Earlier this month, 82-year-old Canadian Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for being a “master of the contemporary short story.” She is only the 13th woman out of 110 winners to take the prize in this category. In her honor, I thought that we should dedicate the November book club to that group of folks who hardly ever let us down: queers from Canada. I also must give a shout out to the wonderful Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, who helped me with these picks, and who is one fantastic book reviewer.
Missed Her, Ivan E. Coyote
The back cover of this 2010 story collection reads: “Ivan traverses love, gender, and identity with a wistful, perceptive eye and a warmth that’s as embracing and powerful as Ivan herself.” The truest word in that statement for me, while they are all good ones, is warmth: warm is how I feel whenever I read an Ivan Coyote story, like they are wrapping me in a warm blanket and plopping me right down next to them on the couch in their childhood home in the Yukon, or in their current apartment in Vancouver. For every word and sentence of Ivan’s stories, I am there, present, laughing and nodding my head. While most of their stories seem obviously rooted in their life in a deeply personal way, they also blur the line of being strictly “non-fiction,” or any specific genre. Like folks are just folks, when it comes to Ivan Coyote, stories are just stories. (But really great ones.)
Landing, Emma Donoghue
Okay, so Emma Donoghue is technically Irish, but she has lived in Canada and been married to a Canadian for a long ass time, becoming an official Canadian citizen in 2004. So we are counting her! Landing is a love story, one that Casey in fact called, in her opinion, “the best lesbian romance ever written.” And Casey has read a lot of lesbian books, y’all. I fear that after hearing this, the other two choices this month won’t even have a chance. Regardless, this is the story of 25-year-old Jude, who lives in rural Canada, and Sile, an older Irish flight attendant, and the numerous differences they have to overcome in their relationship: butch/femme, country/city, distance, age, and culture. Casey says, “If I had to choose one word to describe Landing, it would be authentic: especially in terms of emotion, character, and setting. Like its characters, Landing is quite simply lovable and irresistible.”
Bottle Rocket Hearts, Zoe Whittall
This coming of age story takes place in activist, riot grrrl Montreal in the 1990s. Baby dykes in riot grrrl Montreal? I mean, what else do you need to know? Also, there are real good boobs on the cover. I am won over already. But for those of you who need more context, the story follows 19-year-old Eve and her immersion into feminist, queer city life, and is written in a non-linear narrative, where we begin by meeting Eve in a Montreal hospital. Whittall then weaves back in time to introduce the women of Eve’s life: her older girlfriend Della and the two queer roommates she moves in with. The book follows Eve’s personal trajectory along with the politics of the decade, including the 1995 referendum in which Francophone Quebec almost separated from the rest of the country. (Note: Bottle Rocket Hearts is the only selection this month that doesn’t appear to be available in e-book format.)
So what should we read over our leftovers of pie and mashed potatoes?
I apologize for being a little late in getting these choices to you this month. I’ll post the winner on Friday!