace. And in that cradle, she deconstructs her form, rebuilding it into something that makes more sense to her. In her defiance, she forces us to not only behold her story but storytelling as a whole, creating the conditions for us to also dissect our literary instincts and other borders of abuse that have colonized our bodies and minds. Though Persephone's Children may be her life in fragments, McCandless inspires readers to also experiment with their own lives in order to create beyond the limits of the forces that have for far too long told us to sit down, shut up, and follow the rules.
In Persephone’s Children, Rowan McCandless brilliantly mimics the way memory can fragment during trauma by recounting her own experiences through a variety of experimental forms. Essays housed as archaeological field notes, a quiz, a tree guide, a screenplay, and — my favourite — notes on a con game, weave together divergent reflections of her life as a biracial woman and a survivor within oppressive societal structures. Bold, inventive, and lyrical, this debut introduces McCandless as a courageous writer who is most definitely one to watch.
In these dazzlingly inventive essays, Rowan McCandless doesn't just play with traditional forms, she blows right past them to fashion an aching account of trauma and survival. I needed to read this utterly original, gorgeous book — and so do you.