Books·Reading List

22 books to read for International Women's Day 2022

March 8 is International Women's Day. To celebrate, check out one (or all) of these Canadian books by Canadian women.

March 8 is International Women's Day. CBC Books is highlighting 22 women writers in Canada you should read in 2022.

I Am Because We Are by ​​Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr

Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr is the author of I Am Because We Are. (chidiogo.org, House of Anansi Press)

I Am Because We Are documents how Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr's late mother, Dora Akunyili, faced down misogyny and corruption in Nigeria. The nonfiction book is a look at how Dora Akunyili took on fraudulent drug manufacturers after their products killed millions, including her sister. And when Akunyili becomes an elected official, she faced death threats and an assassination attempt. Akunyili-Parr's mother suffered for her beliefs, as did her marriage and six children.

I Am Because We Are explores the importance of community over the individual and the power of kinship.

Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr is a Nigerian Canadian writer, speaker and the founder of She ROARs, a global community empowering women. She was included in The Guardian's list of the 100 most inspiring women in Nigeria. I Am Because We Are is her first book. 

Burning Questions by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is the author of Burning Questions. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press, McClelland & Stewart)

Margaret Atwood seeks to answer burning questions like: Why do people tell stories? How can we live on our planet? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism? 

In over 50 essays written between 2004 to 2021, Atwood reflects on a financial crash, the rise of Trump and a pandemic. Burning Questions covers topics like debt, tech and climate change, as Atwood ponders the many mysteries of our universe. 

Atwood is the celebrated Canadian writer who has published fiction, nonfiction, poetry and comics. Her acclaimed books include The Handmaid's TaleAlias GraceOryx and Crake and The Edible Woman. She has won several awards for her work including the Governor General's Literary Award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Man Booker Prize. She is also a founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Writers' Trust of Canada.

Our Little Secret by Emily Carrington

Our Little Secret is a memoir by Emily Carrington. (Drawn & Quarterly)

Artist Emily Carrington, now in her 50s, looks back on a traumatic winter when she was 15 years old. She lived with her single father in a drafty rural home, enduring the harsh cold winter of the Maritimes. Their neighbour, spying a vulnerable girl, offered his assistance — changing the course of her life for much worse. As an adult, Emily experiences depression, goes to therapy and battles against the justice system to find peace.

Carrington is a poet and illustrator of picture books. She was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2017. Raised in Prince Edward Island, Carrington now lives on the Gulf Islands. Our Little Secret is Carrington's debut book.

The Music Game by Stéfanie Clermont, translated by JC Sutcliffe

The Music Game is a novel by Stéfanie Clermont (pictured above). It was translated from French to English by JC Sutcliffe. (Biblioasis, Justine Latour)

The Music Game is a collection of short fiction that compiles stories from the lives of three friends, Céline, Julie and Sabrina. The three friends have drifted apart since their elementary school days in Montreal. As their adult lives unfold, their sense of idealism is worn down by dead-end jobs, break ups, unaffordable housing and a desire for political change that goes unanswered.

Stéfanie Clermont is a writer from Quebec. The original French version of The Music Game, Le jeu de la musique, was defended on Combat des livres in 2018. This is her first novel.

JC Sutcliffe is a translator who has lived in England, France and Canada. Some of her other translations include Mama's Boy by David Goudreault and Worst Case, We Get Married by Sophie Bienvenu.

Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel

Danielle Daniel is the author of Daughters of the Deer. (danielledaniel.com, Random House Canada)

Daughters of the Deer begins in 1657 with Marie, a gifted healer of the Deer Clan. She does not wish to marry the white French soldier, but at the urging of her chief, Marie accepts his proposal to save her people from disease, starvation and violence. Eighteen years later, Marie has a daughter named Jeanne, who is torn between cultures. When Jeanne falls in love with a young woman named Josephine, she knows their relationship will be forbidden by her father, while her mother's people see her two-spirit nature as a sign of special wisdom. 

