11 Canadian books to read for Remembrance Day

We've put together a list of 11 books by Canadian authors that gives insight into personal and familial experiences of war.

On Nov. 11, 2023, Canadians will mark Remembrance Day. We've put together a list of 11 books by Canadian authors that gives insight into personal and familial experiences of war, its impact on human life and a legacy not to be forgotten.

By the Ghost Light by R.H. Thomson

By the Ghost Light is a memoir by R.H. Thomson.
By the Ghost Light is a memoir by R.H. Thomson. (Knopf Canada)

By the Ghost Light is a personal look at the wonder of youth, the power of art and how the First and Second World Wars forever changed his family. Growing up hearing stories about eight of Thomson's great uncles who fought in the First World War and his Aunt Margaret who served as a nurse, Thomson shares his family history. The memoir explores his childhood playing toy soldiers on the carpet of his grandmother's house and being enamoured by romantic notions of war. 

R. H. Thomson, is a Canadian television, film and stage actor. He is best known for playing Jasper Dale in Road to Avolea and as Matthew Cuthbert in Anne with an E. By the Ghost Light is his debut book.

Flight Risk by Meg Braem

Flight Risk by Meg Braem. Book cover of a starry night sky with a plane flying ahead. Photo of the author.
Flight Risk is a play by Meg Braem. (University of Calgary Press, Riley Brandt)

About to turn 100 years old, veteran of the Second World War Hank Dunfield reflects on his life. Flight Risk is a play which follows the comforting friendship between Hank and his nurse Sarah at the Ponderosa Pine Lodge. Throughout the story, Hank considers his life and shares the fears, trials and wisdom he gained as a tail gunner during the War. Flight Risk is based on a series of interviews with war veterans and features essays by academics William Pratt, David Hogan and Phillip St. John on the personal impact of war.

Meg Braem is a dramaturg and playwright currently based in Alberta. Her play Blood: A Scientific Romance was shortlisted for a Governor General Literary Award in 2013.

Endgame by Catherine Little, illustrated by Sean Huang

Endgame by Catherine Little. Illustrated book cover of soldiers falling from the sky in parachutes. Portrait of the author.
Endgame is a picture book written by Catherine Little and illustrated by Sean Huang. (Plumleaf Press)

Endgame: The Secret Force 136 is a picture book about a game of Chinese chess between Alex and his great-grandfather, Tai Gong, which turns into a meaningful conversation about Gong's experiences in the Second World War. As his great grandfather describes the elusive task force he was in and the sacrifices his team made, Alex gains a new perspective on the anti-Asian hate his elders endured and what it means to be Chinese Canadian today.

Catherine Little is a Toronto-based educator and children's writer. She is also the author of the picture book Twelve in a Race.

Sean Huang is a visual artist and children's book illustrator currently based in Saskatchewan. He has also illustrated to book Astonishing Legacy: Shoe Fantasia.

My Road from Damascus by Jamal Saeed

My Road From Damascus by Jamal Saeed. Illustrated book cover of a small dagger piercing a flower in a blue colour pallette. Portrait of the male author.
My Road From Damascus is a memoir by Jamal Saeed. (ECW Press, Rufaida al-Khabbaz)

Jamal Saeed sought refuge in Canada in 2016 after being imprisoned three times for a total of 12 years in his native Syria. Imprisoned for his political writing and his opposition to the regimes of the al-Assads, Saeed spent years in Syria's most notorious military prisons. My Road from Damascus tells the story of his life: as a young person finding love, developing critical thought, living in hiding from the police for 30 months, his eventual imprisonment and his family's escape to Canada. He chronicles the sociopolitical landscape in Syria from the 1950s up until his escape to Canada, documenting the harrowing experience but also the beauty of village life, the love of his family and his hope for the future. 

Saeed spent 12 years as a prisoner of conscience in Syria before being invited to Canada in 2016. He continues to raise awareness about Syria's ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis through his work as an activist, editor, visual artist, and author. My Road from Damascus is among the finalists for the 2023 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Saeed lives in Kingston, Ont.

War Stories by Gordon Korman

War Stories by Gordon Korman. Illustrated book cover of four green toy army men on a blue background.
War Stories is a book by Gordon Korman. (Scholastic Canada)

In the middle grade novel War Stories, Trevor loves playing war-based video games and his great-grandfather Jacob is a true-blue, bona fide war hero. Decades after he helped liberate a small French village, Jacob wants to retrace the steps he took during the war — with Trevor. But as they get to the village, Trevor discovers there's more to Jacob's story than what he's heard his whole life.

Gordon Korman is the bestselling author of more than 100 books for kids. He wrote his first book, This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, when he was in Grade 7.

The War As I Saw It by George Matuvi

On the left is a book cover that has a shadow of a helicopter over a barren dirt ground. There is yellow and white text overlay which is the book's title and author name. On the right is a headshot photo of the author who is wearing a suit. He is looking directly at the camera and smiling.
The War As I Saw It is a book by George Matuvi. (Wolsak & Wynn)

As violence drives George Matuvi's family from their home in the mountains to the streets of Zimbabwe, a journey of displacement, hardship and resilience begins. Living through a war he doesn't understand as a young boy, Matuvi explores the ingenuity of his family and what happens when we need to cope with forces beyond our control. He shares his story in The War As I Saw It.

