Friday, October 18, 2013 |
Editors. They probably know more about the Canadian literary landscape than anyone else. They read the books before they are books, they develop the authors, then they stand back and let someone else get all the glory. We decided it was time to put editors in the spotlight -- and cash in on their expertise!
We asked ten editors what they thought was the novel that could change Canada. You can see their picks below. Vote for your favourite by Sunday, October 20, at 11:59 pm ET. Votes help books move on!
Kate Cassaday from HarperCollins Canada chose Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan:
"Real change can feel huge and alien, completely beyond the control of any one person. Sometimes that feeling can leave us paralyzed and afraid to try, believing our actions are too small to help; other times, though, it can make us careless, believing our actions are too small to cause any harm. That's why I would nominate Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues, a beautiful, haunting and gripping story that forces us to confront the fact that even a tragedy as big as a war is a constellation of individual, human decisions."
Follow Kate on Twitter @KateCassaday.
Anita Chong from McClelland & Stewart chose Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo:
"Sometimes change begins with our making the imaginative leap of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes. Set in the town of Paradise on a fictional Caribbean island, Cereus Blooms at Night is about the extraordinary friendship that develops between two outcasts: Tyler, a young male nurse and the only one compassionate enough to care for a notorious new arrival, an old woman named Mala who won't speak, and whom the townspeople believe committed a terrible crime many years ago. Tyler and Mala are burdened by the labels others would force upon them, but in a place where "almost everybody . . . wish they could be somebody or something else," the courage of these characters to remain true to who they are, their humanity, and their compassion, will leave an indelible mark on your imagination. Cereus Blooms at Night is one of the most powerful Canadian books I've read."
Follow Anita on Twitter @AnitaChong9.
Jennifer Knoch from ECW Press chose Monoceros by Suzette Mayr:
"Monoceros explores the repercussions of a gay teenager's suicide, and so of course deals with major issues like discrimination and bullying. But it also reveals many people afraid to be who they really are, crippled by fear of what others think. Mayr takes on serious topics with wit, sensitivity and heart. Plus, there are unicorns (even if they are scary)."
Follow Jen on Twitter @Jen_Knoch.
Sacha Jackson from Invisible Publishing chose People Park by Pasha Malla:
"What is the urban landscape of the future? In People Park, Pasha Malla envisions it as a glistening metropolis where thousands of lower-income families have been relocated to make way for the celebratory park of the title; where the divide between the have and have-nots is grossly uneven, and citizens, regardless of social class, are enraptured by a track-suited magician called Raven. Malla's city of the near future is both familiar and unsettling: the island state is policed by the khaki-clad New Fraternal League of Men and citizens broadcast their lives on We-TV. People Park is a dynamic novel, at once entertaining, engrossing, darkly funny and ambitious. It's a novel that parodies the present we're living in while examining the possible future to come."
Follow Invisible Books on Twitter @InvisiBooks.
Anna Comfort O'Keeffe from Harbour Publishing chose Dreamspeaker by Anne Cameron:
"In this novel, an abused boy runs away from the system that is unequipped to help him deal with the monsters that haunt him. He ends up deep in the forests of British Columbia, finding refuge with a First Nations elder and a silent man named He Who Would Sing. Here, under the guidance of the old man, a Dreamspeaker, he is able to confront his problems using the power of the Spirit World. Unfortunately, Peter's recovery is interrupted when he is rediscovered by the authorities. The book invites readers to explore preconceptions about mental health treatment, First Nations identity, magic and family. I'm recommending this book because it is accessible, unforgettable and just as powerful and relevant in 2013 as it was three decades ago. It reminds us that sometimes the way to really help people is not with more money, stronger drugs, or incarceration, but with empathy, kindness, and the healing power of the natural world."
Follow Harbour Publishing on Twitter @Harbour_Publish.
Susan Safyan from Arsenal Pulp Press chose Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn:
"No other book of fiction has opened up my own heart to sex trade workers -- the very ones on our corner of Main Street here in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver -- like Amber Dawn's speculative fiction novel Sub Rosa."