Danielle Daniel is a writer and artist of settler and Indigenous ancestry living in the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (Sudbury, Ont.). Her other books include The Dependent, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Northern Lit Award, and the picture books Once in a Blue Moon and Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, which won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and was a finalist for the Blue Spruce Award and First Nation Communities Read Awards. She also illustrated the 2018 Marilyn Baillie Award-shortlisted picture book You Hold Me Up, written by Monique Gray Smith.

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Blood Scion is a YA book by Deborah Falaye. (HarperTeen, John Bregar)

In the YA fantasy novel Blood Scion, a teen named Sloane discovers she is a superpowered Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods. But when she is forced to join the army under a brutal warlord, Sloane realizes she has an opportunity to use her magical powers to defeat the enemy from within.

Blood Scion is for ages 13 and up.

Deborah Falaye is a Nigerian Canadian YA author based in Toronto. She grew up in Lagos, where she spent her time devouring African literature, pestering her grandma for folktales and tricking her grandfather into watching Passions every night. Blood Scion is her debut novel.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

Kim Fu is the author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century. (L D’Alessandro, Coach House Books)

In this collection of stories, Kim Fu turns the familiar on its head to weave tales of new worlds where strange happenings, like a girl growing wings on her legs or toy boxes that control the passage of time, are the ordinary trappings of everyday life. The stories deal with themes of death, technological consequence, guilt and sexuality and unmask the contradictions within humanity. 

Kim Fu is a Washington-based, Canadian-born fiction writer and poet. She has published two other works of fiction, For Today I Am a Boy and The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, and a book of poetry called How Festive the Ambulance.

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron

Kamila Knows Best is a book by Farah Heron. (Forever, farahheron.com)

Kamila has a nearly perfect life. While she keeps herself busy by throwing Bollywood movie parties, hanging out with her endless array of friends and running her dog's wildly successful Instagram account, her love life is lagging behind. So Kamila decides to start flirting with a handsome family friend named Rohan and eventually develops a crush. When Kamila's secret nemesis returns to town with an eye for Rohan, things start to unravel and Kamila's life gets turned upside down.

Farah Heron is a writer from Toronto. She is also the author of the romantic comedies The Chai Factor and Accidentally Engaged and the YA novel Tahira in Bloom.

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti is the author of Pure Colour. (Margaux Williamson, Knopf Random Vintage Canada)

Pure Colour follows a woman named Mira, who leaves home for school and meets a person named Annie. Annie has this power over Mira and opens her chest like a portal. Many years later when Mira is older, her father dies and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But when photosynthesis gets boring, Mira must choose whether or not to return to Annie and the human world she has left behind.

Pure Colour is a funny exploration of the wonderful and terrible aspects of being alive.

Sheila Heti is a Canadian playwright and author whose work has been translated in over a dozen languages. Her novel Motherhood was on the shortlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is also the author of the novels Ticknor and How Should a Person Be? and the self-help book The Chairs Are Where the People Go.

The Red Palace by June Hur

The Red Palace is a YA novel by June Hur. (Feiwel & Friends, Julie Anna Tang)

Set in Korea's royal court of the 18th century, June Hur's The Red Palace is a murder mystery laced with bits of romance. The novel follows Hyeon, the illegitimate daughter of a concubine, who works hard to earn a position as a nurse at the palace. When four women are suddenly killed and her mentor is accused of the crimes, Hyeon teams up with a young police inspector to find the true killer.

June Hur is a Toronto-based writer, originally from South Korea. She's also the author of The Silence of Bones and The Forest of Stolen Girls.

June Hur on The Red Palace

Mindful of Murder by Susan Juby

Mindful of Murder is a novel by Susan Juby. (HarperCollins Canada, Delgado Photography)

Helen Thorpe is a smart, calm, deeply insightful and newly trained butler. On the day she is supposed to start her career professionally serving one of the world's wealthiest families, she gets a call from her former employer. Her old boss Edna has died, leaving Helen to settle her affairs and execute her particularly detailed will. As Helen carries out the will's instructions, she begins to think that someone had reason to want Edna dead and enlists the help of her fellow butlers to solve the mystery. 

Susan Juby is a Nanaimo, B.C.-based writer. Her other books include the YA novel Alice, I Think, memoir Nice Recovery and novel Republic of Dirt, which won the Leacock Medal for Humour.

