20 great Canadian memoirs to read now

Aug. 31 is We Love Memoirs Day. So celebrate with a good book!

Aug. 31 is We Love Memoirs Day. So celebrate with a good book!

Memoirs offer a glimpse into the intimate memories of writers, artists and thinkers. On Aug. 31, celebrate national We Love Memoirs Day by checking out these titles by Canadian writers.

Becoming a Matriarch by Helen Knott

A woman wraps herself in a colourful shawl. A woman with long brown hair looks to the left.
Becoming a Matriarch is a memoir written by Helen Knott. (Knopf Canada, Tenille K. Campbell)

Becoming a Matriarch is a memoir that delves into Helen Knott's experience after losing both her mother and grandmother in just over six months. It spans themes of mourning, sobriety through loss and generational dreaming and explores what it truly means to be a matriarch. 

Knott is a Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, Métis and mixed Euro-descent writer from Prophet River First Nations. She is a 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging author. She is also the author of the memoir In My Own Moccasins, which won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Indigenous Peoples' Publishing.

Bleed by Tracey Lindeman

On the left is a book cover image of a cream book cover that features the title in big, red block letters, "BLEED." Under the title, it reads, "Destroying Myths and Misogyny in Endometriosis Care" in smaller, black block letter. Underneath that is the author's name what looks like handwritten black marker. On the right is a phot of the author who has short red hair. She is wearing a black t-shirt with her left hand on her hip. She is standing in front of subway tracks.
Bleed is a book by Tracey Lindeman. (Benjamin Cruz, ECW Press)

Bleed is an examination of how we treat endometriosis and the ways the medical system fails patients. Part memoir, part investigative journalism, Tracy Lindeman conducts extensive interviews and research to track the modern experience of those with endometriosis, from discrimination to medical gaslighting. She encourages patients to fight for a revolution in medicine and care.

Lindeman is a freelance journalist, who has reported for The Guardian, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Maclean's, The Walrus, the Globe and Mail and CBC. She is based in western Quebec. 

LISTEN | Tracey Lindeman's new book is about her experience with endometriosis: 
One Quebec journalist is not only raising awareness on the issue of endometriosis, but confronting the lack of response to this disease. Tracey Lindeman wrote a book called Bleed: Destroying Myths and Misogyny in Endometriosis Care. We touched base with her to learn more.

British Columbiana by Josie Teed

On the left is a book cover image of a woman in dress sitting in front of a cartoon background of mountains, grass, and evergreen trees. There is also black and white text overlay. On the right is a photo of a brown-haired woman wearing a green sweater and smiling at the camera.
British Columbiana is a book by Josie Teed. (Dundurn Press)

After graduation, Josie Teed accepts a position at a remote heritage site in British Columbia showcasing the 19th-century gold rush. Living in a nearby village with a population of 250 and no cell reception, Teed questions her future and tries to find connection and purpose while living in a place frozen in time. She recounts this story in her memoir British Columbiana.

Teed is a writer from Pelham, Ontario. Her work has been published in Bad Nudes Magazine and Graphite Publications. She lives in Montreal.

Brown Boy by Omer Aziz

On the left is a book cover that is a watercolour painting with green and yellow background, and a young man with black hair and black framed glasses looking to the right. There is black and white text overlay that is the book's title and author's name. On the right is a photo of the author - a young man wearing a black shirt and navy blue suit jacket standing in front of window.
Brown Boy is a book by Omer Aziz. (Scribner, Amr Jayousi)

In Brown Boy, Omer Aziz describes the complex process of creating an identity as a first-generation Pakistani Muslim boy on the outskirts of Toronto, that fuses where he's from, what people see in him and who he knows himself to be.

Through his personal narrative with the books and friendships that move him, Aziz wrestles with the contradiction of feeling like an Other and his desire to belong to a Western world that never quite accepts him. 

Aziz was born in Toronto and was educated through scholarships at Queen's University, the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Cambridge University and Yale Law School. 

He has written for publications such as the New York Times and the Atlantic, and has worked for politicians such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland.

