Books

13 Canadian memoirs to read this summer

If you enjoy a good memoir, here are 13 books to check out this season.

If you enjoy a good memoir, here are 13 Canadian books to check out this summer.

A Good Wife by Samra Zafar, with Meg Masters

Samra Zafar is the author of A Good Wife. (Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

When Samra Zafar was 15 years old, she was told by her mother that a great match had been found, and she was to be married — to a man who lived in Canada and was 11 years older than her. Despite having her own dreams and goals, Zafar got married, moved to a new country and started a family. But when her relationship became abusive, Zafar knew she must leave and build a new life for her children. 

Zafar has written about her experience in the book A Good Wife.

Dear Scarlet by Teresa Wong

Dear Scarlet is a graphic memoir by Teresa Wong. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Ken Hurd)

Teresa Wong pens an honest and emotional letter to her daughter in the graphic memoir Dear Scarlet. The Calgary writer describes her experience with postpartum depression — how feelings of sadness, loss and guilt consumed her — and her many attempts at healing. 

Dear Scarlet is Wong's first book.

nîtisânak by Lindsay Nixon

nîtisânak is a memoir by Lindsay Nixon. (Metonymy Press, Jackson Ezra/Writers' Trust of Canada)

Drawing from their Cree, Saulteaux and Métis heritage, Lindsay Nixon explores the profound loss of their mother in their memoir, nîtisânak. Medicine and heartbreak are found in equal measure throughout this narrative, which tells stories of community, family and love.

Lindsay Nixon won the 2019 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers.

Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod

Mamaskatch is a memoir by Darrel J. McLeod. (Douglas & McIntyre, Ilja Herb)

Darrel J. McLeod's Mamaskatch is a memoir of his upbringing in Smith, Alta., raised by his fierce Cree mother Bertha. McLeod describes vivid memories of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, surrounded by siblings and cousins. He explores coming to terms with his sexuality and his sibling coming out as transgender. From his mother, McLeod learned to be proud of his heritage and also shares her fractured stories from surviving the residential school system.

Mamaskatch won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

Teenage refugee Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and his English teacher Winnie Yeung are behind the memoir Homes. (CBC)

Homes is a memoir of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah's childhood in Iraq and Syria. Just before civil war broke out, the al Rabeeah family left Iraq for safety in Homs, Syria. Al Rabeeah was 10 years old when the violence began in his new home. He remembers attacks on his mosque and school, car bombings and firebombs. Now a high school student in Edmonton, al Rabeeah shares his story with writer Winnie Yeung in hopes it will bring a greater understanding of Syria. 

Homes was defended on Canada Reads 2019 by Simple Plan drummer Chuck Comeau.

The Unexpected Cop by Ernie Louttit

The Unexpected Cop is a book by Ernie Louttit. (University of Regina Press, Bill Hamilton)

Ernie Louttit is a bestselling author, veteran and retired police officer from Saskatchewan. Louttit was one of the first Indigenous police officers hired by the Saskatoon Police and has written about his experiences within the force in The Unexpected Cop

The Unexpected Cop takes on leadership — how being a leader means sticking to your convictions and sometimes standing up to the powers that be.

The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari talks to CBC Books about how she wrote her memoir The Art of Leaving. (CBC Radio/Sinisa Jolic, HarperCollins Canada)

After finishing her two mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces and in the midst of grieving her father's death, Ayelet Tsabari leaves Tel Aviv to travel through India, Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Moving quickly through homes and cities, Tsabari eventually starts making trips back to Israel and digs deep into her Jewish-Yemeni background and Mizrahi identity in ways she'd never done before.

Tsabari was a finalist for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize and won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her debut short story collection, The Best Place on Earth.

This One Looks Like a Boy by Lorimer Shenher

This One Looks Like a Boy is a memoir by Lorimer Shenher. (Greystone Books, Jennifer Fell)

From childhood, Lorimer Shenher knew he was a boy, though he was being raised as a girl. In This One Looks Like a Boy, Shenher tells his story of struggling with gender dysphoria before finally coming to accept he is trans and undergoing surgery in his 50s.

Shenher is also the author of the book That Lonely Section of Hell, in which he describes his experiences working on the case of serial killer Robert Pickton.

Mistakes to Run With by Yasuko Thanh

Mistakes to Run With is a memoir by Yasuko Thanh. (Don Denton, Penguin Random House Canada)

Yasuko Thanh opens up about her tumultuous life in Mistakes to Run With, from rebelling against her evangelical parents, living on the streets of Vancouver and becoming a sex worker to falling in love and writing an award-winning novel. Thanh writes that, despite her success, she still struggles with events of the past. 

Thanh is also the author of the short story collection Floating Like the Dead and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize-winning novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains.

Boy Wonders by Cathal Kelly

Cathal Kelly is a sports columnist and the author of the memoir Boy Wonders. (CBC)

Cathal Kelly is a national sports columnist at the Globe and Mail. His memoir, Boy Wondersreveals a hardscrabble upbringing in a single parent household during the 1970s and 1980s in Toronto. Kelly shares that he found refuge in popular culture — Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings, to name a few things — which shaped his identity in various ways.

Boy Wonders won the 2019 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

We Have Always Been Here is a memoir by Samra Habib. (Viking Canada, Yuula Benivolski)

Samra Habib's memoir We Have Always Been Here is an exploration of the ways we disguise and minimize ourselves for the sake of survival. As a child, Habib hid her faith from Islamic extremists in Pakistan and later, as a refugee in Canada, endured racist bullying and the threat of an arranged marriage. In travelling the world and exploring art and sexuality, Habib searches for the truth of her identity. 

We Have Always Been Here is Habib's first book. She's a journalist, photographer and activist based in Toronto.

Son of a Critch by Mark Critch

Mark Critch is a comedian and author from St. John's. (Penguin, Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

In the memoir Son of a CritchThis Hour Has 22 Minutes comedian Mark Critch describes how his light-hearted trouble-making began with growing up in 1980s Newfoundland. From trying to buy beer from a cab driver as a youngster to photo-bombing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as an adult, Son of a Critch is a series of funny stories.

Son of a Critch was shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and the 2019 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong

Lindsay Wong's memoir The Woo-Woo was defended on Canada Reads 2019 by Joe Zee. (CBC)

This dark, witty and touching memoir by Vancouver-based writer Lindsay Wong takes a look at the impact of mental illness on families. Wong delivers an honest and emotional look at whispered secrets, dysfunctional relationships — and how her grandmother, mother, aunt and even herself initially blamed the mythical "woo-woo," Chinese spirits that plague the living, for their mental health issues. 

The Woo-Woo was defended by Joe Zee on Canada Reads 2019.

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