Standing in a River of Time by Jónína Kirton

Standing in a River of Time is a book by Jónína Kirton. (Talonbooks)

Standing in a River of Time combines poetry and memoir to expose the intergenerational effects of colonization. Jónína Kirton reflects on painful memories, her journey of spiritual healing and the guiding power of her ancestors. 

Jónína Kirton is a Métis author and poet from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Her 2018 poetry collection, An Honest Woman, was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Kirton currently lives in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples, where she teaches at The Writer's Studio at Simon Fraser University.

Aquariums by J.D. Kurtness, translated by Pablo Strauss

Aquariums is a book by J.D. Kurtness, pictured, which was translated by Pablo Strauss. (Dundurn Press)

When Émeraude, a young marine biologist, joins an extended mission in the Arctic, the world she leaves behind is irrevocably changed. Stories of her ancestors — a young sailor abandoned at birth, a conjuror who mixes potions, a violent young man who hides in the woods to escape an even more violent war and a talented young singer born to a mother who cannot speak — weave their way through and shape Émeraude's life.

J.D. Kurtness is a writer and member of the Innu nation. She won the Indigenous Voices Award for most significant work of prose in French in 2018 for her debut novel Of Vengeance. She lives in Montreal.

Pablo Strauss is a translator whose recent books include Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness, The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue and Synapses by Simon Brousseau . Strauss was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for translation in 2017 for The Longest Year.

From the Shoreline by Steffi Tad-y

From the Shoreline is a book by Steffi Tad-y. (Gordon Hill Press)

In her debut collection, Steffi Tad-y explores the intersection of mental illness and the diasporic experience. Her poems reflect tenderly on challenging and dangerous circumstances, finding beauty in detail and repetitive acts of love. 

Steffi Tad-y is a poet and writer from Manila. Her work includes the chapbooks I Did Not Want to Be Read, I Wanted to Be Believed In and Merienda. Tad-y lives in Vancouver.

Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz

Jameela Green Ruins Everything is the debut novel by Little Mosque on the Prairie creator Zarqa Nawaz. (Simon & Shuster, Peter Scoular)

Jameela Green Ruins Everything is a satirical novel about a young woman named Jameela Green, whose biggest dream is to see her novel become a bestseller. When that dream doesn't come true, she becomes involved in her local mosque, which inadvertently leads her to infiltrating an international terrorist organization. Jameela Green Ruins Everything explores success, searching for meaning and community, and the failures of American foreign policy.

Zarqa Nawaz is a film and TV producer, writer and former broadcaster based in Regina. She is best known for being the creator of the hit CBC comedy series Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is also the author of the memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosquewhich was shortlisted for the 2015 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Nawaz is also working on a new CBC TV series called Zarqa, which is set to premiere in fall 2022.

My Privilege, My Responsibility by Sheila North

My Privilege, My Responsibility is a book by Sheila North. (Great Plains Publications)

In her memoir, Sheila North shares the stories of the moments that shaped her and the violence that nearly stood in the way of her achieving her dreams. From her advocacy work in journalism, communications and economic development to creating the widely used hashtag #MMIW, North reflects on her experiences and the systemic racism faced by Indigenous women and girls.

North is the former Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. She worked as a broadcast journalist and won a Radio Television Digital News Association Award. She is a Gemini Award nominee and was featured in Chatelaine Magazine's list of the Top 30 Women of 2015. North is a member of the Bunibonibee Cree Nation.

When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O'Neill

Heather O'Neill is a Canadian novelist, poet, short story writer, screenwriter and journalist. (HarperCollins Canada, J Artacho)

When Marie, the spoiled daughter of a sugar baron living in 19th-century Montreal, meets the brilliant Sadie, the two are immediately inseparable. Marie has bubbly charm and sees the pleasure of the world, whereas Sadie's obsession with darkness is all-consuming. Class and circumstance lead them down different paths, while each woman plays an unexpected role in the events that upend their city.

When We Lost Our Heads is a story that explores gender, power, sex, desire, class and status.

