2020 Reading List

This year’s official festival bookseller will be New Liskeard’s independent bookstore Chat Noir.

A Matter Of Will by Rod Carley

Will Crosswell’s decision to pursue acting shattered his father’s dream of him being a useful adult. When we first meet the young Will he is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. But in the ensuing years, from relationships to the theatre, his life has become one shipwreck after another. Dumped by his fiancée and desperate to pay the rent, he finds himself taking a job on the bottom rung of the Great Chain of Being – a telemarketer. The satire becomes serious when Will hits rock bottom. After a life-altering AA encounter with an unconventional minister, Will enrolls in divinity school and has to survive his most challenging escapade yet – a forty-day fast in a Newfoundland outport in the middle of the frozen winter. As he struggles to keep from freezing and starving to death, he is confronted by a series of strange events, not the least of which is an encounter with Billy Blight, a bigger-than-life Newfoundlander headed for perdition. Funny, surprising, outrageous, and moving, A Matter of Will is the tale of a middle-age maybe minister and his journey to find a mighty purpose.

A World of Mindfulness by Erin Alladin

I am here. I know who I am. I breathe in the smell of sun-warmed grass and it fills my lungs with energy.  

 

Parents, educators, and health practitioners everywhere are recognizing the importance of mindfulness practice, particularly for children. Meditation and yoga are becoming common activities in kindergarten classes and beyond. Taking time to be still and pay attention to their thoughts and bodies helps kids feel calm, focused, and in control. In A World of Mindfulness, meditative text reflects on the sensory ways children experience life, from the feeling of their muscles when they run…to the sound of a turning page…to the memory-laden taste of fresh-baked cookies. Positive and negative emotions are alike acknowledged and affirmed, and a strong sense of self is reinforced. 

 

Richly illustrated by fourteen artists will all-new original art, A World of Mindfulness will create its own quiet moments as children revisit its lavish pages. A closing note about mindfulness practice rounds out this picture book, making it a helpful resource for homes, classrooms, and beyond.

 

An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton

An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton confronts us with beauty and ugliness in the wholesome riot that is sex, love, and marriage. From the perspective of a mixed-race woman, Kirton engages with Simone de Beauvoir and Donald Trump to unravel the norms of femininity and sexuality that continue to adhere today.

Kirton recalls her own upbringing, during which she was told to find a good husband who would “make an honest woman” out of her. Exploring the lives of many women, including her mother, her contemporaries, and well-known sex-crime stories such as the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, Kirton mines the personal to loosen the grip of patriarchal and colonial impositions.

An Honest Woman explores the many ways the female body is shaped by questions that have been too political to ask: What happens when a woman decides to take her sexuality into her own hands, dismissing cultural norms and the expectations of her parents? How is a young woman’s sexuality influenced when she is perceived as an “exotic” other? Can a woman reconnect with her Indigenous community by choosing Indigenous lovers?

Daring and tender in their honesty and wisdom, these poems challenge the perception of women’s bodies as glamorous and marketable commodities and imagine an embodied female experience that accommodates the role of creativity and a nurturing relationship with the land.

Daisy Chained by Vera Constantneau

This collection is a gathering of odd situations, odd happenings and some everyday situations which we often only see from our own perspective. The Kid Says might make you wonder, did Jade grow up to sell real estate? Did Paige, in Paige and the Bug, grow out of her phobia? And what of the women of Daisy Chained, Due East, and Call Me Baby? What of the men in The Steps You Take, Betting on Death, and The Forever Guys? Some in these stories may seem to have made the easy choice, while others have made the hard choice. The answers within may not always be the expected, but then, life is full of contradictions. I hope you find a story that moves you..

Daughters of Silence by Rebecca Fisseha

Ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano fills the skies. Flights are grounded throughout Europe. Dessie, a cosmopolitan flight attendant from Canada, finds herself stranded in Addis Ababa — her birth place.

Grieving her mother’s recent death, Dessie heads to see her grandfather, the Shaleqa — compelled as much by duty as her own will. But Dessie’s conflicted past stands in her way. Just as the volcano’s eruption disordered Dessie’s work life, so too does her mother’s death cause seismic disruptions in the fine balance of self-deceptions and false histories that uphold her family.

As Dessie reacquaints herself with her grandfather’s house, familiar yet strangely alien to her diasporic sensibilities, she pieces together the family secrets: the trauma of dictatorship and civil war, the shame of unwed motherhood, the abuse met with silence that gives shape to the mystery of her mother’s life.

Reminiscent of the deeply immersive writing of Taiye Selasi and Arundhati Roy, Rebecca Fisseha’s Daughters of Silence is psychologically astute and buoyed both by metaphor and by the vibrant colours of Ethiopia. It’s an impressive debut.

Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight

From Vancouver-based writer Chelene Knight, Dear Current Occupant is a creative non-fiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Using a variety of forms, Knight reflects on her childhood through a series of letters addressed to all of the current occupants now living in the twenty different houses she moved in and out of with her mother and brother. From blurry non-chronological memories of trying to fit in with her own family as the only mixed East Indian/Black child, to crystal clear recollections of parental drug use, Knight draws a vivid portrait of memory that still longs for a place and a home.

Peering through windows and doors into intimate, remembered spaces now occupied by strangers, Knight writes to them in order to deconstruct her own past. From the rubble of memory she then builds a real place in order to bring herself back home.

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, And Making Space by Amanda Leduc

Fairy tales shape how we see the world, so what happens when you identify more with the Beast than Beauty?

If every disabled character is mocked and mistreated, how does the Beast ever imagine a happily-ever-after? Amanda Leduc looks at fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to Disney, showing us how they influence our expectations and behaviour and linking the quest for disability rights to new kinds of stories that celebrate difference.

Dominoes at the Crossroads: Short Stories  by Kaie Kellough

In Dominoes at the Crossroads Kaie Kellough maps an alternate nation–one populated by Caribbean Canadians who hopscotch across the country. The characters navigate race, class, and coming-of-age. Seeking opportunity, some fade into the world around them, even as their minds hitchhike, dream, and soar. Some appear in different times and hemispheres, whether as student radicals, secret agents, historians, fugitive slaves, or jazz musicians.

From the cobblestones of Montreal’s Old Port through the foliage of a South American rainforest; from a basement in wartime Paris to a metro in Montréal during the October Crisis; Kellough’s fierce imagination reconciles the personal and ancestral experience with the present moment, grappling with the abiding feeling of being elsewhere, even when here.

I Overcame My Autism And All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder: A Memoir by Sarah Kurchak

Kurchak examines the Byzantine steps she took to become “an autistic success story,” how the process almost ruined her life and how she is now trying to recover.

Growing up undiagnosed in small-town Ontario in the eighties and nineties, Kurchak realized early that she was somehow different from her peers. She discovered an effective strategy to fend off bullying: she consciously altered nearly everything about herself—from her personality to her body language. She forced herself to wear the denim jeans that felt like being enclosed in a sandpaper iron maiden. Every day, she dragged herself through the door with an elevated pulse and a churning stomach, nearly crumbling under the effort of the performance. By the time she was finally diagnosed with autism at twenty-seven, she struggled with depression and anxiety largely caused by the same strategy she had mastered precisely. She came to wonder, were all those years of intensely pretending to be someone else really worth it?

Tackling everything from autism parenting culture to love, sex, alcohol, obsessions and professional pillow fighting, Kurchak’s enlightening memoir challenges stereotypes and preconceptions about autism and considers what might really make the lives of autistic people healthier, happier and more fulfilling.

Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Tania Carter and Columpa Bobb

Hope Matters, written by multiple award-winner Lee Maracle, in collaboration with her daughters Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter, focuses on the journey of Indigenous people from colonial beginnings to reconciliation.

Maracle states that the book, “is also about the journey of myself and my two daughters.” During their youth, Bobb and Carter wrote poetry with their mother, and eventually, they all decided that one day they would write a book together. This book is the result of that dream.

Written collaboratively by all three women, the poems in Hope Matters blend their voices together into a shared song of hope and reconciliation.

If Tenderness Be Gold by Eleanor Albanese

If Tenderness Be Gold is set in 19th-century and early 20th-century northern Ontario and Manitoba. An Irish mother, an Italian herbalist, and a Scottish midwife come together on the night of a difficult birth, and the result of their union has effects that echo through the generations.

Mad Dog by Dave Wickenden

Fourteen-year-old Daniel and his friends enjoyed the best that childhood could offer during the summer of 1975 in a northern mining town until someone started brutally killing family pets. Daniel, who wants nothing more than be the hero from his books, convinces his friends to help search for the ‘sicko’, but this only brings him to the attention of the killer. When evidence surfaces that points at Daniel as the killer and his two friends turn against him, he soon realizes that there is much more to being a hero than what he has read. Running away from home, he enlists two seniors and a neighborhood bully to help trap the real killer.

Moon of the Crusted Snow: A Novel By Waubgeshig Rice

With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow.

The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision.

Blending action and allegory, Moon of the Crusted Snow upends our expectations. Out of catastrophe comes resilience. And as one society collapses, another is reborn.

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

Here’s the set up: A burnt-out political aide quits just before an election–but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock–an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers–to let his name stand in the election. No need to campaign, certain to lose, and so on.

Then a great scandal blows away his opponent, and to their horror, Angus is elected. He decides to see what good an honest M.P. who doesn’t care about being re-elected can do in Parliament. The results are hilarious–and with chess, a hovercraft, and the love of a good woman thrown in, this very funny book has something for everyone.

