I think all these books except The Shipping News are Canadian. Photo by susanvg.
Happy New Year!
I started 2014 by reading Alice Munro for the first time. While contemplating writing this sentence, I wondered whether I should cringe with shame while typing. Alice Munro, Canadian writer extraordinaire? (I haven’t read Margaret Atwood either.)
This is strange because much of my undergrad time was spent in English/Literature courses. My degree in Creative Writing required hours contemplating the minutia of the Canadian experience. You would think that some of that would mean considering already published Canadian voices. Alas, no.
My brief experience with Canadian literature was in high school, where the majority of the English faculty were stodgily Canadiana-oriented. Students yawned because the chosen texts were ill-chosen. I was way into Southern Gothic by then (Flannery O’Connor! Eudora Welty!) so I pretended not to like what I read in my classes, even going so far as to, after perusing a few chapters of The Diviners, take on Margaret Laurence in a precocious essay. Though I marvel at the fact that I received an A+, I chalk that audacious move of mine to the FOIBLES OF YOUTH.
I did enjoy writing about the Canadian identity, having grown up in a home obsessed with the CBC, where they always seemed to be debating what Canada was, is, will be. I was of those eager to dwell on the “will be” part of the discussions. Hence, the first Canadian writers I read by my own volition were the newer immigrant ones: Rohinton Mistry, followed swiftly by M.G. Vassanji.
But to not have read Munro, Atwood or the other stalwarts of Canadian literature? To have read Mordecai as a child (Jacob Two-Two) and not as an adult?
I feel a shame-tinged hole that widened after almost a year spent abroad, where I longed so much for Canada and its identity-crisis of an identity. I’d never wanted anything more than to return home to the embrace of ice-laden deciduous forests. And libraries.
As there were no libraries in the sandy place I went to live, that was the first public space on Canadian soil my daughter and I went to visit. And now that we’ve been to many in the six months we’ve been back, I think it’s time to turn to what is housed in those libraries in the section filled with red-leafed spines. It’s the year to read Canadian.
I hope to update the blog with reviews celebrating Canadian literature, old and new. New will be first as my current read is The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.
Stay tuned! And if anyone has any must-read Canadian lit suggestions, please post in the comments.