Join the Fairfield Community Book Club
Last Monday of every month
Meeting up via Zoom video conferencing. Free & easy to use with your home computer, laptop, ipad or smart phone.
Email event@fairfieldcommunity for the link to join.
Join our skilled volunteer facilitators as they guide participants to deepen our understanding of the issues each book presents.
What kind of books do we read?
- NEW for 2019-2020, as of July 29, 2019: Speaks—whether through fiction, science fiction or non-fiction—to a critical global issue that is affecting us now as Canadians. Provided the book meets this criterion, it may be by an author from any country.
- Contributes to (deepens and expands) our cultural understanding of this country: First Nations and Metis experiences, the diaspora from many countries, other immigrants and their descendants, other often-marginalized voices in our country
- Principally, though not solely, works of fiction written by a Canadian author
- Global issues
- Rooted in social history, preferentially, meaning works richly based on an author’s lived experience (e.g. works by First Nations or Metis authors vs. books about FN or Metis culture—also without intention to read only books that are by FN and/or Metis authors)
- Ability to access the book through multiple media (e.g., paper, ebook, audio book) and at various price points (e.g., library copies, used, paperback, hardcover)
Note: The criteria are as dynamic as our book club—and open for amendment. We encourage you to bring any books you believe are suitable!
Reading options before the event
To read the book before the meeting, you have different options available: borrow them at the library, at the FGCA, or buying them. To reduce the impact on the environment, we prioritize books that are available at the library. You can also borrow the current and next month’s book at the front desk of the Community Centre. Just after each meeting, Virginie will email you the next books information. Just reply to that email and you will be on the waiting list. You have one week only to read it, as several people usually need that book. For the book that will be read the next month, you can hold it for longer, 2 weeks.
Contact: email@example.com for information on joining the Community Book Club.
APRIL 2021- LITTLE FISH, by Casey Plett
Meeting- April 26th
“How do we think about our past?” asks Wendy in the opening scene of Little Fish. She is having drinks with a small group of close-knit Winnipeg transwomen, musing darkly on the way that they experience age differently than cis folks. This wonder at how to conceive of the past, time, or a life haunts this novel. The morning after that scene at the bar, Wendy wakes up to news of her grandmother’s death. When she heads to the funeral in a small Mennonite town north of the city, an acquaintance of her grandparents calls to give condolences and, without warning, suggests that Wendy’s grandfather might have also been trans. The subsequent weeks deal blow after blow. Through this all, Wendy seeks the possibility of some innate connection of care between transwomen — a care that transcends and transforms time, experience, and context. In a shitty, magical, and rapidly changing world, the novel suggests, maybe all we can rely on is each other, no matter how broken or distant. For those of us outside this experience, this book invites us to witness something important, complex, and tender.
MAY 2021- THE SILENCE, by Karen Lee White
Meeting- May 31st
Set partly in the Yukon, partly in Vancouver, and partly in the world of visions and dreams, Leah Redsky struggles to come to terms with her memories, her past trauma, and her developing identity as a leader and healer. Leah is a Salteaux/Salish woman living in Vancouver who struggles with identity and the difficult intercultural dynamics of having a non-Indigenous boyfriend and working for the government. Often conflicted, at odds with her past and current life, things unravel and she suffers a breakdown—the unexpected life twist that is the key to coming to terms with her past.
JUNE 2021- CHOP SUEY NATION, The Legion Café and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants, by Ann Hui
Meeting: June 28th
In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada, from Victoria to Fogo Island, to write
about small town Chinese restaurants and the families who run them. These restaurants are not
disappearing. Newcomers are still arriving in Canada and still moving to small towns to open Chinese
restaurants. Just about every town across the country has its own Chinese restaurant according to
some estimates, more Chinese restaurants than all fast-food restaurants combined.
JULY 2021- FROM THE ASHES, My story of being Métis, Homeless and Finding My Way”, by Jesse Thristle
Meeting- July 26th
A memoir of hope and resilience by a high school dropout who is now a rising Indigenous scholar, this
book was the Globe and Mail Book of the Year (and a finalist in CBC Canada Reads). A story of
survival through sheer perseverance and education, it tells of parental abandonment, the foster system,
care by grandparents, and life on the streets. It is a heart-wrenching exploration of prejudice and racism
and, in the end, a tale of how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.