Follow Arsenal Pulp Press on Twitter @ArsenalPulp.
Caroline Skelton from Douglas & McIntyre chose A Matter of Life and Death or Something by Ben Stephenson:
"This is a hilarious, big-hearted novel that deserves to be read by everyone. It is the story of 10-year-old Arthur, who finds a weather-worn notebook -- the diary of a troubled man -- in the woods that sends his carefully controlled world spinning. You could call this a book about mental illness, or a book about being different -- but it is Ben's refusal to lean on categories and assumptions to describe Arthur's quirkiness, or the struggles facing the man in the notebook, that gives this book its humanity and honesty. I think this is a good nominee in the category of social change because this does exactly what fiction should do: it shows us the world from a completely new perspective."
Follow Douglas & McIntyre at @DMPublishers.
Marc Côté from Cormorant Books chose The Family Took Shape by Shashi Bhat:
"The Family Took Shape is a novel about an ordinary unusual family. What makes them ordinary? They live in the suburbs of a major city; there are two children, a boy and a girl; and the daughter has common difficulties growing up. What makes them unusual? The mother and father immigrated from India; the father is dead; and the son suffers from autism. In this often humorous portrayal of the struggles of a family, pulling together under economic troubles, we see how familial bonds can both unite and confine parents and children. We see how a boy with mental illness is seen by his sister, his mother, his immediate society, and also the school children and teachers and, later, the people who will exploit him, not as a list of symptoms or clichés. We laugh at the Aunty who has a radio show about Indian Cooking, but whose fare is inedible. And we watch a young girl grow up, go to university, and learn about her life, her culture, and her religion.At a time when Canadian news is dominated by stories about how "difference" in many forms is encountering prejudice -- from the Québécois Charter of Values through to the handling of Sammy Yatim to the rise of anti-Semitism and fear of immigrants - The Family Took Shape is a novel that will inspire empathy and understanding and could change our perceptions of particular differences and, by extension, all differences."
Follow Cormorant Books on Twitter @Cormorant Books.
Paul Matwychuk from NeWest Press chose Bedlam by Greg Hollingshead:
"My choice for a book by a Canadian author that illustrates the concept of social change is Greg Hollingshead's 2006 historical novel Bedlam, which is set in the early 19th century in the notorious London madhouse that gives the book its title. The story is based on the fascinating real-life case of James Tilly Matthews, a London tea merchant who spent twenty years in Bedlam - -the victim, his doctor comes to suspect, of sinister government machinations -- but even more compelling is Hollingshead's dense, meticulously researched evocation of a period when the institutions designed to treat the mentally ill were as nightmarish as anything any madman's vision could conjure up. Social change happens all the time, but it never happens overnight, and Bedlam is a vivid reminder of the enduring power of even our most terrible, seemingly reformable institutions."
Follow Paul on Twitter @MyElbow.
Nick Garrison from Penguin Canada chose Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden:
"It is impossible to understand Canada if we turn our gaze away from the violence that brought the country into being.Through Black Spruce haunts us because of Joseph Boyden's unflinching attention to the barbarism at the centre of civilization. Will and Annie Bird's haunting stories offer us a perspective on the legacy of violence and loss that hangs over Canada's First Nations. But it is Joseph's characters' humanity -- the way they build their lives around what is precious to them, the way they confront a world that seems unaccountably predatory -- rather than their history, that makes Through Black Spruce not just an important book, or a topical book, but a great book . It is no more about issues facing Canada's First Nations than a house is about the bricks and shingles it's made of. I would go further than to say that Through Black Spruce is a novel that could change Canada, and say that (like Joseph's other books) it could change the world."
Follow Penguin Canada on Twitter @PenguinCanada.
So which editors' pick will it be, Canada? Cast your vote in the poll below! The poll will be open until Sunday, October 20, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
What is the one novel that could change our nation?