Matuvi is an electrical engineer from Chamini, a rural part of Zimbabwe. The War As I Saw It is his first book. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, with his family.

Gin, Turpentine, Pennyroyal, Rue by Christine Higdon

Gin, Turpentine, Pennyroyal, Rue by Christine Higdon. An illustrated cream coloured book cover with various budding plants and a beagle on it. A portrait of a woman with short hair and glasses smiling into the camera.
Gin, Turpentine, Pennyroyal, Rue is a novel by Christine Higdon. (ECW Press)

Set in the 1920s, Gin, Turpentine, Pennyroyal, Rue centres around the lives of four working-class Vancouver sisters still reeling in the wake of the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed their brother. As they barely scrape by, determined to make the most of the Roaring '20s, forbidden love and betrayal abound against the backdrop of the complex political and social realities of the time.

Christine Higdon is an author living in Mimico, Ont. Her novel The Very Marrow of Our Bones won the 2018 Foreword Indies Editor's Choice Prize. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize for Because We're Not at the Ocean, and in 2020 she made the CBC Short Story Prize longlist for Courage, My Love. Her work has appeared in Plenitude and The New Quarterly. 

Who Gets In by Norman Ravvin

On the left is a photo of the author who has curly black short hair. He is wearing a black t-shirt and leaning against a red brick wall while smiling. On the right is a book cover that shows three men looking forward. Two men are wearing conductor uniforms and the third man is wearing a bowler hat with a black jacket. There is orange and white text overlay that is the book title and author's name.
Who Gets In is a book by Norman Ravvin. (Allen McInnis, University of Regina Press)

In Who Gets In, Norman Ravvin tells the story of his Jewish grandfather's experience fleeing Nazism and immigrating to Canada from Poland in the 1930s. Who Gets In looks at xenophobic, anti-Semitic government policies and the true legacy of nation-building in Canada.

Ravvin is the author of The Girl Who Stole Everything, Hidden Canada: An Intimate Travelogue and A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory. Born in Calgary, he now lives in Montreal.

The Mohawk Warrior Society by Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall 

The yellow book cover features a historical drawing of a sMohawk warrior aiming a bow and arrow down.
The Mohawk Warrior Society is a book by Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall. (Louise Leclaire, Between the Lines)

This anthology explores the hidden history of Kanien'kehá:ka survival and self-defense. The book provides documentation, context and analysis, including writing and artwork by visual artist and polemicist Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall. The Mohawk Warrior Society contains new oral history of the Rotisken'rhakéhte's revival in the 1970s and the story of how the Kanien'kehá:ka Longhouse became one the most militant resistance groups in North America. 

Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall was a Kanien'kehá:a painter and writer from Kahnawake. He dedicated himself to reviving traditional Mohawk culture after renouncing Christianity and a life of priesthood. His works include The Warrior's Handbook, which was published in 1979, and Rebuilding the Iroquois Confederacy. Both these texts, which served as a political and cultural call to arms for Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, were initially printed by hand and distributed in secret.

Wanda's War by Marsha Faubert

On the left is a headshot photo of the author who is a woman with middle-length long white hair and blue eyes. She is smiling at the camera. On the right is the book cover that features the ripped, black-and-white photograph of a woman in a dress standing in front of soldiers. The photograph is on top of an image of soldiers. The image is green.
Wanda's War is a book by Marsha Faubert. (Goose Lane Editions, Rebecca Blissett)

Wanda's War tells the story of Wanda Gizmunt, who was taken from her home in Poland and deported to a forced labour camp in Nazi Germany. After the war ended, she was one of 100 young Polish women brought over to Canada in 1947 to address a labour shortage at a Quebec textile mill. Wanda and the women found themselves captive to their employer and their treatment eventually sparked a national controversy and the scrutiny of Canada's utilitarian immigration policy.

Marsha Faubert is a Toronto-based lawyer. She has worked as a litigator, an arbitrator, an adjudicator of appeals in workplace injury and disease claims and as the director of a provincial tribunal. Wanda's War is her first book.

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

Forgiveness by MArk Sakamoto
Mark Sakamoto is a Canada Reads winner and the author of Forgiveness. (Peter Power/CBC, Harper Perennial)

Mark Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness tells the story of how his grandparents survived two very different experiences of the war. His paternal grandmother was one of many Japanese Canadians forced into internment cams during the Second World War, while his maternal grandfather was a prisoner of war in Japan. These stories of survival and reconciliation shaped him as a Canadian, a man and a father. 

Forgiveness won Canada Reads 2018, when it was defended by Jeanne Beker.

Mark Sakamoto is a trained lawyer, entrepreneur and writer. He began by promoting live music, touring with several international acts. Mark has since worked at a national broadcaster and served as a senior political advisor in Ottawa. He is now the executive vice president of Think Research. He is currently based in Toronto.

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