AUGUST 2021- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Meeting- August 30th
A best-selling non-fiction book published in 2013 that is about botany as seen through Native American
traditions and Western scientific traditions. Wrote Richard Powers, of “The Overstory” fame, “I give
daily thanks to Robin Wall Kimmerer for being a font of endless knowledge, both mental and spiritual.”
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her review: “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as
it is historical, as clever as it is wise.”
MARCH 2021- Earle St, by Arleene Pare
Meeting: March 29th
A lyrical collection focussing on a specific street and on a particular tree growing there, Earle Street, by Governor General’s Award winner Arleen Paré, takes the concept of street and urban living, the houses on the street, the neighbours, the boulevard trees and wildlife, and the street’s history as a poetic focal point. The book is divided into four sections, each of which differently considers the poet’s home street – as a river, as an arboretum, as a window, and finally as a whole world – resulting in an extended meditation on place, community, and lesbian domesticity that is at once poetic and philosophical. “Start from the inside,” Paré writes, “as though organic, as though building from inside a seed.” Here is the macrocosm reflected, examined, and refracted through the microcosm of a single, quiet neighbourhood street. Goodreads.com
FEBRUARY 2021- RAGGED COMPANY by Richard Wagamese (2008)
Meeting: February 22nd
Four chronically homeless people—Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger—seek refuge in a warm movie theatre when a severe Arctic Front descends on the city. During what is supposed to be a one-time event, this temporary refuge transfixes them. They fall in love with this new world, and once the weather clears, continue their trips to the cinemas. On one of these outings they meet Granite, a jaded and lonely journalist who has turned his back on writing “the same story over and over again” in favour of the escapist qualities of film. An unlikely friendship is struck. Ragged Company is a journey into both the future and the past. Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese deeply explores the nature of the comforts these friends find in their ideas of “home,” as he reconnects them to their histories.
JANUARY 2021 — “THE TESTAMENT”, by Margaret Atwood
Meeting on January 25th
More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of
Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial
moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of
these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless
accumulation and deployment of secrets.
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is
forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.
DECEMBER 2020: “Noopiming, the cure for white ladies”, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
+ Listen to Noopiming Sessions (contact us for the link)
Meeting on Monday, December 14th
Award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with a bold reimagination of the novel, one that combines narrative and poetic fragments through a careful and fierce reclamation of Anishinaabe aesthetics.
Mashkawaji (they/them) lies frozen in the ice, remembering a long-ago time of hopeless connection and now finding freedom and solace in isolated suspension. They introduce us to the seven main characters: Akiwenzii, the old man who represents the narrator”s will; Ninaatig, the maple tree who represents their lungs; Mindimooyenh, the old woman who represents their conscience; Sabe, the giant who represents their marrow; Adik, the caribou who represents their nervous system; Asin, the human who represents their eyes and ears; and Lucy, the human who represents their brain. Each attempts to commune with the unnatural urban-settler world, a world of SpongeBob Band-Aids, Ziploc baggies, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks, and coffee mugs emblazoned with institutional logos. And each searches out the natural world, only to discover those pockets that still exist are owned, contained, counted, and consumed. Cut off from nature, the characters are cut off from their natural selves.
NOVEMBER 2020 – “A mind spread on the ground”; by Indigenous writer Alicia Elliott
Meeting on Zoom- November 30th
Elliott engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, writing and representation. A personal and critical meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America. In a work that asks essential questions about Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language—both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones without turning them into their sickness? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism? A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is Alicia Elliott’s attempt to answer these questions and more? Elliott makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political—from overcoming a years-long history with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft dinner to how systematic oppression is linked to depression in Native communities. With deep consideration and searing prose, Alicia Elliott extends far beyond her own experiences to provide a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present, and a powerful tool for a better future.
OCTOBER 2020 — “HOW TO BE AN ANTI-RACIST” by Ibram X. Kendi
Meeting on Monday, October 26th, 2020
it.” Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of anti racism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice
in America — but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about
ourselves and each other. He asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how
we can play an active role in building it.“
SEPTEMBER 2020 — “THE BOOK OF NEGROES” by Laurence Hill
Meeting on Monday, September 28th, 2020
world hostile to her colour and her sex. Abducted as an eleven-year-old child from her village in
West Africa and put to work on an indigo plantation on the sea islands of South Carolina, Aminata
survives by using midwifery skills learned at her mother’s side, and by drawing on a strength of character
inherited from both parents. Eventually, she has the chance to register her name in the “Book of
Negroes,” a historic British military ledger allowing 3,000 Black Loyalists passage on ships sailing from
Manhathan to Nova Scotia.
