North of the Border

When you think of good things from Canada, what do you think of? Maple syrup? Hockey? Tim Hortons doughnuts? Justin Trudeau?

Do you ever think about Canadian authors? It’s time you did. Here’s a very incomplete sample for you.

Let’s start with Margaret Atwood: novelist, poet, short story writer. Ever since her 1969 debut novel, The Edible Woman, Atwood has been ravishing readers with her prose. Besides her many works of speculative and dystopian fiction, she has published short fiction, non-fiction, fiction for children and teens, two dozen volumes of poetry, and a graphic novel, Angel Catbird. Her 1996 novel, Alias Grace (made into a 2017 Netflix mini-series) won the Giller Prize, Canada’s answer to the National Book Award. Probably best known for A Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood recently announced that she’s penning its sequel, be titled The Testaments.

To say that Alice Munro is renowned for her short stories is to make a massive understatement. Munro is such a master of the genre that in 2013 her stories earned her the Nobel Prize for literature. Munro sold her first story in 1951,“The Stranger,” to the CBC for a radio broadcast. Her first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades came out in 1968 and she’s been publishing stories and assembling collections ever since. The library stocks plenty of her books. You can start anywhere.

Keep an eye on Esi Edugyan. Her excellent novel, Washington Black, won the Giller Prize this year and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Edugyan’s earlier books, Half-Blood Blues (the 2011 Giller Prize winner), and The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, are also worth your consideration.

And seek out Canada’s First Nations writers. Try Thomas King, an American-Canadian raised in California, and start with his Medicine River. Or read Katharena Vermette, whose The Break has been a critical sensation this year. Other First Nations authors to read are Tracy Lindberg (Birdie), Eden Robinson (Monkey Beach) and Joshua Whitehead (Jonny Appleseed).

Canada is a bilingual country. Let’s not neglect her Francophone authors. Try reading Marie-Claire Blais, author of more that fifty works of fiction, poetry, and drama. Her work has been widely translated into English. Dig into titles like Nothing For You Here, Young Man or These Festive Nights. Another Francophone author to get to know is the Haitian-Canadian author and journalist Dany Laferrière. Read The Enigma of the Return or The World is Moving Around Me: a Memoir of the Haiti Earthquake.

Here are a few others. Ruth Ozeki, a terrific writer whose novels feature environmental themes. Read A Tale for the Time Being, My Year of Meats, or All Over Creation. Read Madeleine Thien’s Simple Recipes (short stories), Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016 Giller Prize winner and Booker shortlist), or Dogs at the Perimeter. Or read David Chariandy’s, Brother. And there are so many others, from Mordecai Richler to M.G. Vassanji to Louise Penny to Robertson Davies.

Last but hardly least is the only children’s author on our list, Lucy Maud Montgomery. She’s beloved by generations for her Anne of Green Gables books, translated into 36 languages, and subject of for film, television, and the musical stage. Best known for her children’s books, Montgomery also published poetry, short stories, and two adult, romance-ish novels, The Blue Castle and The Tangled Web.

Who's your favorite Canadian writer? Leave us a comment in the box below.

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