Ducks by Kate Beaton

A composite image of a woman with dark brown hair smiling into the camera and a book cartoon book cover with a woman standing on the steps of a bulldozer looking off into the distance.
Kate Beaton is the author of Canada Reads-winning graphic memoir Ducks. (Corey Katz, Drawn & Quarterly)

Ducks is an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton's time spent working in the Alberta oil sands. With the goal of paying off her student loans, Kate leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.

Ducks won Canada Reads 2023, when it was championed by Jeopardy! star Mattea Roach. It also won Eisner awards for best writer/artist and best graphic memoir in 2023.

Kate Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton's success continued with the book Step Aside, Pops, which won the 2016 Eisner Award for best humour publication. Beaton has also published two children's books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.

LISTEN | Kate Beaton on Q 
Kate Beaton is one of the most beloved cartoonists in North America, known for her historical comics Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops. But what many don’t know is that before her rise to the top of bestseller lists, she drew her earliest comics while working in Alberta’s oil sands. Beaton's latest book, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, is a graphic memoir about that time. She joined Tom Power to tell us more.

East Side Story by Nick Marino

A book cover with a black and white photo of a rickety rollercoaster on the right and a portrait of a man dressed in a flannel shirt.
Vancouver comedian and elementary school teacher Nick Marino explores the culture of carnivals and fairs in his memoir East Side Story. (Zg Stories)

East Side Story follows six summers of Nick Marino's youth working at the Pacific National Exhibit in Vancouver. From midnight roller coaster rides, concert riots and other teenage shenanigans, he explores carnival culture and the many life lessons learnt in the city's East Side.

Nick Marino is Vancouver-based writer, teacher and comedian. His comedy has been featured at Just for Laughs Northwest. East Side Story: Growing Up at the PNE is his debut book.

LISTEN | Nick Marino discusses his memoir on North by Northwest:
Author, teacher and comedian Nick Marino on his new memoir "East Side Story: Growing Up at the PNE. "

Eyes on the Horizon by Balarama Holness

On the left is a book cover that has a photo of a Black man in a blue suit looking off to the right in the distance. He is standing in front of two white pillars of a courthouse. On the right is a author headshot of the same man on the book cover, wearing a white t-shirt with his hands folded up and smiling at the camera.
Eyes on the Horizon is a book by Balarama Holness. (HarperCollins Publishers, Sasha Onyshchenko)

Balarama Holness shares his personal story from growing up on an ashram in West Virginia the son of a Jamaican father and Quebecois mother to his life in Montreal and then playing in the CFL in his memoir Eyes on the Horizon. Holness credits his success to his self-determination and spirituality, which helped him confront the systemic racism of his city and country. He connects his own journey to the social history of Quebec and through activism and politics, Holness is committed to reshaping society and teaching others about racism. 

Holness is a former defensive back for the Montreal Alouettes. He won the Grey Cup with the Alouettes in 2010. Holness is also an activist and community organizer, focusing on systemic racism, justice, equality and inclusion. 

I Felt the End Before It Came by Daniel Allen Cox

On the left is a book cover of a shirtless man lying on the floor with a book covering his face. There is white and turquoise text overlay that is the book title and author's name. On the right is a headshot photo of a man who is wearing a black t-shirt and smiling while looking to the right.
I Felt the End Before It Came is a book by Daniel Allen Cox. (Viking, Alison Slattery)

Growing up a Jehovah's Witness, Daniel Allan Cox understood his queerness was considered unacceptable by his religion. This resulted in disassociation and a lifelong journey to disentangle himself from the gaslighting and shunning he faced by being part of the religious group. I Felt the End Before It Came grapples with Cox's complicated past, from his early days as a door-to-door preacher to his time in New York City among a scene of photographers and provocateurs. 

Cox is the author of four novels. His writing has appeared in Catapult, Electric Literature, The Rumpus and Maisonneuve. 

