24 Canadian books to read during Women's History Month
October is Women's History Month. Celebrate by checking out one of these Canadian books.
The Pull of the Stars, set in a war and disease-ravaged Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, tells the story of three women — a nurse, a doctor and a volunteer helper — working on the front lines of the pandemic in an understaffed maternity ward of a hospital, where expectant mothers infected with the virus are quarantined. The timely tale explores how these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways, while witnessing loss and delivering new life.
How to Pronounce Knife is a collection of idiosyncratic and diverse stories. Capturing the daily lives of immigrants, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures their hopes, disappointments, trauma and acts of defiance. From a young man painting nails in a salon, to a housewife learning English from soap-operas, How to Pronounce Knife navigates tragedy and humour.
Thammavongsa is a writer and poet. Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in Harper's, Granta, The Paris Review and NOON. She has published four books of poetry, including 2019's Cluster.
Lorna Crozier is one of Canada's most beloved and accomplished poets, as was her long-time partner, Patrick Lane. They met in 1976 and built a life together, publishing more than 40 books between them along the way. But in 2017, Lane became ill and their life changed forever, and eventually Lane died in 2019. Crozier writes about their relationship, their personal and creative partnership, and comes to terms with her grief, in the memoir Through the Garden.
Crozier is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet who has written more than 15 books. Her poetry collections include The House the Spirit Builds, God of Shadows and What the Soul Doesn't Want.
Christa Couture has lost a lot over the course of her life: her leg was amputated, her first child died when he was one-day old, her second child died as a baby after a heart transplant, her marriage ended in divorce and a thyroidectomy threatened her music career. But through it all, she has found hope, joy and love and maintains a perspective filled with compassion and understanding. She shares her journey, and what she's learned along the way, in her memoir, How to Lose Everything.
Couture is a writer, musician and broadcaster who is currently based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in CBC Arts and CBC Parents and she has been a columnist on CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. How to Lose Everything is her first book.
Her debut novel All I Ask follows Stacey, a 20-something in St. John's who wakes up one morning to the police at her door searching for 'illegal digital material.' In the aftermath, Stacey and her group of friends search for fulfilment while dealing with the day-to-day uncertainty of modern life. The novel is a critical look at policing and focuses on themes of financial insecurity, relationships and sexuality.
Eva Crocker is a novelist and short story writer. Her first book was the short story collection Barrelling Forward.
Two Trees Make a Forest is an exploration of how geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories. A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she traces his story while growing closer to the land he knew. Throughout her adventures, Lee uncovers surprising parallels between nature and human stories that shaped her family and their beloved island. In the memoir, she also turns a critical eye onto colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, and both relied on and often erased the labor and knowledge of local communities.
- In Taiwan's lush landscape, Jessica J. Lee found a deeper understanding of her family's turbulent history
Lee is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author, environmental historian, and winner of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. Her first book, Turning, was longlisted for the Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors.
In The Subtweet, Neela Devaki's song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini. When the two musicians meet, a transformative friendship begins. But, as Rukmini's star rises, jealousy creeps in, and Neela sends out a highly-destructive tweet that blows up their friendship.
When you can read it: April 7, 2020
Vivek Shraya is a writer, artist and musician from Alberta. Her books include the novel She of the Mountains, the poetry collection even this page is white, the essay I'm Afraid of Men and the comic book Death Threat.
Noopiming combines prose and poetic forms to create an original narrative form, and to reclaim and reframe Anishinaabe storytelling. It's a story told by Mashkawaji, who is frozen in a lake, and who, in turn, tells the story of seven connected characters, who are each searching for a connection to the land and the world. Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for "in the bush," and the title is a response to Susanna Moodie's 1852 memoir about settling in Canada, Roughing It in the Bush.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, activist, musician, artist, author and member of Alderville First Nation. Her other books include Islands of Decolonial Love, This Accident of Being Lost, Dancing on Our Turtle's Back and As We Have Always Done. Simpson was chosen by Thomas King for the 2014 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award.
Tessa McWatt was born in Guyana and came to Canada when she was three years old. She grew up in Toronto and spent years living in Montreal, Paris, Ottawa and London. Her heritage is Scottish, English, French, Portuguese, Indian, Amerindian, African and Chinese. Shame on Me is a memoir about identity, race and belonging by someone who spent a lot of time trying to find an answer to the question, "Who are you?" and who has endured decades of racism and bigotry while trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs.
- How life in a Trumpian, post-Brexit world prompted Tessa McWatt to explore race and identity in her new memoir
McWatt is the author of several works of fiction. Her novels include Dragons Cry, Vital Signs and Higher Ed. She is also the co-editor of the anthology Luminous Ink: Writers on Writing in Canada. Shame on Me is her first work of nonfiction.
Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she was a spirit who was supposed to die as a small child. By staying alive, she is cursing her family — a fear that appears to come true when Kehinde experiences something that tears the family apart, and divides the twins for years. But when the three women connect years later, they must confront their past and find forgiveness.
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, filmmaker and visual artist. Her writing has appeared in the Malahat Review, Guts and Brittle Paper, and she was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread is her first book.
Beverley McLachlin became the first woman to hold the office of Canada's chief justice in January of 2000. Throughout her 17 years as chief justice and 28 years on the Supreme Court, McLachlin helped shape Canadian law and governance, including legislation on sex work and mandatory minimum prison sentences. She shares her story in the memoir Truth Be Told.