This remarkable novel transports the reader from an African village to a plantation in the southern
United States, and from a soured refuge in Nova Scotia to the coast of Sierra Leone, in a back-to-Africa
odyssey of 1,200 former slaves. Bringing vividly to life one of the strongest female characters in recent
fiction, Lawrence Hill’s remarkable novel has become a Canadian classic.
AUGUST 2020 — “TRANSLATED FROM THE GIBBERISH” by Anosh Irani
July 2020 — “BLACK WRITERS MATTER”
an anthology of Canadian (black) writers, edited by Whitney French
Ellen in Pieces
by Caroline Adderson:
Meeting: June 29th, 2020
Email us to receive the ZOOM link shortly before the meeting. We will be discussing: Three-time CBC Literary Prize finalist Caroline Adderson challenged herself to write a novel that looks like a novel, and reads like one, but is actually a series of standalone short stories, nesting together like Russian dolls. Adderson gives us a midlife portrait of Ellen McGinty, a divorced former publicist who sells the Vancouver home where she raised her two daughters to bankroll a second career as an artist. In this witty, compelling and genre-bending novel, a single mother navigates the loves, lusts and losses of middle age to arrive at a bittersweet contentment. Ellen McGinty is sexy, impulsive, loud-mouthed, chock full of regrets—who recovers from regret.
The Uninhabitable Earth: life after warming
by David Wallace-Wells
Meeting: May 25th, 2020
In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await–food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today. Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation.
A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki
Meeting: February 24th, 2020
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.
Girls Burn Brighter
By Shobha Rao
Meeting: January 27th, 2020
A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.
When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima’s father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.
In breathtaking prose, Shobha Rao tackles the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism. At once a propulsive page-turner and a heart-wrenching meditation on friendship, Rao’s debut novel is a literary tour de force.
Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age
By Darrel J. McLeod
Meeting: November 25th, 2019
A powerful story of resilience—a must-read for all Canadians.
Growing up in the tiny village of Smith, Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod was surrounded by his Cree family’s history. In shifting and unpredictable stories, his mother, Bertha, shared narratives of their culture, their family and the cruelty that she and her sisters endured in residential school. McLeod was comforted by her presence and that of his many siblings and cousins, the smells of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, and his deep love of the landscape. Bertha taught him to be fiercely proud of his heritage and to listen to the birds that would return to watch over and guide him at key junctures of his life.
However, in a spiral of events, Darrel’s mother turned wild and unstable, and their home life became chaotic. Sweet and innocent by nature, Darrel struggled to maintain his grades and pursue an interest in music while changing homes many times, witnessing violence, caring for his younger siblings and suffering abuse at the hands of his surrogate father. Meanwhile, his sibling’s gender transition provoked Darrel to deeply question his own sexual identity.
The fractured narrative of Mamaskatch mirrors Bertha’s attempts to reckon with the trauma and abuse she faced in her own life, and captures an intensely moving portrait of a family of strong personalities, deep ties and the shared history that both binds and haunts them.
Beautifully written, honest and thought-provoking, Mamaskatch—named for the Cree word used as a response to dreams shared—is ultimately an uplifting account of overcoming personal and societal obstacles. In spite of the traumas of Darrel’s childhood, deep and mysterious forces handed down by his mother helped him survive and thrive: her love and strength stayed with him to build the foundation of what would come to be a very fulfilling and adventurous life.
A Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage
By Bill Gaston
Meeting: October 28th, 2019
A Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage is populated by the lonely and alienated, holders of secrets, members (or would-be members) of shadowy organizations, screw-ups, joyriders and runaways. Architects of their own destruction, Gaston’s characters provoke an almost mythic response of simultaneous disbelief and recognition, as they painfully, deliberately, stubbornly carve a path for themselves, questioning every turn. Yet somehow, in spite of themselves, they sometimes manage to stumble into peace and even wisdom. This set of ten cautionary tales showcases Gaston’s range and narrative versatility, moving seamlessly from the funny to the poignant to the surprising and absurd.
