Friday, May 22, 2015

Canada's Literary Regions with Caro

Map of Canada
"Political map of Canada" by E Pluribus Anthony, transferred to Wikimedia Commons by Kaveh (log), optimized by Andrew pmk. - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Common
Hi everyone, this is Caro from BBI and A Girl that Likes Books.  Well, I don't know about you, but it has certainly been a fun month here at Book Bloggers International. One of the reasons I was so excited by this month's subject, is that even though it has been 6 years since I first moved to Canada, there is a lot of things to learn from people in other regions. And it's precisely the topic of the different regions in Canada that got me to write this post. 

Talking to other bloggers, I realized that a lot of terminology that I've become used to, might not be that obvious, so here I am trying to explain the different regions. Please keep in mind that I am doing this based on my own knowledge (with the help of our friend, Internet) and that some parts might be off. Please feel free to point out things I missed out or that I got wrong. Just be polite doing so ;).

Canada is divided in 13 provinces and territories: British Columbia (BC), Alberta (AB), Saskatchewan (SK), Manitoba (MB), Ontario (ON), Quebec (QC), New Brunswick (NB), Prince Edward Island (PEI), Nova Scotia (NS), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Yukon (YT), the Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU). Now, I won't talk about the political (senate related) divisions, because honestly I don't know how influential these divisions are into a literary level, but I would rather start with the 6 region model, since it comprises one of the terms that made me write this post.

On the 6 region model, BC becomes Pacific Canada; AB, SK and MB are called the Prairies; ON and QC remain the same; while PEI, NS and NL are put together as Atlantic Canada and finally YT, NT and NU are grouped as Northern Canada. As you can see, this division has a lot to do with geography and more importantly to the main landscape of each region. In the case of The Prairies, it refers to the great amount of grasslands in the area. Inevitably this type of division has a big influence on the literature coming out or being placed on each area. Recently I read As for me and My House by Sinclair Ross and while I didn't love the book completely, I gather it's another great example of the type of landscape you can find on SK, and hence the Prairies. If you are looking for contrast, I would suggest Runaway by Alice Munro, since these short stories are placed on both ON and BC and it might give you another view of these different areas.  

Then we have language division. As you might know, Canada has influences from both France and England. Documents from the government are issued in both English (59.3% of the population consider themselves Anglophone) and French (22.7% Francophone). Allophones, or non official language speakers (such as yours truly) comprise 17.6% of the population. You can imagine how language influences literary productions. Most of the Canadian authors that are known outside (or even inside Canada) are anglophone and I have to admit, that even though I live in Montréal, the only Québecois author I've read is Michel Rabagliati author of the fantastic series of graphic novels with Paul as the main character. I know other authors, such as Michel Tremblay, but I haven't read any of his books. His books are written in "joual" which is Québécois sociolect (jargon or dialect, of which you can find up to 9 different French-Canadian ones) and it's still hard for me to read it. 

But coming back to the differences in literature in English and French here in Canada; QC is a francophone province with 80% of the population being native Francophones and 95% being able to speak it as 1st or 2nd language. NB is a bilingual province and has the Acadian dialect. It is important to know that you can find Francophones all over the country, but only these 2 provinces recognize French as their official language. 

Canada has a very high immigration rate (20,6% of population being consider an immigrant in 2011), and hence a very varied population. From Statistics Canada site:
"Of the immigrants who had a single mother tongue, close to one-quarter (23.8%) reported English as their mother tongue and 3.4% reported French. Among those whose mother tongue was other than Canada's two official languages, Chinese languages were most common, followed by Tagalog, a language of the Philippines, Spanish and Punjabi"
So it is no wonder that the literary production is also influenced by so many cultures converging here. Proof of that are the two last books that I've read with the Hello Hemlock book club (which by the way, if you are looking forward to expanding your CanLit horizons, go ahead and join) Moving forward sideways like a crab by Shani Mootoo and Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz. I haven't finished the latter, but it's building up to be at least a 4/5 for me. 

There you have it, the big Literary Regions or divisions that I can differentiate so far. Once again, I am sure there are things I am missing, so please, share with us!


  1. One prolific and award winning French Canadian author from the Prairies - MB - that needs mentioning is Gabrielle Roy. Winnipeg has a thriving French quarter - St Boniface - and MB has a multitude of rural French communities.
    MB also has huge Ukranian and German populations with abundant authors from each of those communities. Diversity and influence in all quarters to be sure!

    1. Oh I am adding her to my TBR list immediately. Thank you for the info!

  2. That's a great break down, Caro! Excellent research!

  3. That's a great break down, Caro! Excellent research!


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