Indigiqueerness by Joshua Whitehead with Angie Abdou

On the left is a black book cover image with red and white text overlay that is the book title and the author's name, there is a headshot of a person who is blue coloured looking forward, and the image is split into three rectangles. On the right is a headshot photo of the author who is learning against a wall and looking at the camera.
Indigiqueerness is a book by Joshua Whitehead, pictured, with Angie Abdou. (Athabasca University Press, Tenille Campbell Sweetmoon)

Reflecting on memories of youth, Indigiqueerness is a combination of memoir and collage in conversation with writer Angie Abdou. Through his storytelling, the book contemplates the nuance and beauty of Indigenous language, queer identity, theory and childhood. 

Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-nêhiyaw, two-spirit writer, poet and Indigiqueer scholar from Peguis First Nation. He is the author of the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer and the Canada Reads-winning novel Jonny Appleseed. His first nonfiction book, Making Love with the Land, was published in 2022.

Is There Bacon in Heaven? by Ali Hassan

Is There Bacon in Heaven? by Ali Hassan. Book cover of Ali Hassan in a cloud.
Is There Bacon in Heaven? is a memoir by Ali Hassan. (Simon & Schuster, Fouad Hassanpour)

While actor and comedian Ali Hassan grew up around all different cultures and can fit in with anyone, his Muslim Pakistani heritage always finds a way of shining through. In his hilarious memoir based on his stand-up comedy sets, Is There Bacon in Heaven? explores what it's like to be culturally Muslim and the questions of belief and identity that arise when following his passions. 

Ali Hassan is an actor, comedian, host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud and frequent guest host of q and As It Happens. He is also the host of CBC Books' Canada Reads. He has recurring roles on Run the BurbsOdd Squad and Working Moms.

LISTEN |Ali Hassan answers the Proust Questionnaire: 
Stand-up comedian and host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud Ali Hassan on his idea of perfect happiness, his favourite journey and more.

It Stops Here by Rueben George with Michael Simpson

A photo of an indigenous man reaching out his hand to stop something. A man in a blue jacket smiles at the camera.
Rueben George is the author of It Stops Here. (Allen Lane)

It Stops Here: Standing Up for Our Lands, Our Waters, and Our People is part memoir, part call-to-action. It recounts the stance taken against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion from the perspective of Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation who has devoted years to fighting this project. 

George is Sundance Chief and a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN). He is the manager of TWN's Sacred Trust initiative to protect the unceded Tsleil-Waututh lands and waters from the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. 

Michael Simpson is a writer whose work focuses on settler colonialism and conflicts over oil and gas pipelines in Canada.

Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson

On the left is a book cover that has a black-and-white portrait of a white, blonde woman with hair in an up do and long, silver earrings. The book's title "Love, Pamela" is designed to look like a signature at the bottom of the book cover. On the right is a photo of a blonde woman with long blonde eyes smiling as she looks up to her right. The background is a purple wall.
Love, Pamela is a book by Pamela Anderson. (Dey Street Books, Richard Shotwell/Invision/Associated Press)

Alternating between storytelling and her personal poetry, Pamela Anderson fights back to reclaim the narrative of her life in her memoir Love, Pamela. Anderson, now on Vancouver Island where she grew up, is fueled by a love of literature, her family and the causes she cares most about. She reflects on her childhood filled with imaginary friends, to life on covers of magazines, the beaches of Malibu and the sets of TV shows, where she eventually lost control of her own narrative to the media.

Pamela Anderson is a Canadian actor and environmental and animal rights activist. She is best known for modeling in Playboy magazine and for her role as C.J. Parker on the television series Baywatch.

LISTEN | Pamela Anderson speaks to Tom Power about her memoir: 
Pamela Anderson’s story is incredible, but you so rarely get to hear her tell it. For the first time, Pamela shares her story through her new documentary Pamela, a love story, and in her new memoir Love, Pamela. Pam joins Tom Power to talk about growing up on Vancouver Island, the freedom that Playboy gave her, and how she’s taking back authorship of her story — one that’s so often been misconstrued by the media.