Tomboy Survival Guide
By Ivan Coyote
Meeting: September 30th, 2019
Tomboy Survival Guide is a funny and moving memoir told in stories, in which Ivan recounts the pleasures and difficulties of growing up a tomboy in Canada’s Yukon, and how they learned to embrace their tomboy past while carving out a space for those of us who don’t fit neatly into boxes or identities or labels.
Ivan writes movingly about many firsts: the first time they were mistaken for a boy; the first time they purposely discarded their bikini top so they could join the boys at the local swimming pool; and the first time they were chastised for using the women’s washroom. Ivan also explores their years as a young butch, dealing with new infatuations and old baggage, and life as a gender-box-defying adult, in which they offer advice to young people while seeking guidance from others. (And for tomboys in training, there are even directions on building your very own unicorn trap.)
Tomboy Survival Guide warmly recounts Ivan’s adventures and mishaps as a diffident yet free-spirited tomboy, and maps their journey through treacherous gender landscapes and a maze of labels that don’t quite stick, to a place of self-acceptance and an authentic and personal strength. These heartfelt, funny, and moving stories are about the culture of difference—a “guide” to being true to one’s self.
Love From A to Z
By SK Ali
Meeting: August 26th, 2019
When Zayneb gets suspended for standing up to a xenophobic teacher, she’s sent to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar for an early spring break. She ends up meeting Adam, a teenager trying to hide his multiple sclerosis diagnosis from his grieving father.
The Dark and Other Love Stories
By Deborah Willis
Meeting: July 29th, 2019
The characters in these thirteen masterful and engaging stories exist on the edge of danger, where landscapes melt into dreamscapes and every house is haunted. A drug dealer’s girlfriend signs up for the first manned mission to Mars. A girl falls in love with a man who wants to turn her into a bird. A teenage girl and her best friend test their relationship by breaking into suburban houses. A wife finds a gaping hole in the floor of the home she shares with her husband, a hole that only she can see. Full of longing and strange humour, these subtle, complex stories—about the love between a man and his pet crow, an alcoholic and his AA sponsor, a mute migrant and a newspaper reporter—show how love ties us to one another and to the world.
Homes: A Refugee Story
By Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah
Meeting: June 24th, 2019
In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria — just before the Syrian civil war broke out.
Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy — soccer, cousins, video games, friends.
Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone — and found safety in Canada — with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria.
Forgiveness: A Gift from My Grandparents
By Mark Sakamoto
Meeting: May 27th
When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean chose to escape his troubled life on the Magdalen Islands in eastern Canada and volunteer to serve his country overseas. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Mitsue Sakamoto saw her family and her stable community torn apart after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Like many young Canadian soldiers, Ralph was captured by the Japanese army. He would spend the war in prison camps, enduring pestilence, beatings and starvation, as well as a journey by hell ship to Japan to perform slave labour, while around him his friends and countrymen perished. Back in Canada, Mitsue and her family were expelled from their home by the government and forced to spend years eking out an existence in rural Alberta, working other people’s land for a dollar a day.
By the end of the war, Ralph emerged broken but a survivor. Mitsue, worn down by years of back-breaking labour, had to start all over again in Medicine Hat, Alberta. A generation later, at a high school dance, Ralph’s daughter and Mitsue’s son fell in love.
Although the war toyed with Ralph’s and Mitsue’s lives and threatened to erase their humanity, these two brave individuals somehow surmounted enormous transgressions and learned to forgive. Without this forgiveness, their grandson Mark Sakamoto would never have come to be.
A Place for Us
By Fatima Farheen Mirza
Meeting: April 29th
A Place for Us’ unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding. This is also the day that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.
The Measure of My Powers
By Jackie Kai Ellis
Meeting March 25th
On the surface, Jackie Kai Ellis’s life was the one that she and every woman wanted. She was in her late twenties and married to a handsome man, she had a successful career as a designer, and she had a beautiful home. But instead of feeling fulfilled, happy, and loved, each morning she’d wake up dreading the day ahead, searching for a way out. Depression clouded every moment, the feelings of inadequacy that had begun in childhood now consumed her, and her marriage was slowly transforming into one between strangers–unfamiliar, childless, and empty. In the darkness, she could only find one source of light: the kitchen. It was the place where Jackie escaped, finding peace, comfort, and acceptance.
