I’ve pulled together a list of a few books by Canadian and Indigenous writers that are not only on my radar, but are on my TBR (to be read) list. Just in time for Canada Day! I hope this inspires you to pick up something different than you normally would. One of the best ways to celebrate Canadian literature is to diversify what you're reading and read stories from writers with all kinds of backgrounds.
Gimme all the Gothic
Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality: Stories by Lindsay Wong
Vanity, love, and tragedy are all candidly explored as the unfulfilled desires of the dead are echoed in the lives of modern-day immigrants. Story-by-story, the line between ghost and human, life and death, becomes increasingly blurred. There's a courtesan from 17th century China who, try as she might, just can't manage to die. Grandmama Wu, who returns from the dead to protect her grandchildren from bullies. Not to mention an Internet-order bride who inadvertently brings the apocalypse to Nebraska City.
From Shanghai to Vancouver, the women in this collection haunt and are haunted—by first loves, troublesome family members, and traumatic memories. Intertwining horror, the supernatural, and mythology, Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality riotously critiques contemporary life and fearlessly illuminates the ways in which the past can devour us.
Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
Night after night, Mackenzie's dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina's untimely death: a weekend at the family's lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt. But when the waking world starts closing in, too, Mackenzie knows this is more than she can handle alone. Traveling north to her rural hometown in Alberta, she finds her family still steeped in the same grief that she ran away to Vancouver to escape. They welcome her back, but their shaky reunion only seems to intensify her dreams—and make them more dangerous. What really happened that night at the lake, and what did it have to do with Sabrina's death? Only a bad Cree would put their family at risk, but what if whatever has been calling Mackenzie home was already inside?
A History of Burning by Janika Oza
At the turn of the twentieth century, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor on the East African Railway for the British. One day Pirbhai commits an act to ensure his survival that will haunt him forever and reverberate across his family's future for years to come.
As Pirbhai's grandchildren, scattered across the world, find their way back to each other in exile in Toronto, a letter arrives that stokes the flames of the fire that haunts the family. It makes each generation question how far they are willing to go, and who they are willing to defy to secure their own place in the world.
The Whispers by Ashley Audrain
The Loverlys sit by the hospital bed of their young son who is in a coma after falling from his bedroom window in the middle of the night; his mother, Whitney, will not speak to anyone. Back home, their friends and neighbors are left in shock, each confronting their own role in the events that led up to what happened that terrible night: the warm, altruistic Parks who are the Loverlys' best friends; the young, ambitious Goldsmiths who are struggling to start a family of their own; and the quiet, elderly Portuguese couple who care for their adult son with a developmental disability, and who pass the long days on the front porch, watching their neighbors go about their busy lives. The story spins out over the course of one week, in the alternating voices of the women in each family as they are forced to face the secrets within the walls of their own homes, and the uncomfortable truths that connect them all to one another.
Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisley
Maggie is fine. She’s doing really good, actually. Sure, she’s broke, her graduate thesis on something obscure is going nowhere, and her marriage only lasted 608 days, but at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Maggie is determined to embrace her new life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée. Now she has time to take up nine hobbies, eat hamburgers at 4 am, and “get back out there” sex-wise. With the support of her tough-loving academic advisor, Merris; her newly divorced friend, Amy; and her group chat (naturally), Maggie barrels through her first year of single life, intermittently dating, occasionally waking up on the floor and asking herself tough questions along the way.
The Librarianist by Patrick de Witt
Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he's known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed. Bob's experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsize players to welcome onto the stage of his life.
And last, but not least…
Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke my Heart by Jen Sookfong Lee
For most of Jen Sookfong Lee's life, pop culture was an escape from family tragedy and a means of fitting in with the larger culture around her. Anne of Green Gables promised her that, despite losing her father at the age of twelve, one day she might still have the loving family of her dreams, and Princess Diana was proof that maybe there was more to being a good girl after all. And yet as Jen grew up, she began to recognize the ways in which pop culture was not made for someone like her—the child of Chinese immigrant parents who looked for safety in the invisibility afforded by embracing model minority myths. Ranging from the unattainable perfection of Gwyneth Paltrow and the father-figure familiarity of Bob Ross, to the long shadow cast by The Joy Luck Club and the life lessons she has learned from Rihanna, Jen weaves together key moments in pop culture with stories of her own failings, longings, and struggles as she navigates the minefields that come with carving her own path as an Asian woman, single mother, and writer.
Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice
Ten years have passed since a widespread blackout triggered the rapid collapse of society, when the constants of the old world—cell service, landlines, satellite and internet—disappeared. Ten long years since the steady supply of food and fuel from the south became a thing of the past.
Book blurbs taken from Goodreads and shortened a bit.