McLachlin is also the author of the fictional thriller Full Disclosure.
Alicia Elliott explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of her own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Elliott examines how colonial violence, including the loss of language, seeps into the present day lives of Indigenous people, often in the form of mental illness. Elliott, who lives in Brantford, Ont., won gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017 for the essay this book is based on.
- Why Alicia Elliott challenges us all to think critically about trauma, oppression and racism in Canada
Elliott is a Tuscarora writer living in Brantford, Ont. She was chosen by Tanya Talaga as the recipient for the 2018 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. CBC Books named Elliott a writer to watch in 2019.
Sarah Kurchak has autism. While she was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, she realized she was different from her peers — and did everything to overcome it. She changed everything about herself to fit in. It worked, but along the way, she developed anxiety and depression. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is a memoir about how Kurchak became an "autism" success story, how it almost ruined her life, and what she did to reclaim her identity and her health.
Kurchak is a writer whose work has appeared in the Guardian, CBC, Vox and Electric Literature. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is her first book.
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.
In 2016, Liz Levine's sister Tamara committed suicide. In the memoir Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End, Levine tells the story of her sister alongside the story of another death that had a huge impact on her life: that of her childhood sweetheart Judson to cancer. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a book about grief, and its messiness, but it's also a book about life and its beauty.
Levine is a television and film producer who has worked on Story of a Girl and jPod. Her writing has appeared in the National Post, The Walrus and the Vancouver Sun. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is her first book.
Helen Knott is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and European descent. Her memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma. It explores how colonization has affected her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.
In My Own Moccasins was on the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize longlist.
- Helen Knott explores the connection between violence against Indigenous women and violence against the land
Knott is a social worker and writer. In My Own Moccasins is her first book.
In most fairy tales, characters who have disabilities or look different are often mocked or are the villain. In Disfigured, Amanda Leduc looks at fairy classics, from the classic Brothers Grimm to the modern Disney films, and explores how the representation of disability has informed how we see the world around us from a very young age and makes a case for a new set of tales, ones that celebrate difference and inclusivity.
Leduc is the communications and development coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ont. She is also the author of the novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men. She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize.
I Hope We Choose Love is a collection of essays and prose poems from writer, performer and social worker Kai Cheng Thom. Thom explores several social movements and the issues that complicate them, such as violence, complicity and forgiveness. She calls for respect, nuance, understanding and love as we work toward making the world a better place.
Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performance artist and therapist. She is the author of the children's book From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, a semi-autobiographical poetry collection called a place called No Homeland and the novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir.
In No More Nice Girls, journalist Lauren McKeon looks at how far we still have to go when it comes to gender equality. She highlights how social and economic systems are designed to keep women out while highlighting those who are creating spaces for women both within patriarchal systems and outside them. McKeon's core argument is that we need to stop trying to play a game that's designed for women to lose, and start breaking the rules in order to get ahead.
McKeon is an editor at the Walrus and is also the author of the book F Bomb: Dispatches on the War on Feminism. Her writing has appeared on CBC, Toronto Life, Hazlitt and Chatelaine.
Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea, but was adopted by a Canadian family and raised in a small town. When she was in her early 20s, she decided to travel back to Korea to meet her extended birth family and other young people who were adopted from Korea and raised abroad. Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. shares Wills's journey and also explores the impact of being raised by a family of a different ethnicity and culture.
Wills is an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg. She has co-edited two academic books.
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, Megan Gail Coles's debut novel, revolves around a cast of flawed characters who are implicated in each other's hopes, dreams and pains as they try to survive harsh economic times in the province.
Coles is a playwright from St. John's. She previously published the short story collection Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome.
Shut Up You're Pretty is a short fiction collection that tells stories of young women coming of age in the 21st century. Mutonji's characters include a young woman who shaves her head in an abortion clinic waiting room, a mother and daughter who bond over fish and a teenager seeking happiness with her pack of cigarettes.
- Why Téa Mutonji wanted her first short story collection to challenge what diverse literature is supposed to be
For more than 10 years, Julie S. Lalonde kept a terrifying secret: she was being stalked by her ex. At 20 years old, Lalonde left an abusive relationship, and he would go on to stalk her for the following decade. While Lalonde rose to national prominence as a women's rights advocate, writer and speaker, she would ask herself the same question at every event, rally or conference: Was he here? Resilience is Futile is about this terrifying experience, and also about how we handle trauma and find the strength to not only survive, but thrive.
Lalonde is a women's rights advocate and public educator. Her writing has appeared on CBC, Wired and Flare. Resilience is Futile is her first book.
Eternity Martis was smart, bookish and excited to go to university. But once she got to campus, life wasn't what she imagined. She was often the only student of colour in classes, at parties and in dorms, and had to face racial slurs, students in blackface at parties and more on a regular basis. They Said This Would Be Fun is a memoir about the difficulty of navigating through white spaces as a student of colour and asks us to confront the systemic issues that define the college experience for racialized and marginalized students.
Martis is a Toronto-based journalist, author and senior editor at Xtra. Her work focuses on issues of race and gender and has been featured in Vice, Salon, Hazlitt, TVO.org, The Walrus, Huffington Post and CBC. They Said This Would Be Fun is her first book.