Sick of “Canlit” in the traditional sense? We know we are! Our editor’s have picked a few (hopefully) refreshing alternatives to the same old stuff you’ve been assigned in English class.
Thanks in part to the Toronto-based publisher Chizine Publications, Canada is developing a healthy crop of world-renowned weird, fantastic and horror genre writers. Writer and academic Helen Marshall is one of my favourites in this group. Her short story collections, Hair Side, Flesh Side and Gifts for the One Who Comes After are both published by Chizine and explore everyday scenarios that become magical or horrific (and sometimes both). In Marshall’s world, women discover lost manuscripts by Jane Austen hidden under their skin, suburban child magicians receive dangerous comeuppances, and small towns become mysteriously plagued by obscure and fatal omens. Marshall is a beautiful and highly imaginative writer – her stories will leave you exhilarated and maybe a little scarred. Buy her work here. (Alison Lang)
Tsabari’s award-winning debut collection of short fiction The Best Place on Earth largely centers around the lives of Israel’s Mizrahi Jews – mothers, grandmothers, lovers, soldiers. While each story is accordingly woven through with questions of cultural tradition, conflict and history, it’s Tsabari’s empathetic voice and masterful grip on the art of the short story that rings through and makes this collection exceptional. Riveting, enlightening and indispensable. Buy the book here. (Alison Lang)
Rosemblum’s first short-story collection Once has been out for awhile now – it was published in 2008 by Biblioasis – and she’s has written a bunch of stuff since then, including her forthcoming novel So Much Love, but my love for Once is deep and abiding that I still think about its characters years later. Rosenblum’s prose is so simple and spare and profoundly lovely. It feels like she’s not writing as much as inhabiting the bodies and minds of people who already exist – while maintaining a wry and gentle detachment with regards to their mistakes, their naivete, their aimlessness. As a result, these 16 stories about different types of people living and working (mostly in Toronto) find profundity and emotional resonance through urban routine, twentysomething ennui and the mundane. Buy her book here. (Alison Lang)
Katherena Vermette’s North End Love Songs may have won the Governor General’s award, but it’s far from your standard Canadiana fare. Stories of the pain and resilience of Indigenous women and girls in Winnipeg’s North End shine through sparsely worded poems. She’s also got a series of kids’ books under her wing, and her first novel, The Break, was released this Fall by Anansi. Buy her books here. (Jonathan Valelly)
Richard Van Camp
Although his classic novel The Lesser Blessed entered into some parts of the Canadian psyche, particularly after its film adaptation, Richard Van Camp has published 15 books and shows no signs of stopping, including graphic novels and children’s literature. His collection of stories, Night Moves, was described in Broken Pencil as “unsettling, beautiful, and fantastical” for its blending of subtle post-colonial and feminist critiques with the eerieness of daily life in the Northwest Territories. Buy his work here. (Jonathan Valelly)