Traditionally Canadian Literature, or CanLit, has highlighted voices of European settlers, been divided along English versus French lines, and has marginalized voices that make up the mosaic that is Canadian culture and values. Luckily, we've seen a shift in publishing practices over the past few years and have started to see all kinds of stories, experiences, and authors brought to book stores.
This Canada Day I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at books that represent the variety of narratives and incredible creativity that represent the country. I fully acknowledge that, with 13 books, this is only a snapshot of what Canada has to offer, but it can help you dive into narratives and authors you may have never read before (or realized were Canadian!). The more widely we read, the better we get a sense of experiences beyond our own, leading to greater empathy, understanding, and the ability to converse with others in a sensitive way. Specifically, it is important that we are having conversations about what we consider Canadian canon and, not only what we are teaching in the classroom, but how we are talking about a variety of Canadian experiences.
Telling stories, passing them on from one generation to the next, is how we can understand the history of a country—and Canada is no exception. Below are a number of stories to reflect the Canadian experience: from the #MeToo movement in Canada's legal system to confronting our history by reading first-hand accounts of residential schools; from turn of the century small towns to science fiction futures. The list below not only includes a variety of backgrounds but genres as well.
A 'Staple' Novel: Anne of Green Gables (1908) by L. M. Montgomery.
A Must Read Non-Fiction: The Education of Augie Merasty (2017) by Joseph Auguste (Augie) Merasty.
A Small-Town Snapshot: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) by Stephen Leacock.
Something *other* than Handmaids Tale by Atwood: Lady Oracle (1976) by Margaret Atwood.
A Feminist Must-Read: Had It Coming (2019) by Robin Doolittle.
A Celebration of Indigenous Tradition: Green Grass, Running Water (1993) by Thomas King.
A Literary Example: Lives of Girls and Women (1971) by Alice Munroe.
A French Must-Read: Bonheur d’occasion (1945) by Gabrielle Roy.
About (some of) the Immigrant Experience: How to Pronounce Knife (2020) by Souvankham Thammavongsa.
A Great Children’s Read: The Paper Bag Princess (1980) by Robert Munsch.
A Woman-Loving-Woman Novella: This is How You Lose the Time War (2019) by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.
An Award Winner: The English Patient (1992) by Michael Ondaatje.
A YA Novel: The Beautiful Ones (2017) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
I have included the links so you can read the plot synopsis of each book, but this Canada Day why not also support your local bookstore (or even a used book store for some of the older works)! More importantly: what Canadian novel have you read that you would you recommend to others?