​​Keep My Memory Safe by Stephanie Chitpin

On the left is a book cover with a drawing of a temple and a lion from lion dances with red and black text overlay that is the book title and author's name.
Keep My Memory Safe is a book by Stephanie Chitpin. (Baraka Books)

In her memoir Keep My Memory Safe, Stephanie Chitpin tells the story of being transported to the island of Mauritius after being born to unwed parents in Hong Kong. In Mauritius, Chitpin was raised as an orphan in the Buddhist temple Fook Soo Am. She eventually moved to Canada, determined to pursue her education, and studied at the University of Guelph. 

Chitpin is a professor of Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. She is the co-editor of the book series Transforming Education Through Critical Leadership, Policy and Practice.

Pageboy by Elliot Page

On the left is a book cover photo of a person with short brown hair, wearing a white tank top, black belt and jeans and is sitting on a stool in front of a red wall. On the right is the same person who has his arms crossed and is wearing a white long sleeve shirt and looking in front directly at the camera.
(HarperCollins Publishers, Elliot Page)

Elliot Page shares his personal journey from the massive success of Juno to discovering his queerness and identity as a trans person, while navigating criticism and abuse from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Pageboy is filled with behind-the-scenes details and interrogations on sex, love and trauma. It's a story about what it means to free ourselves from the expectations of others and step into our truth with defiance, strength and joy.

Page is an Academy Award-nominated actor, producer and director. He currently stars in the hit TV-series The Umbrella AcademyPageboy is his first book

WATCH | Elliot Page in conversation with CBC Chief Correspondent Adrienne Arsenault:


Scratching River by Michelle Porter

Scratching River by Michelle Porter. Abstract illustrated book cover of blue, white and green waves. Headshot of the writer.
Scratching River is a memoir by Michelle Porter. (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Bojan Furst)

Scratching River connects past memories and family with present realities of hope and healing. Michelle Porter shares the emotional reconciliation with her older brother, who is autistic and schizophrenic, as well as the history of her Métis ancestor. 

Michelle Porter is a Métis writer. She is also the author of the novel A Grandmother Begins the Story and the nonfiction book Approaching Fire, which was shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Award in 2021. She lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. Porter made the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for her story Fireweed. Before that, she'd also made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Slicing Lemons in April and the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Between you and home.

Song of the Sparrow by Tara MacLean

A composite photo of a book cover featuring a woman sitting on a human-sized bird's next. A black and white photo of a woman with long brown hair, resting her head on her hand.
Song of the Sparrow is a book by Tara MacLean. (HarperCollins, Jared Doyle)

In her memoir Song of the Sparrow, singer-songwriter Tara MacLean recalls her childhood in the backwoods of P.E.I. where hunger and uncertainty were always near as the daughter of a musician father and actor mother. Growing up, MacLean found danger even in her most trusted circles turning to singing as a refuge. Song of the Sparrow charts her musical career from her early days to touring with Dido, Tom Cochrane and Lilith Fair. It's a heartbreaking and raw memoir about a life filled with music.

MacLean is a singer-songwriter from P.E.I. She has been a recording and touring artist for over 25 years. She is also a playwright, author, poet and mother. Song of the Sparrow is her first book. 

LISTEN | Singer-songwriter Tara MacLean talks about her debut memoir Song of the Sparrow: 
Award-winning singer-songwriter Tara MacLean has been part of our national musical landscape for years. She's recently branched out with an intimate memoir chronicling the joys and traumas of her life. She joins host Shauna Powers to remember the east coast forests of her childhood and explore the healing that comes through music.

Superfan by Jen Sookfong Lee

The multi-coloured book cover features a portrait of an Asian woman with a short bob haircut, smiling, repeated over and over again across the cover in a grid pattern. Each square portrait is a different colour and some have scribbled earrings or a crown or hearts doodled over top of them. The title "Superfan" is written in thick, white font across the cover.
Superfan is a book by Jen Sookfong Lee. (McClelland & Stewart, Sherri Koop Photography)

Superfan explores Jen Sookfong Lee's life-long love affair with pop culture. Using pop culture as an escape from family tragedy and to fit in with those around her, as Lee grew up she realized that pop culture was not made for the child of Chinese immigrants. Superfan connects key moments in pop culture with Lee's own stories as an Asian woman, single mother and writer. 