Heather O'Neill is a writer and author from Montreal. O'Neill's debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, was a finalist for a Governor General's Literary Award and won Canada Reads 2007. The Montreal-based writer was the first back-to-back finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize: her novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night was a finalist in 2014 and her short story collection Daydreams of Angels was a finalist in 2015. Her latest books are the novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel and the nonfiction book Wisdom in Nonsense

Heather O'Neill talks to Shelagh Rogers about her new book, When We Lost Our Heads.

Run Towards the Danger by Sarah Polley

Run Towards the Danger is an essay collection by Sarah Polley. (George Pimentel/WIREIMAGE/Getty Images, Penguin Random House)

In this collection of essays, actor, screenwriter and director Sarah Polley reflects on the pieces of her life and the fallibility of memory. From stage fright to high risk childbirth, Polly contemplates these events and how she remembers them. In struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, she must retrain her mind to find a new path forward.

Run Towards the Danger is a book about learning, changing and what it's like to live in one's body.

Polley is an Oscar-nominated Canadian actor, screenwriter and director. Her first feature-length film, Away from Her, was adapted from the Alice Munro story The Bear Came Over the Mountain and was nominated for the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Her other films include Stories We Tell and Take This Waltz. 

Filmmaker Sarah Polley tells us why she's now embracing the things that once kept her up at night — from why she didn't come forward in the trial of Jian Ghomeshi, to the trauma of her career as a child star.

The Maid by Nita Prose

The Maid is a book by Nita Prose. (Viking, Dahlia Katz)

Molly Gray relies on her gran to interpret the world for her, as she struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. When her gran dies, Molly is left to navigate life's complexities all by herself and dives deep into her work as a hotel maid. But her orderly life is upended when she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find him dead. Caught up in a web of deception and suspicion, Molly unites with her friends to find out what really happened to Mr. Black. 

Nita Prose is a Toronto author and editor. She is currently the Canadian vice president and editorial director for publishing company Simon & Schuster. The Maid is her debut novel.

Nita Prose on what inspired her novel, The Maid.

Where the Silver River Ends by Anna Quon

Where the Silver River Ends is a book by Anna Quon. (Invisible Publishing, Julie Wilson)

When Joan, a half Chinese English teacher, flees to Budapest for a fresh start, she meets a proud Roma teenager named Milan. Milan helps Joan settle into the city and Joan introduces him to Adriana, who is on a journey to lay the memory of her dead mother to rest. The trio form an unlikely friendship, bound by love and luck. 

Where the Silver River Ends is a novel about mixed-race identity, systemic oppression and family reconciliation.

Anna Quon is a poet, novelist and writing workshop facilitator. Her first novel, Migration Songs, was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award. Quon lives in Dartmouth.

Secrets of the Sprakkar by Eliza Reid

Secrets of Sprakker is a nonfiction book by Iceland's first lady, Eliza Reid. (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Eliza Reid, the Canadian-born first lady of Iceland, looks at the country's success with gender equality. Sprakkar, an ancient Icelandic word, means extraordinary or outstanding women and this notion permeates the country's attitude towards women. 

Through interviews and stories of her own experiences, Reid explores what it means to move through the world as a woman and how the rules of society play more of a role in who we view as equal than we may understand. 

Reid is the Canadian-born first lady of Iceland. She has been first lady for the past five years, after her husband Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson was elected to the role of President and head of state in 2016. Reid has been a champion for gender equality, tourism, sustainability and literature during her tenure as first lady.

Eliza Reid, the Canadian born first lady of Iceland, takes the Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire. Eliza Reid is also the author of Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World (2022)

People Change by Vivek Shraya

People Change is a book by Vivek Shraya. (Penguin Canada, Ariane Laezza)

In People Change, multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya reflects on what motivates us to change and why we often fear it. From making resolutions to outgrowing relationships and dreams, the nonfiction book looks at why and how we are constantly contemplating who we want to be. 

People Change is a guide to celebrating the many versions of ourselves — and inspires us to discover who we'll become next. 

Shraya is a Canadian artist and author whose work in music, writing and visual art often transcends and overlaps with one another. Her books include the novel The Subtweet, the longform essay I'm Afraid of Men and graphic novel Death Threat.

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