This is the story of one woman’s journey to find herself. Armed with nothing but a love of food and the words of the 20th-century food writer M.F.K. Fisher, she travels from France to Italy, then the Congo, and back again. Along the way, she goes to pastry school in Paris, eats the most perfect apricots over the Tuscan hills, watches a family of gorillas grazing deep in the Congolese brush, has her heart broken one last time on a bridge in Lyon, and, ultimately, finds a path to life and joy.
Told with insight and intimacy, and radiating with warmth and humor, The Measure of My Powers is an inspiring memoir, and an unforgettable experience of the senses.
All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir
By Elizabeth Hay
Meeting February 25th
Jean and Gordon Hay were a colourful, formidable pair. Jean, a late-blooming artist with a marvellous sense of humour, was superlatively frugal; nothing got wasted, not even maggoty soup. Gordon was a proud and ambitious schoolteacher with a terrifying temper, a deep streak of melancholy, and a devotion to flowers, cars, words, and his wife. As old age collides with the tragedy of living too long, these once ferociously independent parents become
increasingly dependent on Lizzie, the so-called difficult child. By looking after them in their final decline, she hopes to prove that she can be a good daughter after all.
In this courageous memoir, written with tough-minded candour, tenderness, and wit, Elizabeth Hay lays bare the exquisite agony of a family’s dynamics–entrenched favouritism, sibling rivalries, grievances that last for decades, genuine admiration, and enduring love. In the end, she reaches a more complete understanding of the most
unforgettable characters she will ever know, the vivid giants in her life who were her parents.
This Accident of Being Lost
By Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Meeting January 28th 6:30-8:30
This Accident of Being Lost is the knife-sharp new collection of stories and songs from award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. These visionary pieces build upon Simpson’s powerful use of the fragment as a tool for intervention in her critically acclaimed collection Islands of Decolonial Love. Provocateur and poet, she continually rebirths a decolonized reality, one that circles in and out of time and resists dominant narratives or comfortable categorization. A crow watches over a deer addicted to road salt; Lake Ontario floods Toronto to remake the world while texting “ARE THEY GETTING IT?”; lovers visit the last remaining corner of the boreal forest; three comrades guerrilla-tap maples in an upper middle-class neighbourhood; and Kwe gets her firearms license in rural Ontario. Blending elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction, contemporary realism, and the lyric voice, This Accident of Being Lost burns with a quiet intensity, like a campfire in your backyard, challenging you to reconsider the world you thought you knew.
A Hero’s Walk
By Anita Rau Badami
Meeting November 26th, 2018 at 6:30-8:30
After the release of Anita Rau Badami’s critically acclaimed first novel, Tamarind Mem, it was evident a promising new talent had joined the Canadian literary community. Her dazzling literary follow-up is The Hero’s Walk, a novel teeming with the author’s trademark tumble of the haphazard beauty, wreckage and folly of ordinary lives. Set in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero’s Walk traces the terrain of family and forgiveness through the lives of an exuberant cast of characters bewildered by the rapid pace of change in today’s India. Each member of the Rao family pits his or her chance at personal fulfillment against the conventions of a crumbling caste and class system. Anita Rau Badami explains that “The Hero’s Walk is a novel about so many things: loss, disappointment, choices and the importance of coming to terms with yourself and the circumstances of your life without losing the dignity embedded in all of us. At one level it is about heroism – not the hero of the classic epic, those enormous god-sized heroes – but my fascination with the day-to-day heroes and the heroism that’s needed to survive all the unexpected disasters and pitfalls of life.”
By Miriam Toews
Meeting October 29th, 2019 6:30-8:30 pm
The sun rises on a quiet June morning in 2009. August Epp sits alone in the hayloft of a barn, anxiously bent over his notebook. He writes quickly, aware that his solitude will soon be broken. Eight women–ordinary grandmothers, mothers and teenagers; yet to August, each one extraordinary– will climb the ladder into the loft, and the day’s true task will begin. This task will be both simple and subversive: August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation.
Thus begins Miriam Toews’ spellbinding novel. Gradually, as we hear the women’s vivid voices console, tease, admonish, regale and debate each other, we piece together the reason for the gathering: they have forty-eight hours to make a life-altering choice on behalf of all the women and children in the colony. And like a vast night sky coming into view behind the bright sparks of their voices, we learn of the devastating events that have led to this moment.