Jen Sookfong Lee is a Vancouver-born novelist, broadcast personality, a past CBC Short Story Prize juror, a former Canada Reads panellist and a columnist on The Next Chapter. She is the author of the novel The Conjoined, the nonfiction book Gentlemen of the Shade and the poetry collection The Shadow List

LISTEN | Jen Sookfong Lee reflects on her love of pop culture:
A replay of part of Shelagh Rogers interview with Jen Sookfong Lee on Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart

The Way I Remember by Solomon Ratt

On the left is a book cover that shows a man with gray hair in a ponytail wearing glasses smiling and looking down. There is white text overlay that is the book title and author's name. On the right is a headshot photo of the same man who is the author. He is looking directly at the camera and smiling.
The Way I Remember is a book by Solomon Ratt. (University of Regina Press, Julie Paul)

Torn from his family and placed in a residential school at the age of six, Solomon Ratt reflects on these dark memories and his life-long challenges in his memoir The Way I Remember. Ratt describes his life before, during and after residential school and how he would return home to his parents each summer, retaining his mother language of Cree. Shifting between autobiographical stories to sacred stories in the style of traditional Cree literature, Ratt illustrates how in a world uninterrupted by colonialism, these traditional stories would have formed the curriculum of a Cree child's education.

Solomon Ratt is an associate professor of languages, linguistics and literature at First Nations University of Canada. He is a first-language speaker of the Cree Th-dialect from Stanley Mission, Sask. 

LISTEN | Solomon Ratt reflects on his life and work:
Solomon Ratt went from a childhood living and playing in the forests of northern Saskatchewan to years at a residential school in Prince Albert. Through it all, Cree language remained a vital force in his life. He's sharing some of his stories - in both Cree and English - in a new memoir. The First Nations University of Canada professor joins host Shauna Powers for an extended conversation.

Unbroken by Angela Sterritt

On the left is a black and orange book cover with a drawing of a woman who is holding up a feather. There is another woman standing beside her. There is white and orange white text overlay that is the book title and the author's name. On the right is a headshot photo of a woman who is smiling at the camera and wearing a black blazer with a yellow-coloured shirt.
Unbroken is a book by Angela Sterritt. (Greystone Books, CBC)

In her memoir Unbroken, Angela Sterritt shares her story from navigating life on the streets to becoming an award-winning journalist. As a teenager, she wrote in her notebook to survive. Now, she reports on cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, showing how colonialism and racism create a society where Indigenous people are devalued. Unbroken is a story about courage and strength against all odds.

Sterritt is a journalist, writer and artist. She currently works with CBC Vancouver as a host and reporter. Sterritt is a member of the Gitxsan Nation and lives on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territories, Vancouver, Canada.

Wildflower by Aurora James

On the left is a book cover that shows a woman in a dress smiling at the camera. There is a turquoise flower that is drawn over her face. There is white text overlay that displays the book title and author name. On the right is a head shot photo of a woman with long black hair in front of an orange background. She is holding purple daisies by her face.
Wildflower is a book by Aurora James. (Penguin Random House, Sebastian Kim)

In her memoir Wildflower, fashion star Aurora James recounts growing up the daughter of a counterculture mother to moving to Jamaica with a man her mother married when she was seven, where she learned harsh lessons about control, power and abuse. Scouted as a model when she was just in eighth grade, James became disenchanted by the industry and found power in creating for the runway, showcasing traditional African designs. Wildflower traces James's path to becoming the first Black female designer to win a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award and starting one of the fastest-growing social justice nonprofits.

James is the creative director and founder of the luxury accessories brand Brother Vellies, founder of the Fifteen Percent Pledge and vice chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Born in Toronto, James lives in Los Angeles and New York City.

LISTEN | Aurora James on her career, fashion and writing a memoir: 
New York-based Canadian fashion designer Aurora James on founding her label Brother Vellies, her new memoir Wildflower, and the story behind creating Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s famous “tax the rich'' dress she wore at the 2021 Met Gala.