Monday, May 25, 2015

Getting to Know Canadians Through Literature by Chris

Today please welcome Chris , who blogs at Chrisbookarama.

Alice Munro.jpg

Who Do You Think You Are? asks the title of Alice Munro’s collection of short stories. Who am I? I’m Chris, a Canadian book blogger, one of many across this country. I don’t think I could represent or speak for all Canadian book bloggers. Canada is a vast nation. It’s the second largest country in the world. Its shores touch three oceans. There are places in Canada I have never been and probably never will.

I live on a tiny island on the east coast of this country. It isn’t close to the metropolises of Toronto or Vancouver. In fact, the nearest large(r) city is a 5 hour drive from my home and I would still be in my home province of Nova Scotia. 24 hours traveling west in a car and I would still be in Canada. Another 24? Yep, still Canada. Yet, Canada’s population is 38th in the world, having just slightly larger population than Morocco. That’s a lot of space with few people living in it.

Canadian identity is an eternal hot topic in this country. What is our national identity? Who are we? What are we? We live so close to one of the most influential countries is the world. The US media, at least, has its own ideas about what we are. They’ve created an identity for us that I don’t recognize: the Canadian Tuxedo, Canadian bacon, and “eh” is every second word of our vocabulary.

First Lady of CanLit, Margaret Atwood had her own thoughts on our identity in the 1960s. “We knew perfectly well we had one, we just didn't know what it was. We weren't even insulted that 'they' knew nothing about us; after all, we knew nothing about ourselves.” At that time, there were only a handful of Canadian writers published in Canada. CanLit wasn’t a Thing yet.

Today there is more CanLit than you can shake a stick at. Just check out the Canadian Book Challenge hosted by book blogger John Mutford. If Canadian literature has only been with us for 50 years or so, I’d say we’re catching up to the rest of the world just fine! Canadian authors have built it from the ground up. There is every kind of story told in CanLit today. Stories about immigration, of being First Nations, of living in a small town, living in a city, growing up, being a woman, being a man, on and on, all while living in this country. Exploring the Canadian identity through our literature is a great way to get to know us. Probably a better idea than watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother.

I’ll give you a few recommendations to get you started.

Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce. A coming of age story with elements of the political and supernatural. In it a boy becomes a man. He gets his heart broken and learns that even if he knows where he belongs not everyone feels the same. It’s a bit of a tall tale too.

Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. This is the story of two wealthy sisters who have a secret. One of them took it to her grave at the end of WWII. The other is recalling the events of her sister’s death 50 years later. It’s also a story of another planet... but is it?

Essex County by Jeff Lemire. A graphic novel revolving around three characters living in Essex county: an orphaned boy, an elderly hockey player and a travelling nurse. All three stories are connected though it isn't obvious at first. All characters have heavy burdens. And there is much hockey.

Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton. A collection of the best from her web comics. Although you’ll find Hipster French Revolutionaries and Sexy Tudors, there are also some obscure and not-so-obscure Canadian historical references.

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor. The harried Chief of Otter Lake has a lot on her plate, until she meets a handsome stranger on a motorcycle. He might be fun, but what are his intentions? Fun, funny, and a bit romantic.

Thank you for joining us today,Chris ! Remember to check out Chris's blog, Chrisbookarama, and leave a comment or question.


  1. I have a copy of Blind Assassin but I haven't read it yet. I want to finish the Maddaddam trilogy first. Thank you for this great post Chris!

  2. Thanks for the book suggestions! I hadn't heard of some of these books.

  3. I love Atwood. Also being a Canucker, I am quite fascinated with the stories from Vancouver native, Chevy Stevens. She is quite a master already.
    Great discussion!

  4. Such a great post! Thank you so much Chris! I actually have The Blind Assassin on my shelves somewhere. I think it's time to find it!


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