Acerbic, funny, tender, sorrowful and wise, Women Talking is composed of equal parts humane love and deep anger. It is award-winning writer Miriam Toews’ most astonishing novel to date, containing within its two short days and hayloft setting an expansive, timeless universe of thinking and feeling about women–and men–in our contemporary world.
Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City
By Tanya Talaga
Meeting September 24th, 2018 6:30 p.m.
In 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied.
More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the minus twenty degrees Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau’s grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang’s. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie’s death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water.
Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.
By MG Vassanji
Meeting August 27th, 2018 6:30 p.m.
In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.
One Day We’ll All be Dead and None of this Will Matter
By Scaachi Koul
Meeting July 30th, 2018 6:30 p.m.
In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi Koul deploys her razor sharp humor to share all the fears, outrages, and mortifying moments of her life. She learned from an early age what made her miserable, and for Scaachi anything can be cause for despair. Whether it’s a shopping trip gone awry; enduring awkward conversations with her bikini waxer; overcoming her fear of flying while vacationing halfway around the world; dealing with internet trolls, or navigating the fears and anxieties of her parents. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of color, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision, or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, leaving little room for a woman not solely focused on marriage and children to have a career (and a life) for herself.
Gorgeous twins Nouschka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on St. Laurent Boulevard. They are hopelessly promiscuous, wildly funny, and infectiously charming. On the eve of their twentieth birthday, the twins’ self-destructive shenanigans catch up with them when Nouschka agrees to be beauty queen in the local St. Jean Baptiste Day parade. The media spotlight returns, and the attention of a relentless journalist exposes the cracks in the family’s relationships. With all the wit and poignancy that made Baby such a beloved character in “Lullabies for Little Criminals,” O’Neill writes of an unusual family and what binds them together and tears them apart.
Where I Live Now
By Sharon Butala
Meeting May 28th, 2018 6:30 p.m.
When Sharon Butala’s husband, Peter, died unexpectedly, she found herself with no place to call home. Torn by grief and loss, she fled the ranchlands of southwest Saskatchewan and moved to the city, leaving almost everything behind. A lifetime of possessions was reduced to a few boxes of books, clothes, and keepsakes. But a lifetime of experience went with her, and a limitless well of memory—of personal failures, of a marriage that everybody said would not last but did, of the unbreakable bonds of family.
Often called one of this country’s true visionaries, Sharon Butala shares her insights into the grieving process and reveals the small triumphs and funny moments that kept her going. Where I Live Now is profound in its understanding of the many homes women must build for themselves in a lifetime.
With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home. Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who’s often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he’s also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can’t rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby) — and now she’s dead. Jared can’t count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can’t rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only 16, but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family’s life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat… and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he’s the son of a trickster, that he isn’t human. Mind you, ravens speak to him — even when he’s not stoned.
Bad Endings: Stories
By Carleigh Baker
Meeting: Monday Feb. 26th, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
Native American Studies. Finalist for the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award. Carleigh Baker likes to make light in the dark. Whether plumbing family ties, the end of a marriage, or death itself, she never lets go of the witty, the ironic, and perhaps most notably, the awkward. Despite the title, the resolution in these stories isn’t always tragic, but it’s often uncomfortable, unexpected, or just plain strange. Character digressions, bad decisions, and misconceptions abound. While steadfastly local in her choice of setting, Baker’s deep appreciation for nature takes a lot of these stories out of Vancouver and into the wild. Salmon and bees play reoccurring roles in these tales, as do rivers. Occasionally, characters blend with their animal counterparts, adding a touch of magic realism. Nature is a place of escape and attempted convalescence for characters suffering from urban burnout. Even if things get weird along the way, as Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’ In BAD ENDINGS, Baker takes troubled characters to a moment of realization or self-revelation, but the results aren’t always pretty.
Next Year, For Sure
By Zoey Leigh Peterson
Meeting: Monday, January 29th, 2018 at 6:30pm
After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris are used to helping each other through every daily and existential dilemma. When Chris tells Kathryn about his feelings for Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the Laundromat, Kathryn encourages her boyfriend to pursue this other woman-certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather a little side dalliance. When Chris’s romance with Emily grows beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily’s communal home, where Kathryn will discover new romantic possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, both Kathryn and Chris will be forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love.