The Clothesline Swing by Danny Ramadan

The Clothesline Swing is a journey through the troublesome aftermath of the Arab Spring. A former Syrian refugee himself, Ramadan unveils an enthralling tale of courage that weaves through the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, the encircling seas of Turkey, the heat of Egypt and finally, the hope of a new home in Canada.

Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, The Clothesline Swing tells the epic story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. One is a Hakawati, a storyteller, keeping life in forward motion by relaying remembered fables to his dying partner. Each night he weaves stories of his childhood in Damascus, of the cruelty he has endured for his sexuality, of leaving home, of war, of his fated meeting with his lover. Meanwhile Death himself, in his dark cloak, shares the house with the two men, eavesdropping on their secrets as he awaits their final undoing.

The Oppenheimer Alternative by Robert J. Sawyer

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,” physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer famously exclaimed when the first atomic bomb exploded in 1945. His Manhattan Project gathered the greatest scientists ever assembled, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi.

In this meticulously researched, fast-paced thriller, Sawyer keeps those geniuses together after the war in hopes of redeeming themselves and saving our planet from an environmental catastrophe. If they succeed, they will be able to declare, “Now we are become life, the saviors of the world.”

The Oppenheimer Alternative will delight Sawyer’s traditional science-fiction fans as well as history buffs, those who enjoy scientific biographies, and mainstream readers.

The Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart: A Memoir in Halves by Madhur Anand

An experimental memoir about Partition, immigration, and generational storytelling, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart weaves together the poetry of memory with the science of embodied trauma, using the imagined voices of the past and the vital authority of the present.

We begin with a man off balance: one in one thousand, the only child in town whose polio leads to partial paralysis. We meet his future wife, chanting Hai Rams for Gandhiji and choosing education over marriage. On one side of the line that divides this book, we follow them as their homeland splits in two and they are drawn together, moving to Canada and raising their children in mining towns and in crowded city apartments. And when we turn the book over, we find the daughter”s tale—we see how the rupture of Partition, the asymmetry of a father”s leg, the virus of a mother”s rage, makes its way to the next generation.

Told through the lenses of biology, physics, history and poetry, this is a memoir that defies form and convention to immerse the reader in the feeling of what remains when we’ve heard as much of the truth as our families will allow, and we”re left to search for ourselves among the pieces they’ve carried with them.

The Wintermen by Brit Griffin (Series)

The Wintermen is a near-future western, with snow machines riding into town and a showdown in the snow. Johnny Slaught and his Algonquin buddy Chumboy Commando didn’t set out to lead one of the most notorious bands of rebels in recent history. But after the world descended into climate change chaos, the government did some serious triage, forcing wide-scale evacuations and abandoning rural areas to the non-stop snow. Soon enough, Slaught is forced by circumstance to stand up the the muscle of TALOS Security Corporation, setting in motion a rebellion of average folks fighting to rebuild their lives in the abandoned snowscape of the northland. Can a mixture of scrap snow-machines, gasoline and the military wisdom of subcommander Marcos be enough to let them rebuild their lives?

Things Worth Burying by Matt Mayr

As a third generation logger, a life in the bush is all Joe Adler has ever known. He works, he hunts; he provides. But when a man dies on his watch, and his wife abandons their young family for writing school in Toronto, Joe must face the consequences of his hard-living ways.

Left alone to care for his seven year old daughter, he enlists the help of Jenny Lacroix, the wife of the man whose death he might be responsible for. Resentful and angry, and his conscience over Jenny?s husband far from clear, Joe threatens to spiral down the path of fury, booze, and violence that did his father in. What follows is a stunning tale of love and redemption, hatred and forgiveness, set amid the desolate cutovers, crystalline lakes, and rolling black spruce forests north of Lake Superior, and in a small logging town called Black River, once mighty and now derelict, in its final throes of existence.

Things Worth Burying is a novel set in a region that is rarely written about, the small resource-based communities that exist along the Trans-Canada Highway and its tributaries, from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay, the land north of Superior, a land of miners and loggers living a life in the bush, making ends meet, making do with the rise and fall of market economies that determine so much of their fate. Drawing upon his Northern Ontario upbringing, Mayr brings us a single story pulled from a working-class people who in the face of disappearing jobs and shrinking populations make the difficult choice to stay because the land, the life, is in their blood.

When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith

When We Are Kind celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness and encourages children to explore how they feel when they initiate and receive acts of kindness in their lives.

Celebrated author Monique Gray Smith has written many books on the topics of resilience and reconciliation and communicates an important message through carefully chosen words for readers of all ages. Beautifully illustrated by artist Nicole Neidhardt, this book encourages children to be kind to others and to themselves.